ADAM, Robert (1728-1792). Ruins of the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian at Spalatro in Dalmatia. [London:] for the author, 1764.
Broadsheets (527 x 378 mm). Engraved frontispiece and 60 engraved plates (14 double-page, some folding) on 54 leaves, by Francesco Bartolozzi, [Francesco, Antonio and Giuseppe] Zucchi, Francis Patton, Paolo Santini, and others (some spotting, and one or two marginal tears, one repaired on the verso and another just affecting the image on plate V "General Plan of the Palace as it now remains"). Contemporary mottled calf (rebacked preserving the original spine, scuffed at the extremities). Provenance: a few 19th-century penciled annotations to later plates.
FIRST EDITION OF THIS MAGNIFICENT WORK. Adam's book, with its elaborately engraved views, was the outcome of his visit to Spalatro (Split) during his Grand Tour. It was intended to emulate the success of Robert Wood's The Ruins of Palmyra, published in 1763. Spalatro seemed perfect for such a project, being the only significant unexplored classical site to hand. In Florence, Adam had met the architect Charles-Louis Clérisseau (1721-1820), who was to be Adam's instructor for the next two years and who was to supervise much of the engraving for the book in Venice and London. While Adam acted as leader of the expedition and contributed architectural observations, as well as gathering subscribers for publication, the preface was written by his cousin, the Scottish historian William Robertson. The engravings were probably based on drawings by Clérisseau (six of which are preserved in the Hermitage Museum), and were said by the Critical Review in October 1764 to possess "a taste and execution that has never been equalled in this country." Indeed, when Adam returned to Britain in 1758, "the custom's officer at Harwich had so admired the drawings that he had charged no duty" (Millard, p.5). Millard II, 1; Berlin Kat. 1893; Brunet I, 46; Cicognara 3567.