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(Kelsall, Charles)

Horae viaticae: the author, Mela Britannicus. Second edition, with additions and emendations.

Horae viaticae: the author, Mela Britannicus. Second edition, with additions and emendations.

Clifton and Bristol, “printed for the author; and sold by Strong, Clare Street” 1839.

Reference: 15327
Price: £350 [convert currency]

Full Description

8vo. (4) + pp i-v + (3) + 452pp. Mid nineteenth century cloth. The author’s own copy, with his ink inscription “Charles Kelsall the author sub titulo Melae Britannici” on front pastedown endpaper. Neat oval ownership stamps of Morden College Blackheath (to which Kelsall bequeathed his personal library) at foot of title leaf and at foot of last printed page, but not elsewhere. Also recent ink ownership inscription of Martin Wright, Maidstone, 1958.

Charles Kelsall’s own copy of the second, enlarged edition of his book Horae Viaticae, originally published in 1836 (the 1836 edition ran to 412 numbered pages and the present edition has 452 numbered pages). Both editions were printed at Kelsall’s expense in a small number of copies, and neither edition is easy to find in the book trade today. The present copy derives from Kelsall’s personal library, bequeathed by him to Morden College, Blackheath, but sold off by Morden College in the middle of the twentieth century. Kelsall (1782-1857), a Cambridge-educated Hellenist with a lifelong interest in architecture and foreign travel, has had his contribution to architectural history and theory discussed at length by David Watkin (in Watkin’s Thomas Hope 1769-1831 and the Neo-Classical Idea, 1968, pp 70-82). In the first part of Horae Viaticae he prints the text, or abbreviated text, of journals kept by him on a journey from St.Petersburg to Vienna in 1807 and on a tour through Sweden and Norway in the summer of 1835. This is followed by “Architectural Lucubrations” (pp 99-128), and “Portfolio Scraps” (pp 129-158, mostly poetry), and then by the second part proper of Horae Viaticae, in which he offers what Watkin describes as an “extraordinary and unexpected novelette” describing the election of a fictional new pope Urban IX, who would proceed to carry out radical reforms to the administration, ritual and attitudes of the Catholic church : here Watkin cited as a parallel F.W.Rolfe’s fictional pope Hadrian VII, but a much closer parallel now exists in the form of our present Pope Francis. In the process of carrying through his reforms Urban IX, naturally enough for a character created by Kelsall, issues instructions for an architectural and artistic cleansing of the city of Rome, involving the demolition of unnecessary churches, alterations to the street system, and the removal of surplus statues, ornaments, pictures and so on from the city’s public buildings and major religious establishments. Watkin does not discuss Kelsall’s “Architectural Lucubrations”, but these include comments on George IV’s restoration of Windsor Castle and on a number of recent buildings and public monuments in London, as well as several pages devoted to Charles Barry’s design for the New Houses of Parliament, Kelsall arguing that the new building would be best placed not on the existing site by the river Thames but on the site of that “vile heterogeneous fabric”, St.James’s Palace. Neither edition of Horae Viaticae is held by the British Architectural Library.