Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2022 Issue

Macon Brothers Rare Books, Maps & Ephemera Sale Features a Unique, Colored Copy of Chaperon's 1649 Raphael Frescoes


Highlights from Macon Brothers Auctioneers' ongoing online sale ending June 11

Macon Brothers Auctioneers is holding a sale of Rare Books, Maps, Atlases & Ephemera. The sale is online and will be running from now until 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time on June 11. The items come from the collection of Dr. Vernon H. McFarlane with some selected additions.


Among the items offered are rare maps dating back to the 1600’s including Dutch cartographer Johannes Blaue’s The New and Most Accurate Map of the World c1664, plus maps by Carel Allard, Henry Popple, Matthaus Seutter, Willem Blaeu, Gerardo & Leonardo Valk.


Other highlights include the rare books New Memories of the Present State of China (1696), by Father Louis le Comte and Florida del Inca (1723), by Garcilaso De La Vega. There is also art and paintings from the 16th century to contemporary and a rare find 1876 Muller Baseball Clock.


Books of particular western American interest include an 1869 printing of the richly illustrated Vol. VII Exploration For A Route For A Pacific Railroad from St. Paul to Puget Sound. It includes original maps and extensive lithographs, many in color. The book is part of a larger, multi-volume set of The Most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific Railroad Surveys were authorized by Congress in 1852, designed to provide studies for transcontinental railroads.


The highlight is a unique hand-colored version of The Sacred History of Raphael Urban in Vatican Terraces, The Miracle of the Picture Expressed, by Nicolas Chaperon (1612-1656), published in 1649, engravings of Raphael’s fifty-two frescoes of Biblical scenes for the Vatican. The engravings were done in Rome by a French artist, Nicoli Chaperon. His work - now colored but originally in black and white - copied Raphael’s circa 1510 frescoes in the Vatican.


Coloring is attributed to James Northcote and/or Prince Hoare II who had Papal dispensation to “copy the pictures in the Vatican” circa 1777 to 1780. A further explanation follows. It was presented in his own handwriting by Prince Hoare II “To The Rev’d Charles Townsend of Preston April 25, 1825.” The book was discovered this year in the collection of Dr. Vernon H. McFarlane (1904-1978) with documentation that he purchased it in 1952 from a bookstore in Preston, Lancashire, England.


The book contains a fascinating, complex history and provenance which Macon Bros. describes as follows.

(1509-1520) Raphael Sanzio is commissioned by Pope Julius II to Fresco what was intended to be the Pope’s private library, which included 52 paintings depicting scenes from the Bible.


1649 (129 years later) Nicolas Chaperon (1612-1656) completes engravings of the 52 paintings for his book “Sacra Historia Acta a Raphael Urban in Vaticanis Xystis ad miraculum Pictvrae Expressa” ('Les Loges Du Vatican'), published by Pierre Marriette, Rome, 1649. The book was printed with black ink, color was not a printing option in 1649.


1776-1780 Three artists from England are in Rome to study under Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779):

Prince Hoare II (1755-1834)

James Northcote (1746-1831)

Henry Fuseli/Johann Heinrich Fuseli (1741-1825)


Dec. 22, 1777. A letter archived in the Royal Academy of Arts from J. Northcote (then in Rome) to his brother Samuel Northcote (in England) documents the following per the 'Content Description' of the Royal Academy Archivist: 'On his arrival in Rome Hoare introduced him to Mr. Jenkins, an Englishman with great influence over the Pope and Cardinals; … through this man he has obtained a permit to copy the pictures in the Vatican'.


“It is likely that the book was unbound for each page to be placed on a board and/or easel for purposes of colouring. It appears in the subject book that the engravings, after being coloured, were cut out of the original paper that they were printed on and remounted onto different paper that they remain on today. The watermark on that paper is a Strausburg Lilly (fleur de lis) with the letters “LVG” below, which dates it in the 18th century. This would coincide with the time the following artists were in Rome with permission to copy the art of the Vatican.


April 25, 1825 . A copy of the book of Chaperon’s engravings, Les Loges Du Vatican, is gifted by Prince Hoare II to the Reverend Charles Townsend of Preston, Lancashire, England. Included with the book is a note in cursive that reads:

'The Gift of

P. Hoare

To Rev. Charles Townsend of Preston April 25, 1825'


Sept. 8th, 1952. Dr. Vernon H. McFarlane purchases by mail from The Export Book Co., 63 Navelock Terrace, Garstang Rd., Preston, Lancashires (England), the following book; as per the store's Catalogue 484 (1952), page 9, described as follows: '22. COLOURED BIBLE ILLUSTRATIONS. Raphael’s Sacrae Historiae Acta. . . with Engraved Title Page and 52 fine full page Coloured Plates in brilliant colours, depicting scenes from the Bible, plates very lightly mounted at the corners, folio, old calf, covers loose, fine clean copy*. (*Early). 10 (pounds) Romae, 1649'. In addition, the invoice adds the following: 'binding rubbed and defective. 1649.'


“The Export Book Co. was located about 2 miles from the St. Peter’s church in Preston, the church of Reverend Charles Townsend.


Sept 16, 1955 McFarlane has the book rebound In New Orleans by Alex Maddox Bindery as 'Illustrations Of The Bible'.


What we believe to be factual: As of this date we have not found any records of sales of the 52 engravings, either in book form or individually, that are coloured, only black and white as originally published.


“Hoare, Northcote, Fuseli were in Rome, studying with Mengs between 1776 and 1780.


“Northcote obtained written permission to copy the pictures of the Vatican through a gentleman (Thomas Jenkins) introduced to him by Hoare. Though there is no mention in the Royal Academy’s archives about colouring of the engravings, there is mention in the letters by Northcote of the numerous hours he was spending in the Vatican copying the art.


“Upon comparison of pictures of Raphael’s paintings in the Vatican and those hand painted in the subject book of engravings, they appear strikingly similar in color, brilliance and accuracy of placement. It would be impossible to accomplish this perfection without doing each copy in the presence of the actual painting.


“There is no written evidence discovered, as of this printing, that Northcote, or the other artists mentioned, coloured the engravings. However, the information presented above, points toward this being the most likely possibility.


“Macon Brothers Auctioneers extends their sincere thank you to Annette Wickham, Curator – Works on Paper, Royal Academy of Arts, for her prompt reply providing historical information regarding Prince Hoare II and James Northcote.


“All information above has been conscientiously provided. The Auctioneer encourages all bidders to rely on their own judgment regarding who coloured the above referenced engravings and to bid accordingly.”

Rare Book Monthly

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