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PIRANESI, Giovanni Battista (1720--1778)
Le magnificenze di Roma le più remarcabili consistenti in gran numero di stampe nelle quali vengano rappresentate le più cospicue fabbriche di Roma moderna, e le rimaste dell'antica, anche quelle, che sparse sono per l'Italia con l'aggiunta ancora di molte invenzioni di prospettiva sulla maniera degl'antichi Romani, come anche di molti capricci di carceri sotterranee. Il tutto con singolar gusto, e studio diligentemente delineate, inventate, ed incise da Giambattista Piranesi architetto Veneziano, e raccolte da Giovanni Bouchard mercante librajo al Corso.
Roma: Giovanni Bouchard, mercante librajo, 1751 [i.e. 1753 or 4].
[2] vols ; 51.5 cm. (1°)

Despite the date of publication given on its title-page this copy of Le Magnificenze was issued in 1753 or 4 (see Robison, Piranesi, p. 212), and is effectively a complete set of Piranesi's publications to that date. Giovanni Bouchard - a French-born bookseller on the Via del Corso who handled Piranesi's output until 1758 - had begun to issue combinations of the artist's works in 1750 under the collective title of Opere varie (q.v.), the wording of which was broad enough to cover bespoke sets put together as required. In the following year however Bouchard also began using the quite differently worded Magnificenze general title-page to preface in effect the artist's complete oeuvre to date. The rarity of the Magnificenze title-page suggests however that there were few takers for Piranesi's collected works at this comparatively early stage of his career.

The various series combined in the Magnificenze are catalogued in more detail under their respective titles. The Soane copy is arranged as follows:

Vol. [I]:

Single-page letterpress Magnificenze title-page reading as above, printed in red and black with etched vignette signed bottom left 'Piranesi fec.' [Hind, p. 82; Robison 28 i/ii: 'Classical Ruins with a View of the Sea']

[1] Vedute di Roma (q.v.): etch. title-pl., etch. frontis., [34] etch. pl. (all double-page) [Hind 1-5, 7-9, 14-19, 28, 29, 32-35, 37, 38, 40, 41, 43, 45, 46, 49-54, 56, 58, 59]

[2] Raccolte di varie vedute di Roma, 1752 (q.v.): single-page letterpress title-page with etched vignette, [46] etched pl. (= 92 coppers printed on 23 bifolia) [see BAL Early printed books, no. 2564]

Vol. [II]:

[1] Trofei di Ottaviano Augusto, 1753 (q.v.): double-page letterpress title-page with etched vignette, [9] etched pl. (5 double-page) [Hind, pp. 82-83; cf. BAL 2566 (post-January 1767 edition)]

Single-page letterpress title-page printed in red and black, reading: Opere varie di architettura, prospettiva, groteschi, antichità inventate, ed incise da Giambattista Piranesi architetto Veneziano, raccolte da Giovanni Bouchard mercante librajo al Corso. With an etched vignette by [Louis-Joseph] Le Lorrain. This is the earliest version of the Opere varie title-page [Hind, pp. 78-79; Robison 28, fig. 65]

'Jo. Bap. Piranesi Venet. Architectur', etched portrait, signed and dated 'F. Polanzani faciebat 1750 Super permissu.' Felice Polanzani (1700-c. 1783), a fellow Venetian working as engraving master at the orphanage of San Michele in Rome from 1742, had shared digs with Piranesi in the early 1740s.

[2] Prima parte di architetture, e prospettive (q.v.): etched title-pl., [16] etch. pl. (numbered 1-14 with 2 unnumbered) [Robison 1-3, 5-12, 15-20; 2nd ed., 1st issue]

[3] [Grotteschi] (q.v.): [4] double-page etch. pl. [Robison 21-24; 2nd ed., 1st issue]

'Pianta di ampio magnifico Collegio ...': [1] double-page etched pl. [Robison 25 ii/vii]. This single plate does not seem to have been published independently of the Opere varie or Magnificenze 'combination' volumes. According to an anecdote recounted by Sir William Chambers, it was created in response to a challenge by Piranesi's student friends at the Académie française that he was incapable of designing an actual building. Chambers rather pompously scorned the result as proving their point. However Piranesi was to have the last laugh. Despite the obsessive complexity of his design, where endlessly curving staircases would have resulted in a building that was quite alien to the French tradition of clear axial planning and unobstructed sight-lines, the fact remains that exercises in devising theoretical designs for similarly monumental centralised public buildings was to become standard fare for all French architectural students well into the 19th century.

'Parte di ampio magnifico Porto ...': [1] double-page etched pl. [Robison 26 iii/viii]. This is Piranesi at his wildest, indulging in a fantastically baroque vision of architecture beyond human agency or control. An informal pendant to the 'Collegio', it revels in perspectival confusion as if in defiance of the latter's revelation of symmetry.

[4] Camere sepolcrali degli antichi Romani le quali esistono dentro e fuori di Roma, [1750-1?] (q.v.): single-page etched title-pl., [11] double-page etched pl. [Hind, pp. 81-82]

[5] Invenzioni capric di carceri all acqva forte datte in lvce da Giovani Bouchard ... (q.v.): etched title-pl., [13] etched pl. [Robison 29-44; 1st ed., 2nd issue]

[6] Antichità Romane de' tempi della Repubblica ... (q.v.): [30] etch. pl. (incl. 2 title-plates) [Hind, p. 75]

Robison dates the Soane Magnificenze to no earlier than 1753 because it includes the Trofei, 1753 (q.v.) and to no later than 1754, the year in which a now dispersed copy in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (GC25,26,30,31 and Hb28res.) was purchased containing two more 'Vedute di Roma' to make a total of thirty-eight (Robison, p. 212).

Copy Notes Inscribed in ink (with shelfmark and possible year of acquisition?) on front free-endpapers of both volumes: TB 408 and TB 1757. With MS. pagination in each volume. This numbering (which includes blank versos, etc. in the count) may be associated with a (late 18th or early 19th-century?) MS index in Italian ('Il Contenuto de' sei Tomi delle Opere di Piranèse delle Magnificenze e delle Antichita di Roma', and 'Indice Delle Tavole nell' Sei Tomi delle Opere di Piranese'), which is loosely inserted in vol. I. This lists by place or building name the entire graphic contents of a uniformly-bound six-volume set of the 'Opere di Piranesi' (binder's title), of which vols I & II consist of the copy of the Magnificenze described here and the other four volumes a copy of Le antichità Romane, 1756 (q.v.).

Binding C18th calf, gilt roll-tooled borders and edges, gilt-tooled spine, black morocco spine-label lettered in gilt 'Opera De Piranesi Vol I (II)'.

Reference Number 5951


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