A History of The University of Oxford, its Colleges, Halls, and Public Buildings.

London, Printed for R. Ackermann, 101, Strand, by L. Harrison and J. C. Leigh, 373, Strand, 1814.

£4,950

2 vol. Folio. Vol 1: [a]4 (-[a]1, half title), b-e4, f2 (-f2), B-Z4, AA-MM4, NN2, OO4 [-OO4], [31] leaves of plates; Vol 2: [A]2 (-[A]1, half title), B-Z4, AA-LL4, MM2, [51] leaves of plates. Bound with the list of subscribers, and dedication to and uncoloured portrait of Lord Grenville, Chancellor of the University. The “Arrangement of the plates…” for both volumes is bound following page xiv in volume 1. Plates comprise uncoloured portrait of Lord Grenville, 64 leaves (of which 4 contain two plates each) of aquatint views of the University, and 17 hand-coloured plates of costume; costume plates all present but bound out of order. In a modern Oxford blue morocco binding with gilt tooled border; spine with four raised bands, gilt tooled compartments and lettering; marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. Occasional gentle age-yellowing, and some transfer from the aquatint plates onto the facing pages, but otherwise a good clean copy.

A lovely, well-margined copy of this beautiful plate book on the history of the University of Oxford. This issue contains the far more intriguing costume plates depicting University dress, but not the supplementary series of founders’ portrait which are often not present; as Hardie rightly puts it, “The collector need not bemoan his fate if the plates of founders be missing, for they were purely a supplement, and Ackermann’s index of plates provides for binding ‘with or without the founders’, and the value of the book lies in the aquatints.”. Twenty-three of the sixty-eight aquatint views are engraved by J. Bluck, twelve by J. Hill, eleven by J.C. Stadler, and the rest are variously by F. C. Lewis, W. Bennett, D. Havell, G. Lewis, J. and R. Reeve, and T. Sutherland, with the costume plates being by J. Agar after T. Unwins; interestingly, the costumes are based on the academic dress of the University of Cambridge.

“During 1813 and 1814 The History of the University of Oxford and The History of the University of Cambridge were being issued in monthly parts, a thousand copies being published, the first five hundred at 12s, and the remaining five hundred at 16s a part. To these was added a supplementary series of portraits of the founders of the colleges, and the two noble volumes thus completed were published in 1814 and 1815 respectively, their price being £16 in elephant and £27 in atlas quarto. The fine aquatints, with their somewhat old-world flavour, are well suited to reproduce the spirit and to recall the antique associations of the old quads and courts. Apart, too, from their fitness and beauty, the plates are of value as a historical record. … The principal artists employed by Ackermann to make the drawings for these two books were Pugin, Mackenzie, W. Westall, and F. Nash, and in interiors and exteriors alike their work is full of strength, sympathy, and charm.” Hardie, English Coloured Books, pp. 104-105.

“These two books [Ackermann’s History of Oxford and History of Cambridge] are among the finest ever executed. A. Pugin, F. Nach, F. Mackenzie, and W. Westall were associated in the drawings, which are worthy even of the splendid architectural monuments they commemorate, while the engraving was carried out by such masters of aquatint as J. Bluck, J.C. Stadler, F.C. Lewis, D. Havell and others of like reputation. The result was the production of plates of unequalled merit in their particular line” Prideaux, Aquatint Engraving, pp. 125-126.

Tooley 5; Prideaux pp.125-6; Hardie pp. 104-5.