Microcosm of London; or, London in Miniature, The

An Early Issue, Exceptionally Large, in the Original Boards
"These Splendid Plates Have a Luminous Quality"

ACKERMANN, R[udolph]. [The Microcosm of London; or, London in Miniature]. London: R. Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, [1808-1810].

First edition, early issue, with the text watermarked 1807 and the plates watermarked 1806-1808, and with the errata corrected in Volume I, except for “officiis” on p. 136, and the errata uncorrected in Volumes II and III (see Abbey, Scenery, p. 138). Three large quarto volumes (14 5/16 x 11 9/16 inches; 363 x 294 mm.). [2, half-title], [2, woodcut title], [2, engraved dedication], iv, [1, contents], [1, blank], [3]-231, [1, blank]; [2, half-title], [2, woodcut title], [2, engraved dedication], [iii]-vi, [1, contents], [1, blank], 239, [1, blank]; [2, half-title], [2, woodcut title], [2, engraved dedication], [iii]-iv, [1, contents], [1, publisher’s note], 280, [6, index and errata] pp. Woodcut title and engraved dedication leaf in each volume. With 104 hand-colored aquatint plates, including fifty-four by J. Bluck, twenty-nine by J.C. Stadler, ten by T. Sutherland, ten by J. Hill, and one by Harraden, after Rowlandson and Pugin. Six of the twelve “key plates” are in the first state (Plates 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10).

Uncut, in the original drab boards with later green paper spine labels printed in black. Some expert repairs to boards. Some slight offsetting from and foxing to the plates. Short tear to outer margin of contents leaf in Volume III. Overall, an excellent and very large copy in the original boards, partially unopened. Each volume housed in a quarter red morocco clamshell case lined with red velvet.

“The striking feature [of The Microcosm of London: or London is Miniature] is not so much the text (though the third volume is notable as the work of W. Combe) but the coloured illustrations, in this case the combined work of Pugin and Rowlandson…The pictures in this book cover all the well-known public buildings of London—churches, banks, prisons, theatres, etc.,—capitally portrayed by Pugin…The great metropolis, with its high life and low, its light and its shade, could have had no one better fitted [than Rowlandson] to portray its inmates. The spirited figures that he adds to Pugin’s backgrounds show that his talents were not limited to the ludicrous and grotesque. With the happiest faculty for expressing character, he is equally at home amid a serious discussion of naval policy at the Admiralty Board-Room, or among the excited, gambling crowd of the Royal Cockpit. At Westminster Abbey or Bridewell, the College of Physicians or Billingsgate, everywhere he has seized on the essential features and the typical frequenters of the place…The book is a living and delightful record of the old metropolis of [two] hundred years ago, the London of Lamb, Jane Austen, Dickens, and Thackeray, of places and incidents that are now mere memories” (Martin Hardie, pp. 101-102).

Early impressions are particularly prized: “original impressions of these splendid plates have a luminous quality entirely absent from later printings” (Abbey).

Abbey, Scenery, 212 (measuring 13 1/4 x 10 3/4 inches and in a half morocco binding by Rivière). Adams, London Illustrated, 99. Martin Hardie, pp. 100-103. Prideaux, pp. 121-124 and 348. Tooley 7. Item #00075

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