HANCARVILLE, Pierre-François HUGUES, called d'Hancarville (1719-1805). Antiquités Etrusques, Grecques et Romaines. Tirées du cabinet de M. Hamilton. (Collection of Etruscan, Greek and Roman Antiquities from the Cabinet of the Honble. Wm. Hamilton.) Naples: François Morelli, '1766-7' [c.1776].
4 volumes, large 2° (466 x 367mm). Parallel text in French and English (vols. I and II). 2 (one French, one English) hand-coloured engraved titles in each volume, 5 engraved dedications (two in vol. II), 32 etched vignette head- and tailpieces (including 5 printed in colour and one hand-coloured in vol. IV, and one hand-finished in red in vol. III), 40 etched decorative initials (including 10 by C. Pignatori after G. Bracci colour-printed in vol. IV) and 432 (of 437) etched and engraved plates, including 180 (of 183) hand-coloured, of which 69 are double-page. Bifolium containing pp.9-12 in vol. III in duplicate. (First quire of each volume loose or [vol. IV] detached, last plate in vol. IV detached, very light spotting in two plates, faint sketch on one plate, very short tear into one plate, a few leaves or plates split at hinge, tiny hole at upper inner margin of vol. III title-pages, a few discrete marginal repairs.) Contemporary half sheep and blue paper boards, gilt spine with green leather labels, speckled edges (scuffed, loss of leather at spine ends temporarily repaired). Provenance: Count Franz Philipp von Walderdorff (1740-1828), canon of Mainz (engraved armorial bookplate), and then by descent.
FIRST EDITION of a luxurious publication, limited to 500 copies (Blackmer). It catalogues the first collection of vases formed by the connoisseur Sir William Hamilton (1730-1803), British Plenipotentiary to Naples. Having purchased in 1766 the Porcinari collection of Greek (then considered Etruscan) vases, Hamilton quickly added to it other important specimens of ancient vases, coins, bronzes, glass and terracotta. The collection was acquired in 1772 by the British Museum for its Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities for £8,400. Hamilton engaged the masterful -- if scurrilous -- d'Hancarville to catalogue his collection for publication. D'Hancarville incorporated much material not in Hamilton's collection for comparative purposes. It was finely printed and beautifully 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. The plates are the work of C. Pignatari, C. Nolli, A. Cardo and A. Lamberti after Giuseppe Bracci, Edmondo Beaulieu, Pio. Bat. Tierce and others; the significant contribution of the artist Redmund George has only recently been recognised (Vases and Volcanoes, p. 48). Cohen-de Ricci's judgement that it is an 'edition splendide et de grand luxe' is no overstatement.
D'Hancarville's irresponsible (if not downright criminal - he fled Naples in 1769, taking with him the copper-plates for the unfinished work) behaviour almost jeopardised the publication, and certainly delayed its completion. The first two volumes are dated 1766 and 1767 respectively, but these are now thought to be falsified in order to cover d'Hancarville's plagiarism of Octavian Guasco, whose own work was published in 1768 (Vases and Volcanoes, pp. 51 and 99). Volumes III and IV did not appear before 1776.
AN EXTREMELY FRESH COPY WITH FINE, STRONG IMPRESSIONS OF ALL PLATES AND TEXT, HAVING REMAINED IN THE POSSESSION OF THE SAME OWNER -- THE WALDERDORFF FAMILY -- UNTIL THE PRESENT DAY. The original owner of this set was Count Franz Philipp von Walderdorff, a leading figure of the German Enlightenment in the Mainz diocese. Canon at Mainz Cathedral, Walderdorff was a founding member of the Lesergesellschaft at Mainz (1782) and Trier (1783). The Lesergesellschaft was an elected order whose members were largely drawn from the nobility. They pledged themselves to reading and study and, owing to their rank and network, were politically as well as socially influential. I. Jenkins & K. Sloan, Vases and Volcanoes, Sir William Hamilton and his collection, London: British Museum, 1996; Blackmer 845 (435 plates); Cohen-de Ricci 474; Berlin. Kat. 890; Brunet I, 321; Vinet 1528; Cicognara (Florence 1801-8 edition only) 2490.