The views and opinions of Sparrow on Housetops. Extracted by Peccator Maximus.
Eton College, R. Ingleton Drake 1885.
4to. 42 + (2)pp, 4 actual mounted photo plates, also woodcut text ills. Contemporary cloth, with gilt-stamped inscription “Eton Housetops, H.E.Luxmoore” on upper cover. Pictorial bookplate of Oliver Brett (3rd Viscount Esher), a keen bibliophile, later to become Chairman of the National Trust and President of the SPAB, also Brett’s monogram OB on front free endpaper. Later booklabel of John H.Baker. A good copy.
A rare satirical publication highlighting architectural eyesores visible at Eton College in the mid 1880s, issued as the work of a pseudonymous author Peccator Maximus (”Greatest Sinner”) but known to have been written by Henry Elford Luxmoore (1841-1926), an Assistant Master at Eton from 1864 to 1908. Luxmoore, a discipline of Ruskin, was a solitary aesthete within the Eton community but seems to have been valued as such by his colleagues, and the views set out by him here, ahead of their time in stressing the merits of conservation and of the use of traditional building materials (pp 40-1), no doubt played some part in deterring the college authorities from ill-advised building projects. What however is best about the present book is Luxmoore’s sprightly literary style – he describes the “back of the Head Master’s House” as something that “is to the builder a very decalogue of all that he shall not do”, and on a following page he gives a comprehensively sarcastic description of a “new style” building, “completed 1884” – and the book is also notable for a succession of text illustrations of displeasing chimney stacks, appropriately captioned.As a published example of thoroughgoing architectural satire the book is most unusual for its date, as indeed it is as a publication illustrated by actual mounted photos of buildings. Copies must initially have been intended for private circulation among Luxmoore’s circle of contemporaries and pupils at Eton, and it is to be noted that Lord Esher, this copy’s one-time owner, was a pupil at Eton in the mid 1890s.