PIRANESI, Giovanni Battista (1720-1778). Le Antichita Romane. Rome: Angelo Rotili, sold by Bouchard, 1756.
4 volumes, broadsheet (537 x 415mm). Letterpress text in vol. I as described by Hind. Etched portrait of Piranesi by Polanzani, and 218 leaves of etchings (numbered 1-44, 1-63, 1-54 and 1-57, comprising: 1 double-page additional title [second state of three], 3 single-page titles, 2 single-page index leaves, 60 half-page plates on 30 leaves, 58 single-page plates on 56 leaves [4 plates in vol.IV printed on 2 double-page leaves], 116 double-page plates, 10 folding plates ), 1 head- and 1 tail-piece, 6 etched initials, all by Piranesi, Barbault and G. Rossi. Text and double-page plates mounted on guards. (Spotting, heavier in text leaves and mostly marginal in plates, some plates with light old dampstaining.) Contemporary Italian vellum over pasteboard, spines gilt (worn and soiled, upper cover of vol.III detached). Provenance: J.Bedford (inscriptions dated 1932).
'NO OTHER AUTHOR BEFORE OR SINCE WAS CAPABLE OF VISIONS OF GRANDEUR THAT COULD SO EXCITE AND INSPIRE THE ENTHUSIAST' (Scott, Piranesi, 1975, p.127). The publication of the Antichità confirmed Piranesi as 'the foremost artistic proponent of Roman architecture' (Robison. Piranesi, 1986, p.11). It depicts archaeological monuments and sites, sepulchral monuments, reconstructions of engineering feats, ancient bridges, baths and other structures. 'Where Piranesi does differ from his predecessors is his interest in the building methods of the ancients. He was able to throw further light on his archaeological field work by drawing on his youthful training as an architect. ... The other essential ingredient in his success was, of course, his own poetic vision of the grandeur of Rome's past. His plates ... are a vivid personal reaction to the Titanic scale of the works of the ancients and the melancholy .... desolation into which they had fallen' (Scott, p.127). The etchings, with their combination of technical skill, historical accuracy and artistic vision, show that, as Robert Adam observed, 'he alone might be said to breath the Antient Air'. Ficacci pp.166-319; Focillon 144-395; Hind pp.83-4. (4)