List 93: Architecture; including recent acquisitions and books on the Elgin Marbles and related subjects from the Library of William St Clair

The books that we offer in the present list are drawn from across the range of our firm’s stock,and include handsome copies in contemporary bindings of Charles Etienne Briseux’s two-volume Traité du Beau Essentiel dans les Arts appliqué particulièrement à l’Architecture, 1752 (item 14), notable for the fact that both its text and its plates are engraved throughout, and of Thomas Martyn’s The English Connoisseur, 1766 (item 58).

We also offer here a significant range of titles relating to Greece and the Levant. Prominent among these are a number of books deriving from the recently dispersed specialist library formed by William St.Clair (1937-2021), author of Lord Elgin and his Marbles, first published in 1967 and still the most authoritative account of Lord Elgin’s embassy at Constantinople between 1799 and 1802, and of the events surrounding and following his acquisition of what were later to become known as the Elgin Marbles.

Although St.Clair purchased his books for their content, rather than for their condition, he was nonetheless able to secure copies of a number of essential contemporary and later publications relating to Lord Elgin’s collecting activities in Greece, and to the various controversies that arose once he was back in Britain. The most important of these is a copy of the original quarto format version of the celebrated Memorandum on the Subject of the Earl of Elgin’s Pursuits in Greece (item 15), issued by him for private circulation and notably rare today. Probably even rarer is the original quarto printing of an indignant piece of writing by Richard Payne Knight, Elgin’s most prominent adversary, issued in response to a review in the periodical Quarterly Review (item 43).

Another rare item from St.Clair’s library, and a rather more visually impressive one, is a copy of Mrs.Bracebridge’s very attractive coloured panorama dating from 1839, depicting the ruins on the Acropolis at Athens from a viewpoint which positioned them within what was at the time an almost pristine landscape setting (item 12).

St.Clair was also interested more widely in the architecture and sculpture of ancient Greece, as well as in the architecture of the Byzantine period in Greece, and we list here a number of relevant titles from his library, including Antoine Couchaud’s Choix d’Eglises Byzantines en Grèce, 1842 (item 21), alongside similar titles from other sources, including a good copy of the monograph of 1901 by Robert Weir Schultz and Sidney Barnsley on the splendid church of Hosios Loukas in central Greece (item 70).