MORRIS, Robert.

MORRIS, Robert. Architecture improved in a collection of modern, elegant and useful designs […]

London, Robert Sayer, 1755


8vo. pp.[iii]iv-xiv, 50 full page engraved plates by Remigius Parr (fl. 1736-1751) and Henry Roberts (c.1710-1790). Roman letter, t-p in red and black, 18th C autograph at upper right of ‘Robt. Kennedy’ and upper left ‘David Lovinge 1762 £0:5:0’. Woodcut hunting scene at head of preface, view of London in the background. Small wormholes to lower outer corners not touching text or illustrations. Some leaves slightly dog-eared. A very good, clean, crisp, well-margined, almost large page copy, extra thick, plates in fine impression, in contemporary calf, with scuffing to corners. Bookplate of the great bibliographer and architectural connoisseur John Harris.

A very good copy of the second edition of one of surveyor Robert Morris’ (c.1701-1754) more successful books, once owned by John Harris, a scholar of Inigo Jones, whose designs feature within. It displays his outstanding talent in architectural design and offers various types of classical portico and rotunda, as well as pavilions and mausolea in Egyptian and ‘Eastern’ style. Morris was not an architect by trade, but rather ‘a barometer whose writings reflected contemporary changes in ideas about the basis of architectural order’. From his profession he earned the reputation of architect, with buildings built by his kinsman Roger and son James Morris wrongly ascribed to him. Only two architectural works are attributed to him with certainty: the additions to Culverthorpe and a house on Burlington Street, both for Sir Michael Newton, to whom he dedicated his ‘Lectures’. (Harris 318)

The preface highlights the importance of ‘Proportion’, ‘Symmetry’ and ‘Harmony’, the key intellectual pillars of the Palladian movement, supported by the title’s acknowledgement of Inigo Jones (1573-1652) and William Kent (1685-1748), who were both integral to the introduction of Palladian architecture in Britain. It also describes the style, ornamentation, and dimensions of 34 centrally planned and symmetrical structures, before exhibiting 16 further examples of chimney pieces. The former plates display beautifully illustrated elevations paired with a corresponding floorplan, as well as scale. They propose a selection of structures in a vast array of shapes, including rectangles, octagons, and circles, playfully mingling curvilinear forms with straight edges. The remaining plates present fireplaces in variations of a classical triangular pediment, there are a couple of examples of lunettes. Detailed sculptural and figural decoration are also included, in the form of busts, vases, animal heads and masks, as well as floral detail.

This edition was published in the year following Morris’ death, perhaps as a memorial and enjoyed more success than his older theoretical essays. He also wrote extensively on gardens, which he believed to be ‘interrelated and reciprocal’ to the so called ‘’genius of the place’’. The importance of his writings has been greatly noted by modern scholars.

ESTC T150587. Harris 565. Not in Fowler.
Stock Number: L4183 Categories: , ,