Antiquities of Westminster;

SMITH John Thomas (1807)


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The Old Palace; St. Stephen's Chapel (Now the House of Commons) &c. &c. Containing two hundred and forty-six engravings of topographical objects, of which one hundred and twenty-two no longer remain ... this work contains copies of manuscripts which throw new and unexpected light on the ancient history of the arts in England.Folio. Modern half calf with marbled boards. London: by T. Bensley, for J.T. Smith, and sold by R. Ryan and J. Manson, June 9

During a restoration of Westminster in 1800, workmen by chance discovered a section of 14th century wall, complete with original wall paintings, stained glass and sculptures. With a history in illustrated books of antiquarian subjects, John Thomas Smith was eager to record the discovery before it was destroyed. Smith completed the "sketches in six weeks of solid work" (ODNB) only to encounter a setback "when the authorities transferred the rights to reproduce these paintings to the Society of Antiquaries" (ODNB). Although Smith finally published 'The Antiquities of Westminster' in 1807, the projects ill fate continued, when a fire Mr T. Bensley's printing office destroyed 400 copies of the work alongside £3000 of Smith's potential revenue (ODNB). Smith's finances never recovered from this event; in a begging letter to Lord Hardwick, of 1808, he bemoaned that 'My loss by fire has been so severe...that I fear I am Crippled for life' (Smith to Hardwick, 1 Aug 1808).

Abbey. Scenary 210. Plate at page 48 is an early lithograph, possibly the first in an English book.

Stock Code: 56206

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