Hopper, Thomas

Designs for the Houses of Parliament.

London, for the author nd (1840 ?).

Reference: 13849
Price: £2 [convert currency]

Full Description

Large oblong folio. Title leaf, dedication leaf, introduction leaf, preface leaf, leaf with list of subscribers, 4 litho ground plans (all trimmed and mounted), and 28 other plates (of which 2 are engraved views, 25 are large litho perspective views and the final plate provides litho elevations of the designs for the Post Office by Hopper and Smirke ; three of these are on india paper and one is mounted). Original quarter morocco, cloth sides, with original gilt-stamped label on upper cover, spine neatly repaired. The volume has been recased for a recent previous owner with new front endpapers, and is preserved in a modern cloth portfolio. Title leaf repaired for very minor marginal damage at its blank right-hand outer margin, four other plates neatly repaired without loss of surface for tears at their blank lower margin, and a few other plates with mostly trivial insect damage at the edge of their blank right-hand outer margin. Three plates significantly spotted or browned, other plates with varying amounts of spotting principally affecting their blank outer margins.

A remarkably large and handsome volume publishing the design submitted by the London architect Thomas Hopper (1776-1856) for the competition in 1835 for the New Houses of Parliament. The competition rules specified that the Parliament buildings should be in the Gothic or Elizabethan styles, and Hopper’s entry borrows features from all periods of Gothic from Early English to Late Perpendicular. The effect is to make his Houses of Parliament look like half a dozen late mediaeval cathedrals rolled into one, and the visual effect is dramatic (and is aided by the large dimensions of the book itself, each of the text leaves and plates in our present copy measuring 580 x 845mm). Production of the book must have been complicated, for as many as six different lithographic printers were employed, while two further plates were engraved for Hopper by the ubiquitous Thomas Talbot Bury. A list of subscribers runs to only 137 names, and the number of copies printed must have been not greatly more than this, for few copies exist outside older institutional libraries. Hopper states in his introduction that “I am induced to subjoin … the design which I delivered in competition for the Post Office”, and the final plate in the volume juxtaposes Hopper’s design of 1820 for a new Post Office headquarters building with Sir Robert Smirke’s winning design in the same competition, with the intended implication that Smirke’s design had been plagiarised from Hopper’s. Our copy thus has 32 plates in all, as does the copy in the British Architectural Library (BAL Cat 1549), whereas other copies in original condition known to us, such as a copy that passed through our hands in 1995 and another copy that was listed in Weinreb catalogue 4, item 19, omit the plate with the Post Office design, maybe because fewer copies of this plate were run off, and therefore have only 31 plates. All copies of this title are likely to be affected by spotting due to the character of the paper stock on which the plates are printed, while the very large size of both text leaves and plates makes some minor marginal damage almost inevitable, and the condition of the present copy, as detailed below, is probably not untypical of that of surviving copies generally. The copy remains impressive, and it may be helpful to know that our previous copy, the only other copy of this title which has to our knowledge appeared in the book trade during the last twenty-five years, likewise contained plates that were spotted, and although it had not required internal restoration, this was in part due to the fact that it was a smaller copy, shaved at its outer margins with some loss to the printed captions below four of the largest images.

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