xvi, 364 pp.; 2 p.l., 397 pp. Two vols. 8vo (220 x 140 mm.), 19th-century polished calf (joints a trifle rubbed), spines gilt, red & green morocco lettering-pieces on spines. London: R. Ackermann, 1824.
First edition of an essential firsthand history of the mass British acquisitions of Old Masters in the first decades of the 19th century. “William Buchanan (1777-1864), a Scottish lawyer turned art dealer, was to benefit most from the turmoil caused by the Napoleonic Wars, although he started too late to participate in the Orléans sales. He employed mainly James Irvine of Drum, Aberdeenshire, in Italy and George Augustus Wallis in Spain and Portugal as agents to scour the cities for available works of art and ship them back to London…”–J. Stourton and C. Sebag-Montefiore, The British as Art Collectors, p. 159.
Buchanan structures this work around the celebrated collections to which he added or from which he extracted magnificent works. He describes the collections of Michael Bryan, de Calonne, Fagel, Robit, Vitturi, Lebrun, Sebastiani, Lucien Bonaparte, and Talletrand. He cites prices and provides numerous insights into the dispersal of many of the early great 19th-century art collections. The sections beginning “Mr. Buchanan’s Importations…” (Vol. II, pp. 95-180; 203-50; 294-304; 349-77), are perhaps of the greatest interest, due to the author’s candor and to the excerpts of private (and revealing) correspondence between Buchanan and his foreign agents regarding the pursuit of great works.
Nice set, internally fine. Presentation inscription on front fly-leaf: “James McDouall from his sincere friend Charles F. Rushout, on his leaving Eton, Election 1857.” Engraved armorial bookplate of “Jacobi McDouall de Logon” on front paste-down.
❧ Oxford Art online (Buchanan). “His book is by far the frankest ever written by any dealer anywhere, and by printing many of the original documents and letters that passed between him and his agents Buchanan conveys much of the profitable excitement of the pursuit — bliss indeed was it to be a collector in that dawn, but to be a dealer was very heaven.”–Francis Haskell, Rediscoveries in Art: Some Aspects of Taste, Fashion & Collecting in England & France (1976), p. 27.
Item ID: 6693