A critical review of the publick buildings, statues and ornaments, in, and about London and Westminster. To which is prefix’d, the dimensions of St.Peter’s church at Rome, and St.Paul’s Cathedral at London.
London, for J.Wilford and J. Clarke 1734.
8vo. (8) + viii + 119 + (1)pp, folding printed table. Contemporary quarter vellum, blue paper boards. Half title leaf slightly browned and creased, otherwise a good, fresh, untrimmed copy. Neat old ownership stamps on front free endpaper of Oxford Architectural and Historical Society and of Ashmolean Museum (”duplicate, sold by authority”), and printed bookplate of Oxford Architectural and Historical Society at end, with inscription at foot recording that it was a gift from Mrs R.L.Poole, i.e. Rachael Emily Poole FSA (1860-1937), wife of the historian Reginald Lane Poole.
A good copy of the first edition of a book of very considerable significance in the development of English architectural writing, being both the first sustained piece of architectural criticism in the English language and the first publication by an independent hand to give a favourable account of English Palladian architecture as typified by Lord Burlington’s recent London buildings. It is also fun to read. No author is named, but Nicholas Hawksmoor knew at the time that it has been written by “Mr Rafe the critick” and there is no doubt at all that the author was the American-born journalist James Ralph (1705-1762), editor of the contemporary periodical The Weekly Register, in which the text of the present book had appeared in instalments between October 1733 and April 1734. The last pages of the book, quoting a passage from the contemporary and equally anonymous Builder’s Dictionary, point strongly to Ralph being the author of that as well. Harris/Savage 727. This edition not in BAL Cat (the British Architectural Library, strangely, only holds a much altered edition issued in 1783).