Large octavo (280 x 220 mm.), 15 volumes in full contemporary calf with ornate blind panels bordered by gilt rules, ribbed spine with gilt decoration to compartments and gilt titles dated 1797. With original silk ties and marbled endpapers. Each volume bears an engraved frontispiece and title page. England and Wales in 8 volumes, large folding general map and 52 (of 56) maps of the counties and islands dispersed in the text, volume 2 with some browning to upper corner, pp. 160, (6), 63; (2), (61)-250; (2), 168; (2), 188; (2), 195; (2), 215; (2), 114; 4, iv, 172. Scotland in 2 volumes, with large folding map of Scotland, pp. iv, xxiv, 176; iv, 140. Ireland in 2 volumes, pp. viii, xl, (8), 88; vi, (2), xv, 98. Military Antiquities in 2 volumes, pp. vi, (2), 412; 372, (16). Dover Castle in 1 volume, pp. viii, 72, iv, 124. Some repetition of pagination not noted, numerous engravings throughout, some light foxing, otherwise in very good condition.
A VERY RARE COMPLETE SET with the full suite of published works including not only the England and Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Military Antiquities but also the Dover Castle. The complicated history of the work is laid out below. The whereabouts of the miniature series of county maps by John Seller since the edition by Isaac Cleave of 1711 is unknown. We do know that shares in them were traded between booksellers in the period 1737-39. Hodson records that they are here referred to as ‘Camden’s Epitome with maps’. At this time it appears that there were twelve shares in the work.
The second half of the eighteenth century produced a fascination amongst the English in the landscape and particularly antiquities. Hodson describes its roots succinctly; ‘At the beginning of the eighteenth century the fashion of topographical engraving was that of the formal’ picture maps’ of Knyff and Kip, depicting the gentleman’s house in bird’s-eye view … The first stirring of change came with the formation in 1717 of the Society of Antiquaries which sponsored fine engraving and show members gave support to the brother Samuel and Nathanial Buck who, between 1720 and 1753, realised a vast project to illustrate ‘the venerable remains of above 400 castles, Monasteries, Palaces, etc., in England and Wales’. Concurrently with this Britain’s road network was improving. Whilst the wealthy were travelling on their Grand Tours the middle class took advantage of this and explored the country.
A number of publications were issued to meet this demand but the most successful was that of Francis Grose (1731-91). His father was a wealthy Swiss jeweller which enabled Grose to lead a relatively comfortable life. He served in the army, studied art and architectural antiquities and became a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1757. His most notable work is ‘The Antiquities of England and Wales’ which is a topographical work of the counties of England and Wales issued in alphabetical order. It was first issued in sixty parts between 1772 and 1776 and at intervals bound together in four volumes. Hodson’s analysis of the work is the most thorough but even he commented on the variability of binding. As the work was distributed in parts through several booksellers and appeared to be a great success, examples were bound at different stages using letterpress that may have had to be reset; virtually no two examples are alike. This first edition is usually bound in four volumes dated 1773-76, with two supplemental dated 1777 and 1787, and is populated by a large number of topographical engravings. The maps are either bound throughout the work or sometimes collected in the second supplemental volume. The first volume was announced in the ‘Morning Chronicle, and London Advertiser’ 29 September 1773. A large number of booksellers are named in the adverts but only that of Samuel Hooper appeared on the title page. We might assume the rest were mere distributors. The ‘London Evening Post’ for the 4 July 1776 announced that ‘This day were published … in four volumes quarto, containing near 400 views, all taken on the spot, price 21.6s. each volume in boards, ‘The Antiquities of England & Wales’.
Shortly after completion Grose and Hooper were persuaded to produce more. Although begun early in 1777 the project was thrown by Grose being called to duty for the Surrey Regiment of Militia for which he was adjutant and paymaster. To make matters worse Hooper went bankrupt in November 1778. His finances gradually improved and in August 1783 whilst in new premises in High Holborn he issued proposals for an octavo edition. The maps themselves were all altered for the ‘Antiquities’ but were not changed again. Grose went on to write the ‘Antiquities of Scotland’ which contained only a general map. He was in Ireland in 1791 preparing a work on it when he died suddenly. It was completed posthumously. The ‘Military Antiquities’ was first published in 1786. Following the death of Samuel Hooper on 20 February 1793 his business was continued by his widow Mary. She was joined in partnership shortly after by William Wigstead who had recently inherited a £1000. Hodson cites evidence that the Wigstead family possibly knew Grose himself. Mary Hooper left the partnership with Wigstead by 1799 as by then he is publishing in his own name. He shortly after sold the rights to the ‘Antiquities’. A copy of his catalogue of 1800 in the British Library makes no mention of it. By 1802 he was bankrupt and is no longer heard of after 1805.
The work then fell into the hands of the successful publisher John Stockdale. At first it appears he sold remaindered examples as stated in advertisements of the day. Hodson’s examination of examples of the revised issue show watermark’s no earlier than 1809. So clearly by that date he was ready to print the work again. He did however retain the old title pages with Hooper and Wigstead imprints. Watermarks have been seen on examples as late as 1815. Considering Stockdale died in June 1814 it seems likely that some as yet unknown publisher acquired the work. This example bears watermarks to at least 1809. Provenance: with bookplates of George John Sackville-West, fifth Earl De La Warr (1791-1869); private English collection. Farrant, John H. (1995). ‘The travels and travails of Francis Grose, F.S.A.’, in The Antiquaries Journal, vol. 75 pp. 365-80; refer Chubb 122; Hodson 280.