Legh, Peter

The music of the eye; or, essays on the principles of the beauty and perfection of architecture, as founded on and deduced from reason and analogy, and adapted to what may be traced of the ancient theories of taste, in the three first chapters of Vitruvius. Written with a view to restore architecture to the dignity it had in ancient Greece.

London, “printed for William Walker, Strand” (and others) 1831.

Reference: 14137
Price: £145 [convert currency]

Full Description

8vo. xxiii + (1) + 262pp, errata slip, litho frontispiece, (42) engraved plates carrying 111 ills, numbered I-CX and CIII*. Recent cloth. Engraved plates a little browned, as usual with this title, text pages fresh and clean. William St.Clair’s copy, with his pencil ownership inscription.

A scarce title, which is one of the few books in English to set out a theory of architecture entirely founded on that of Vitruvius, and interesting as such. The author was not a practising architect but a country landowner, resident at Norbury Booths Hall, near Stockport, Cheshire, and his opinions on architecture are clearly the products of his classical education at Harrow and at Trinity College, Cambridge, rather than the result of any travel or career experience. His favourite architectural orders were “the firm and magnificent Doric” and the “light and elegant Corinthian”, and he very much preferred the architecture of Greece to that of Rome, but his grasp of architectural aesthetics was more than a bit shaky, for the accompanying illustrations, all presumably engraved from his own drawings, incorporate motifs drawn from Egyptian or Far Eastern precedents which do nothing to enhance the visual merits of the outline architectural elevations featured. It should be noted that the proceeds of the sale of the books were to be devoted to the building fund for a new local church, and that if the church in question was, as seems probable, St.Thomas’s, Norbury, this was eventually built in a Gothic style rather than in any of the styles Legh favoured. BAL Cat 1810 (the BAL copy lacks the frontispiece, as well as one other plate and the errata slip, and the compilers of the BAL catalogue did not therefore realise that the frontispiece is a litho plate, printed by Day & Haghe from a drawing signed by Legh). We sold the present copy to William St.Clair (1937-2021), the author of the standard modern study of Lord Elgin and the Elgin Marbles, as recently as September 2020, and have now repurchased it at the recent sale of St.Clair’s specialist library.