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London, the author 1797.
An impressive collection of designs by the London-based architect James Lewis (c.1751-1820), who was responsible for a number of country houses designed in an elegant neo-classical style, and who was also the architect of what is now the Imperial War Museum (built as the Bethlehem Hospital). The first of the two volumes was originally published in 1779-80, when Lewis’s architectural practice was still in its infancy, but in 1796-7 Lewis was a more prominent figure in the architectural world and he reissued his first volume together with an entirely new second volume in similar format. Although Lewis seems to have started life in Brecon, in rural Mid Wales, he had somehow managed to spend two years as an architectural student in Rome in the early 1770s, becoming acquainted with Piranesi, and this gave his designs a more international flavour than those of most of his English contemporaries ; it appears, indeed, that the drawings for the first volume were prepared in whole or part by Vincenzo Ferrarese, an Italian architect who may have been working in England around 1780, and who certainly shared with Lewis an interest in theatre architecture (see Ferrarese’s design for a theatre featured in Milizia’s Trattato del Teatro, 1794, item in this catalogue). Lewis’s book remains the principal record of his architectural work up to 1797, and it combines illustrations of his designs for country houses with more ambitious projects for a new London opera house, a lunatic asylum and a “public museum”. Lewis must also have made at least one visit to the west of Ireland, for the secind volume features unexecuted designs by him for a public theatre and a market building for the town of Limerick, commissioned from him by an Irish member of parliament, John Prendergast Smyth, as well as designs for villas for named clients in Co.Galway and Co.Cork. Lists of subscribers in each volume of the present 1797 printing may well provide clues that would explain much that is still obscure about Lewis’s family background, career and client list. It should also be noted that in the 1797 version of his first volume Lewis identifies his previously unnamed client at Hadleigh, Suffolk, as John Burrell, and describes three other previously unlocated house designs as being for gentlemen in Dorset, Hampshire and Hertfordshire. The present copy was the copy subscribed for by Earl Gower (see subscribers’ list to Book II), subsequently 2nd Marquis of Stafford and 1st Duke of Sutherland (1758-1833). The gilt arms that appear on the volume’s upper cover incorporate the insignia of the Order of the Garter, awarded to him when Marquis of Stafford in 1806, suggesting that the binding was done after that date. About a century later our copy passed into the possession of Sir Albert Edward Richardson (1880-1964), architect and President of the Royal Academy, and the most whole-hearted twentieth century admirer of the architecture of the Georgian and Regency periods, and it has remained in Richardson’s family until now.Strangely, no copy of the second edition of vol.1 appears to be held in any major institutional library in the United Kingdom, and all the copies cited in the entry for this title in the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC) and by Harris/Savage are in libraries in the USA. This accounts for an incorrect statement by Harris/Savage (their no.495) that the collation of the second edition of vol.1 is identical to that of the first edition, whereas in fact the pagination of its text pages differs. As will be seen in the collation below, the text pages of the present copy of vol.1 are paginated (4) + pp v-vi, 9-18, omitting pp 7-8 (leaf C2), which is at first sight perplexing, but the entry for this title in ESTC makes it clear that this collation is correct, and Carolyn Yerkes, Rare Books Librarian at the Avery Library, Columbia University, New York, has very kindly confirmed that the Avery Library’s copy of the 1797 edition of vol.1 does indeed conform with ours. BAL Cat 1885 (with vol.1 in its first edition, 1780, but lacking the subscribers’ list for that volume) ; not in Berlin Cat, Millard or Fowler.