HAMILTON, William, Sir (1730-1803) -- HANCARVILLE, Pierre-François HUGUES, called d'Hancarville (1719-1805). Collection of Etruscan, Greek and Roman Antiquities from the Cabinet of the Hon. William Hamilton. Naples: François Morelli, '1766-67'.
4 volumes, 2° (464 x 370mm). Parallel text in English and French in vols I and II. 8 hand-coloured engraved titles, 5 engraved dedications, 32 etched vignette head- and tailpieces, 40 etched decorative initials, and 438 etched and engraved plates, over 170 of these hand-coloured, and 77 of these double-page. (Occasional marginal spotting, occasional offsetting of the text, a very few plates just shaved, one title in vol. II slightly short and the other with small marginal loss, a few leaves in vol. II with marginal damp-stain, a very few marginal tears, one plate with two worm-tracks.) 20th-century brick-red half roan, spines titled in gilt, edges yellow, printed endpapers (one spine detached and crudely held with tape, some joints split, spine ends rubbed). Provenance: Countess Anna Laetitia Pecci-Blunt (marginal stamps).
FIRST EDITION a luxurious publication, limited to 500 copies (Blackmer). This 'ouvrage précieux, exécuté avec beaucoup de luxe' (Brunet) describes the collection of ancient vases assembled by Hamilton after his appointment to the court of Naples in 1764. Pierre François Hugues, an authority on ancient art, had introduced Hamilton to the Porcinari family, the owners of a large collection of ancient classical vases which Hamilton bought and enlarged, and then sold to the British Museum in 1772. Before their shipment of England, all the objects were listed, drawn and described under the supervision of the brilliant but unscrupulous 'baron'. The work was finely illustrated with hand-coloured engraved plates whose 'influence on neo-classical design and taste was to be profound' (Dictionary of Art). One of the explicit aims of the work was to discover the proportions of ancient vases in order to aid in their true reproduction, and indeed its influence on Josiah Wedgewood was significant. With the first two volumes issued, publication was then interrupted by Hugues's expulsion from Naples, apparently for debt, and Hamilton had to overcome the difficulty of finding his copper-plates in the hands of creditors. The last two volumes did not appear before 1776. Although Blackmer states that the edition was of 500 copies, it appears that only 100 copies of the two later volumes were issued (cf. I. Jenkins and K. Sloan Vases and Volcanoes, 1996, p.49), and this, together with the long gap in publication, accounts for the relatively high number of incomplete sets. Berlin Kat 890; Blackmer 845 (435 plates); Brunet I, 321; Cohen-de Ricci 474 ('edition splendide et de grand luxe'). (4)