Shaftesbury and London: The Author and Charles Knight and Co., e.t.c., 1823. Large 4to. First and only edition. Large-paper copy. Recent sprinkled calf leather spine and corners, black leather title label, over marbled paper boards. New endpapers. Thirteen engraved plates (including one not listed in the Description of Embellishments) of which three are hand-coloured, together with twenty-eight woodcut vignette illustrations in the text. Folding colour Map of the Fonthill Domain at the end of the text. Folding sheet tipped in at rear with three Genealogical Tables of William Beckford. A review of a biography of Beckford, from The Guardian in 1962, pasted to the verso of the front endpaper. Some dust-soiling to the outer edges not affecting the text or plates. Near fine. Item #5812
Fonthill Abbey was an extravagant neo-gothic country home built on William Beckford's Fonthill Gifford estate in Wiltshire between 1796 and 1813. In 1771, the 10 year old Beckford inherited a vast sum of money from his father and once he reached his majority, began to pursue a lavish lifestyle. Following a scandal in 1784, Beckford fled into exile in Europe. Upon his return to Britain, Beckford hired the renowned architect James Wyatt, uncle of Jeffry Wyatville to design his new home. The house was arranged in a cruciform pattern with a large octagonal space in the centre which supported an enormous cathedral-like tower. Following numerous delays and tower collapses, in 1813, Beckford declared the house complete. In paying for the venture, Beckford squandered vast sums of money and the haste with which the construction was finally completed meant that the building was incredibly unstable. In 1822, the house and estate was sold to the Scottish arms dealer James Farquhar and Beckford settled in Bath where he died in 1844. Rutter began writing while Beckford was the owner but the book was published after the sale. The tower collapsed for a third and final time in 1825 and the house was eventually demolished. This copy is missing the 'View of the West and South Fronts' but includes the 'South West View of Fonthill Abbey', facing page 100, which is unlisted in the description of illustrations and is frequently not present. A nice copy in a handsome binding.
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