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The Microcosm of London - ACKERMANN, Rudolph - 1808. 
London R. Ackermann -1810 1808 - Three volumes, 4to., 3 engraved title pages, 3 engraved dedication leaves, 104 finely hand-coloured aquatint plates after Rowlandson and Pugin, contemporary russia, covers with broad gilt borders, neatly rebacked to style, all edges gilt, a handsome set. The Microcosm was the first major colour plate book published by the celebrated nineteenth century publisher, Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834). It originally appeared in monthly parts, usually by subscription, between 1808 and 1810. Each issue cost seven shillings and included four coloured plates. It later appeared in its final bound folio format of three volumes, each containing over thirty full-page hand-coloured aquatints depicting London's principal buildings in the nineteenth century. The Microcosm was a new undertaking in that it treated Regency London pictorially, and ranged over new and ancient buildings and meeting places, capturing the mood of London at the time. Life in London during the Regency era was distinctive for its architecture, literature, fashions, and politics. Socially, it was a combination of two extremes, with extravagance and opulence for the aristocracy with their affluent buildings to the overcrowded slums and poverty endured by the poor. It was an era of economic uncertainty caused by the Napoleonic Wars, and social unrest due to the Industrial Revolution and its introduction of machine-based labour over manual labour. The three volumes are laid out in the form of a dictionary, with the buildings listed alphabetically for ease of reference. From the introduction, Ackermann puts forward his intentions in producing such a work. It is aimed at those inhabitants of London who are either too busy to appreciate the architecture surrounding them, or those who are largely familiar with it, but not in great detail. It would also appeal to visitors to the city for the first time as a source of reference. Two-thirds of the buildings included no longer exist, which adds to its appeal today. These include The Pillory, The Old Bailey, King's Bench Prison, Royal Cockpit in Birdcage Walk, Brooks' Subscription House, India House of Charles Lamb, and King's Mews (now the National Gallery). (University of Reading). Pugin supplied the architectural drawings which have an accuracy and serene beauty which provide the perfect contrast to Rowlandson's figures of the population of London engaged in their everyday life. "The most magnificent [book] in artistic scope, admirable from its encyclopaedic readiness to guide us through all aspects of life concealing little was the Microcosm of London. A good copy of the Microcosm is a fine work indeed, first among Ackermann's major books, a notion of all London open to view, the world of poor or rich, wretched or mighty. The London book was a true Microcosm: charities, churches, prisons, fairs, courts, markets, theatres, hospitals. The alphabetic order of appearance was more effective than more obvious divisions. for we have them mixed, the book like life." (Franklin). Abbey Scenery 212; Tooley 7; Prideaux pp121-4. Franklin 49-54. [Attributes: Hard Cover]
[Bookseller: Shapero Rare Books]
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