Microcosm of London; or, London in Miniature, The

An Extraordinary Copy Bound by Charles Hering
All Watermarks Pre-Publication

[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 four of Abbey's twelve key plates in their first state. Text watermarked J. Whatman 1806 and 1807; plates watermarked J. Whatman 1806, 1807 and 1808. "Contents" leaf in volume one in first state.

Three large quarto volumes (13 1/4 x 11 inches; 337 x 279 mm.). [iv], iv, [1, blank], [3]-231, [1, blank], [1, contents], [1, blank]; [iv], iii]-vi, 239, [1, blank], [1, contents], [1, blank ; [iv], [iii]-iv, 280, [6, index and errata] [1, contents], [1, publisher’s note] pp. Bound from the original parts without the half-titles, as was quite often the case. Woodcut title and engraved dedication leaf in each volume. Some offsetting from the plates to the text as usual.

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. First state of Abbey's key plates 4, 6, 7, & 8. Plates 3 and 39 in second state as usual, plate 91 in third state. The plates all bright and fresh and without the offsetting from the plates to the text that is normally seen. This is one the cleanest and finest copies of the Microcosm that we have ever seen.

Contemporary full green straight grain morocco by Charles Hering with his ticket on verso of front end-paper of volume one. Covers richly decorated in gilt and blind, spines with five 'double' raised bands, elaborately tooled and lettered in gilt and blind, gilt board-edges, elaborate gilt turn-ins, brown watered silk liners and end-leaves decoratively bordered in gilt, all edges gilt. A spectacular binding by one of the leading binders of the early nineteenth century. Bookplate of Sir Henry Hope Edwardes on verso of front end-paper of each volume.

"The book was issued in twenty-six monthly parts, each part containing four plates, and at 7s. a part, a price that was advanced early on to 10. 6d. for non-subscribers. A thousand sets are said to have been issued, a statement that may be correct for the original part publication, but must be considerably short of the final number, when bound sets distributed later are taken into account"


“The [book's] striking feature 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).

“The ‘Microcosm of London’ is one of the great colour-plate books, and a carefully selected copy should form the corner stone of any collection of books on this subject. The plates by Rowlandson and Pugin present an unrivaled picture of London in early 19th century, of historic value, as many of the buildings no longer exist” (Tooley). Early impressions are particularly prized: “original impressions of these splendid plates have a luminous quality entirely absent from later printings” (Abbey).

"The "Microcosm of London" is one of the great colour-plate books, and a carefully selected copy should form the corner stone of any collection on this subject. The plates by Rowlandson and Pugin present an unrivalled picture of London in early 19th century, of historic value, as many of the buildings no longer exist. From a bibliographical point of view the work presents many absorbing and intricate problems. Of the sixty or seventy copies I have examined in the last few years, not one has been in the first state throughout." (Tooley, p.22).

Abbey, Scenery, 212. Adams, London Illustrated, 99. Martin Hardie, pp. 100-103. Prideaux, pp. 121-124 and 348. Tooley 7. Item #03735

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