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ADAM, William (1689--1748)
Vitruvius Scoticus; being a collection of plans, elevations, and sections of public buildings, noblemen's and gentlemen's houses in Scotland: principally from the designs of the late William Adam, Esq. architect.
Edinburgh printed for Adam Black, and J. & J. Robertson; T. Underwood, and J. Taylor, London, [1811].
5, [1] p., 160 [i.e. 179] pl. ; 54.0 cm. (2º)

Date of publication (29 May 1811) from announcement in the Edinburgh Weekly Chronicle. The plates are numbered 1--160, with bis plates 5, 13, 19--21, 30, 72--74, 83, 94, 107--108, 121, 123, 135--136, and 139--140. The letterpress consists of the title-leaf and a three-page 'List of the Plans', at the end of which is the publisher's note: 'The following Plans, drawn by the late William Adam, ... were engraved at his Expence by the most eminent artists of the time, with a View to Publication. A few complete Sets having come into the Publisher's hands, he now respectfully offers them to the public.'. This work, the most ambitious architectural book ever published in Scotland, had a long and difficult gestation. The majority of the plates were engraved between c. 1728 and the early 1740s by the Edinburgh engraver Richard Cooper, under whose influence the scope of what seems to have initially been conceived as collection of Adam's own designs on the model of James Gibbs's Book of architecture, 1728 (q.v.), to be published by subscription in the hope of securing a government appointment, evolved into a projected record of Scottish classical architecture in 150 plates, the title (first referred to in 1733) a riposte to Campbell's Vitruvius Britannicus (q.v.). However in spite of this advanced readiness the work was apparently abandoned and only resuscitated after William Adam's death in 1748 by his son John, who commissioned further plates including his own designs and those of his brothers. These were engraved c. 1758?--1764 and the plates went to press around 1764 with letterpress descriptions intended to follow, but the contract with A. Millar in London to take on the unsubscribed portion of the work (750 copies) fell through and the sheets were warehoused for 37 years, owing no doubt to the Adam brothers' financial difficulties in the wake of the failure of the Fairholme Bank in 1764 and also probably to the disinclination of Robert and James Adam to associate their fashionable London practice with the heirloom character of the work. The sheets in Millar's partner Cadell's London warehouse were eventually sold for scrap, and the undistributed subscribers' copies finally issued as remainders by Adam Black in Edinburgh. For a full account of the complex publication history of this ambitious but ill-fated work, see BAL, Early printed books, no. 30 (pp. 17--20); Millard II, 3 (pp. 19--23); Harris and Savage, 8 (pp. 94--104).



Binding C19th half calf, blind-ruled borders, marbled-paper boards, gilt triple-ruled and blind roll-tooled spine, red morocco spine-label.

Reference Number 6693


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