On restoration … and a notice of his works in connection with the historical monuments of France by Charles Wethered.
London, Sampson Low, Marston, Low and Searle 1875.
8vo. Portrait litho frontispiece, vii + (1) + 110 + (2)pp, 40pp publisher’s adverts. Publisher’s decorative gilt-and blind-stamped cloth. Ink ownership inscription on front free endpaper of Henry Sumners, architect, Liverpool, 1876, and the more recent ink ownership inscription on half title leaf of Christopher Fyson Stell, 12 August 1952. A little bumped at head and foot of spine, but generally a good copy.
Only edition of this surprisingly uncommon little book, offering an English translation of the article on “Restauration” in Viollet-le-Duc’s Dictionnaire d’Architecture, and an accompanying essay by Charles Wethered focusing on Viollet-le-Duc’s three most celebrated restoration projects up to that date, those for Notre Dame in Paris, for the abbey of Saint-Denis on Paris’s outskirts, and for the château at Pierrefonds (Oise). Wethered (1827-1897), then in practice as a surgeon at Stroud, Gloucestershire, happened to be a close friend, architectural client and neighbour of Benjamin Bucknall (1833-1895), Viollet-le-Duc’s most ardent British disciple, and he and Bucknall had recently visited these three sites, returning to England with a shared enthusiasm for Viollet-le-Duc, described by Wethered here as “an intellectual king among men” (p.96), and as “a notable living example of the hero as artist, as poet, or seer, who speaks to us for our instruction and delight, not only in the printed volume, but in the still more fascinating language of form and colour” (p.97). This was an extraordinary level of praise for Viollet-le-Duc, who was to remain a very controversial figure in his native France, and although even Viollet-le-Duc himself found Wethered’s remarks slightly embarrassing, what Wethered has to say is significant in that it crystallises a generalised feeling in Britain that Viollet-le-Duc should be regarded as of equivalent status to Ruskin, that other great architectural prophet of the middle years of the nineteenth century.The present copy belonged initially to Henry Sumners (1825-1895, ARIBA 1861, FRIBA 1866), a partner in the Liverpool architectural practice of Culshaw and Sumners, responsible for a number of significant architectural commissions in the Liverpool area in the 1860s and early 1870s. More recently it passed into the possession of Christopher Fyson Stell (1929-2014), a RCHM England employee with a particular interest in the architecture of Nonconformist chapels.