A treatise on theatres.
London, for the author 1790.
4to. x + (4) + 94pp, 13 engraved plates, 4 of which folding. Original boards, with later paper spine and printed label. A good, fresh, untrimmed copy.
A good copy of the first edition of the first book on theatre architecture by an English architect. Its author, George Saunders (c.1762-1839) was still a young man when he wrote it, but the text shows that he had seen some of the best-known theatres in Italy – he writes with personal knowledge on those at Turin, Parma, Verona and Pompeii, and his travels in Italy had also taken him to Rome and Naples in the winter of 1787-8 (see now Ingamells, p.841) – and he was also well-informed on the theatres of Paris. Saunders’s plates provide comparative illustrations of the ground plans of various major theatres, while he also provides designs of his own calculated to appeal to prospective clients ; neither his projected theatre nor his opera house were ever built, but the designs were carefully thought out and the opening chapters of his book show that he had gone to exceptional trouble by the standards of his time to ensure that the acoustics of his buildings would be good. Colvin’s entry for Saunders notes his administrative efficiency and his designs of 1793-4 for a rebuilt Theatre Royal in Birmingham, but may well underestimate Saunders’s architectural output. Another matter left uninvestigated by Colvin is the nature of Saunders’s connection with Sir William Hamilton’s nephew Charles Francis Greville (1749-1809), the book’s dedicatee: Saunders arrived in Rome “strongly recommended” by Greville, and on arrival in Naples he was dutifully appreciative of the singing and skill in Italian of the future Lady Hamilton, Greville’s discarded mistress. BAL Cat 2908.