Pre-1800 Continental Art & Architecture, Etc., from Charles Wood
By Michael Stillman
From Charles B. Wood Antiquarian Booksellers we have received catalogue 125. It is headed, Architecture, History of Art, Garden Design, Arts, Crafts & Trades, & Related Fields. That describes the subject matter. The subheading is "continental books before 1800." Now we have the time and place for the material. These are early books primarily on the practical or artistic arts. The "continental," naturally, refers to continental Europe, with the greatest number of these titles in the French language, though others such as Italian and German are represented. Charles Wood is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A., and there are undoubtedly many American collectors of such continental material. However, we suspect that this catalogue will also be of great interest to many collectors located an ocean away. Here is just a sampling of a few of the titles Wood is now offering, but you will find much more variety within the catalogue itself.
The best of these books had a much longer shelf life in earlier days. Item 17 is Architecture pratique, qui comprend la construction generale & particuliere des Batiments...by Pierre Bullet. This is a 1774 edition of a work on practical architecture first published in 1691. It was intended to help contractors, architects and other tradesmen with such topics as selecting materials, determining costs, and complying with the Paris building code. It would continue to be republished at least as late as 1826. It is hard to imagine a manual on building from 1870 still being published today, 135 years later, as was the case with Bullet's guide. Priced at $500.
Item 84 is an illustrated catalogue of sculptures published in 1772, all of which were long ago lost to the ravages of time. In fact, not a one survived the following summer. These were ice sculptures, works of art destined to wither to a pool of water when the summer sun returned to Antwerp, Belgium, in 1772. Frankly, I have never understood those who employ such great effort and artistic talent to the construction of ice sculptures and sand castles, preordained to such a short life and complete destruction, but at least these frozen works of art from 1772 were preserved through the illustrations in this book. The artists were the students and teachers of the Antwerp Royal Academy of Drawing, but the book's author was Compte de Robiano. The title is Collection des desseins des figures colossales... $2,500.
Filippo Buonanni wrote the first complete survey of the architecture and decoration of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. With the title Numismata Summorum Pontificum Templi Vaticani fabricam, it recounts the structure's long architectural past. Buonanni used numerous sources to recreate that history, including literature, manuscripts, even medals minted by the Vatican through the centuries. Numerous illustrations are used to depict the basilica. This is a 1700 edition of this book first published in 1696. $4,500.