GILPIN, William (1724-1804)
An Essay on Prints
London: A. Strahan, 1802. Octavo. (8 3/4 x 5 3/8 inches). , 188pp. including index.
Quarter morocco, marble paper boards, spine lettered gilt. Small released stamp of Boston Public Library, verso of title page.
Fifth and final edition.
William Gilpin (1724-1804) was an English cleric, teacher, and writer. Born in Cumberland the son of a soldier and amateur artist, Gilpin was enthusiastic about art from a young age but opted to become a priest, graduating from Queen's College, Oxford in 1748. Gilpin published his first essay on aesthetics, A Dialogue upon the Gardens of the Right Honourable the Lord Viscount Cobham at Stowe 20 years later, he would publish his well-known Essay on Prints in which he defined the idea which he is most famous for, the picturesque or '"a term expressive of that peculiar kind of beauty, which is agreeable in a picture." Gilpin travelled extensively during the summers throughout his life, applying these aesthetic principles to the landscapes he encountered and writing his thoughts down and making sketches in what would become his published tour journals. This work is an introduction to prints for print collectors, including a list and explanation of relevant terms and noted painters and engravers. Gilpin also has comments on particular prints, such as "The Death of Polycrates by Salvator Rosa" and "The Fifth Plate of Du Jardin's Animals." The final chapter, "Cautions in Collecting Prints," prepares print collectors for things to be wary of when evaluating prints.