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GILPIN, William (1724-1804).
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GILPIN, William (1724-1804).

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GILPIN, William (1724-1804).

Remarks on Forests; and other Wood-land Scenery, (relative chiefly to picturesq [sic] beauty) illustrated by the scenes of New Forest in Hampshire, in three books. MANUSCRIPT, WITH THE AUTHOR'S AUTOGRAPH REVISIONS AND ADDITIONS. [Boldre, Hampshire]: 1781-[1791]. 4 volumes, 4° (202 x 159mm). Title-page in each volume, contents leaf in vols. I-III, leaves numbered 1-169 (I), 170-355 (II), 356-514 (III), 515-656 (IV), written in a neat secretarial hand on rectos only with additions and corrections written by Gilpin on versos opposite and on 39 additional leaves or slips inserted; a letter from Robert Eden communicating information about a grapevine is inserted. 25 full-page and 20 half-page original drawings in watercolour by William Gilpin and 3 full-page original drawings in pencil, ink and grey wash by Sawrey Gilpin and initialed 'S G', all mounted on versos, folding map drawn in pen and ink and lightly coloured with yellow wash. (Some light browning, map in two pieces with neat tears at folds.) Reversed calf, sides stamped with small 'WG' monogram, gilt spines (rubbed, rebacked preserving original backstrips), contained in two modern dark green half morocco slipcases, green linen chemises. Provenance: William Gilpin (binding, bookplates in each volume, presentation inscription in vol. I from him to his nephew and namesake:) -- William Gilpin -- Kenneth McDow, Chicago, Illinois 1940 (pencilled inscription in each volume) -- William Randolph Hearst (pencilled inscription in vol. I).

A NEWLY DISCOVERED MANUSCRIPT OF GILPIN'S FOREST SCENERY, REVISED AND AUGMENTED BY THE AUTHOR FOR PUBLICATION. William Gilpin was a chief proponent of the Picturesque, and his theories, which pervaded all his work, both written and painted, helped define the aesthetic in 18th-century Britain. Having once defined it as loosely as 'a term expressive of that peculiar kind of beauty, which is agreeable in a picture', Gilpin more precisely described the leading characteristics of picturesque landscape as irregularity, roughness, and variety. He was influenced by Alexander Cozens, with whom he corresponded and whose techniques he adopted, and his own theories in turn were further developed by Uvedale Price, Humphry Repton and John Nash.

Gilpin opens Forest Scenery by stating that 'it is no exaggerated praise to call a tree the grandest and most beautiful of all the productions of the earth'. In the first section he treats of trees as single objects and describes the most celebrated specimens; in the second section he discusses their modes of composition and gives a brief view of forest-history in Britain; and in the third section he gives his observations on the New Forest, including the animals which inhabit it. Of the actual specimens cited by Gilpin is a maple tree, 'one of the finest I have seen [which] stands in the churchyard at Boldre' (p.65); it was under this very tree in the yard of the church which he served as minister where Gilpin chose to be buried.

On reading an early manuscript of Forest Scenery, Horace Walpole proclaimed it 'perfectly new, [and] truly ingenious'. He was not alone in his enthusiasm, and it has since been considered 'one of the best and most widely known' of books devoted to trees (A. Harvey, Trees and their nature, 1856); in 1925 F.E. Stevens wrote that FOREST SCENERY 'IS STILL THE GREATEST OF ALL FOREST BOOKS'.

As Gilpin states in the introduction to the first edition, from its earliest manuscript to its first publication the work received 'frequent revisal; and much addition, as new occurrences, and observations arose'. Gilpin began to circulate the work in manuscript in 1781, first to the book's future dedicatee, Colone William Mitford, and to Mrs. Mary Delany. Mrs. Delany in turn showed it to the Duchess of Portland, the naturalist John Lightfoot, Lord Bute and William Mason; Gilpin was particularly obliged to Lightfoot for his suggestions and criticisms. A manuscript containing comments by friends, some of which were heeded and others which were ignored, is now held at the Bodleian Library. The present manuscript is a fair copy probably intended to take Gilpin's further annotations in preparing his text for publication. It shows extensive revisions by Gilpin, with numerous additions, deletions, and corrections in his hand which were incorporated in the printed edition. The printed edition contains further minor revisions not in the present manuscript, usually consisting of nothing more substantial than alternate phrasing, showing that emendations continued to be made to the work, possibly even at proof stage.

The manuscript is indicative of Gilpin's working method. From his other surviving original works, it is apparent that Gilpin often had multiple manuscripts made (three manuscripts of Western Tour exist), presumably first for circulation and later for revision (cf. Carl Barbier, William Gilpin, 1963, esp. his appendix listing surviving work). His son, John Bernard, and his pupil, John 'Warwick' Smith, wrote some of these manuscripts; the amanuensis of the present manuscript is unidentified.

Gilpin was a prolific artist, and his works are illustrated with his own drawings; Forest Scenery is no exception. The present manuscript contains 49 original drawings, including a map, and three drawings of New Forest animals by Gilpin's brother, Sawrey Gilpin. Thirteen of these correspond with plates in the printed edition and 2 are closely related; the remainder appear to be unpublished. Gilpin's artistic style very much reflected his concern with landscape and the picturesque, and are what he himself called 'spirited sketches'. Sawrey Gilpin, RA, enjoyed a considerable reputation as a sporting and animal painter and attracted patrons such as William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, Colonel Thomas Thornton, and Samuel Whitbread MP. Owing to his expertise, he contributed 9 animal illustrations to Forest Scenery. A suite of original drawings for Forest Scenery, inserted into a copy of the second (1794) edition, was sold by Gilpin at Christie's on 6 May 1802 in order to raise further funds for a school he had founded in 1791. This extra-illustrated set was exhibited at Kenwood in 1959.

Gilpin manuscripts are rare on the market. A certain amount of original material has passed down through various family branches and found its way to institutions such as the Bodleian, but THE APPEARANCE AT AUCTION OF A COMPLETE GILPIN MANUSCRIPT REVISED BY THE AUTHOR FOR PUBLICATION IS A RARE OCCURRENCE. To our knowledge, the only other Gilpin manuscript offered in recent times was the Houghton copy of the Wye Tour, sold in these rooms in 1979. (4)
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