PAIN, William and James

PAIN, William and James Pain’s British Palladio or the Builder’s general assistant […]

London, H. D. Steel, 1786.


FIRST EDITION. Folio. pp. [2] 14 plus 40 full page plates, one foldout and one double page plate, all in excellent impression, of house designs with plans, elevations, sections, and details of chimney pieces and mouldings. Roman letter, little italic. Table of contents, grouping together plates and summarising estimate prices. Description of each plate explaining the design, its dimensions and proportions, as well as architectural imagery. A well margined, clean, crisp copy in contemporary tree calf, rebacked, repairs to lower, outer corners.

An influential architectural pattern book jointly created by architect William Pain (c.1730-c.1790) and his son, James. It is one of 11 publications by Pain between 1758 and 1793, who enjoyed particular success in America, where ‘demand for his books exceeded that of any other eighteenth century British author’. Pain’s Palladian style greatly influenced the design of the USA’s most famous buildings, including the White House. He concerned himself with the notions of practicality, plainness, and perspicacity, observable in his careful placement of ornamentation, resulting in simpler and less crowded facades. While the gentleman’s country house in plate 24 is undoubtedly grand, sprawled across a double page, the elevation is accented only by a central Corinthian portico, a couple of pilasters of the same order and four garlands on the top storey. Rusticated blocks do not rise above the level of the ground, providing a cleaner and calmer appearance than many Palladian style buildings of the period. More ornate detail can be seen on the chimney designs, which feature both mythological figural and non-figural scenes.

Pain’s architectural publications were not ‘meant to instruct the professed artist, but to furnish the ignorant, the uninstructed’. Unlike other books on the same subject, he innovatively included instructions, lists of materials, and price estimates for the user. This broadened his audience from the upper class to brick workers, carpenters, masons, joiners, plasterers, etc… When estimating costs, Pain even includes painting and glazing; his approach to the architectural pattern book considered the entire building process, extending beyond exterior design. Plate 39 reveals particular technical detail, with diagrams and accompanying description explaining how to fit curved surfaces, such as a domed roof, over a rectilinear space. A wonderful record of the collaborative processes required to create the grand Palladian houses of the 18th century.

Harris: 634, not in Fowler and edition not in Lowndes.
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