A Fantastic Set of Vasi's Views of Rome- Augmented With 17 Additional Plates

ROME. Vasi, Giuseppe (1710-1782)

Delle magnificenze di Roma antica e moderna.

Roma: Chracas, Barbiellini, Pagliarini, 1747- 1761


Oblong folio: 10 books in 5 volumes. Extremely fresh copies of all 10 books, bound in their original bindings covered with patterned paper (some wear to the bindings.)

An extremely fine, complete set of these celebrated Roman views by Giuseppe Vasi, from whom Piranesi learned the art of etching. In this set, as in the Getty, Royal Academy, and British Architectural Library copies, the first volume is the second "edition", retaining the 1747 date but with a reference to Vasi's important map of Rome (1765) in the letter to the reader (see "copy-specific points" below.) This set is augmented with 17 additional plates by Vasi. (See below for full collation.)

Vasi's signature appears on all plates as draughtsman and engraver, with a few exceptions: the frontispiece of Bk. I is signed 'Caval. Sebastian Conca inven. Giuseppe Vasi incise'; plate 54 is unsigned; plates 58, 85, 86, 94, 97, 100-140 are signed as only etched by him; and plates 162, 165, 166, 170-172 are signed 'G. Vasi' simply. Of the 35 in-text illustrations (which include a sketch-map of Rome in Book I and two plans in Book X) twenty-seven are signed as drawn or etched by Vasi and eight are unsigned. The ten title-page vignettes are all unsigned. The text in Vol. I was written by Giuseppe Bianchini (1704-1764), that of Vol. II by an unknown author, and that of the remaining eight volumes by Vasi himself.

"Only ten years older than his main competitor, Piranesi, Giuseppe Vasi came to Rome from Palermo in 1736. Of well-to-do family and classically educated, for his entire career Vasi enjoyed the high patronage of the Neapolitan aristocracy, the Spanish monarchs, and a succession of popes. As chamberlain of Charles III, king of the Two Sicilies, Vasi set up his workshop in the Palazzo Farnese in Rome. This distinguished address put Vasi in an advantageous position for a graphic artist offering engraved views of Rome to aristocratic visitors on their Grand Tour of the city. In 1747, Vasi was nominated royal engraver, and by 1763, he as knighted by his monarch.

"Piranesi worked for about six months in Vasi's shop immediately upon his arrival in Rome in 1740. [The two men] parted after an argument in which Piranesi threatened to kill Vasi. Vasi found the younger man's style too painterly, while Piranesi reproached his teacher for withholding the secrets of his engraving technique…

"The 'Magnificenze di Roma antica e moderna' is Vasi's most important and largest work, published between 1747 and 1761. The preparations may have started as early as 1740, and Vasi claims in his introduction that he formed the plan for this immense undertaking immediately upon his arrival in Rome… While the plates were pulled in Vasi's own workshop, the text that accompanied them was produced by three different printers. Francesco Chracas printed the text for volume one; the Barbiellini heirs published volumes 2,3, and 5; and Marco and Niccolo Pagliarini printed volumes 4, and 6 through ten."(Millard Catalogue)

Vasi devotes each book to a particular aspect of Rome: 1. Gates and walls; 2. Piazzas, obelisks, columns &c.; 3. Basilicas and ancient churches; 4. Palaces and streets; 5. Bridges and buildings on the Tiber; 6. Parish churches; 7. Conventi and clergy houses; 8. Monasteries for women; 9. Colleges, hospitals and pious foundations; 10. Villas and gardens.

Collation: 10 books in 5 volumes: With 200 numbered plates as called for (of which 194 are printed on added sheets and 6 are printed in the text*), plus 3 additional plates printed on separate sheets (found only in some copies**), and another 14 engraved plates, also printed on separate sheets, also printed by Vasi but not called for in this work***

(Vol. I): half-title, title, engraved dedication, engraved frontispiece, LXXII pp., 1 leaf (index), 20 added engraved plates.

(Vol. II): LII pp., 1 leaf (index), 20 added engraved plates numbered 21-40, and 1 unnumbered plate ("Obelisco dall’Egitto portato in Roma da Cesare Augusto"). This volume includes an additional 7 plates, also by Vasi.

(Vol. III): L pp., 20 added engraved plates numbered 41-60. This volume includes an additional 5 plates, also by Vasi.

(Vol. IV): LII pp., 20 added engraved plates. Numbered 61-80, and 1 unnumbered plate ("Palazzo Augustale detto Maggiore").

(Vol. V): XLVIII pp., 20 added engraved plates numbered 81-100, of which 14 are full page and added, and 6 are smaller and printed in the text. This volume includes an additional 5 plates, also by Vasi.

(Vol. VI): LIV pp., 20 added engraved plates numbered 101-120.

(Vol. VII): LXXVI pp., 20 added engraved plates numbered 121-140, and 1 numbered 178 ("Piazza della Trinità de' Monti") after p. 50.

(Vol. VIII): XLVIII pp., 20 added engraved plates numbered 141-160.

(Vol. IX): LII pp., 20 added engraved plates numbered 161-180.

(Vol. X): 1 leaf (“Insigni e chiarissimi mecenati dell’opera”), XLVIII pp., 20 added engraved plates numbered 181-200. This volume includes an additional 2 plates, also by Vasi.

*The in-text engravings:

As noted above, in Vol. V 6 of the plates are printed on text leaves and not on inserted sheets. In addition to those, there are 29 other (unnumbered) in-text illustrations, which include a sketch-map of Rome in Book I and two plans in Book X.

**The additional plates:

In addition to the standard 200 plates, our copy has 3 additional plates: "Obelisco dall’Egitto portato in Roma da Cesare Augusto" in Vol. II; "Palazzo Augustale detto Maggiore" in Vol. IV, and "Piazza della Trinità de' Monti" in Vol. VII. In this respect our copy matches both the Feltrinelli and the Royal Academy copies. Some copies have an additional plate “Prospetto verso Mezzo giorno del Collegio di Propaganda Fide”, in Volume IX, which is not present in our copy. The number of these plates varies from copy to copy. The Kissner copy had only 1 of the 4 possible additional plates.

***Extraneous plates:

During the years that he was creating the "Magnificenze", Vasi printed additional Roman views, some numbered, others not, that were available as individual sheets. They are not called for in the "Magnificenze" but some sets have a (varying) number of those views. Our copy is particularly rich in this regard, having an additional 14 plates.

Copy-specific points:

Vol I: This is one of two versions of the first volume. It differs from the first in that it lacks the sonnetto di Giuseppe Vasi at the end, it is paginated differently ([4], lxxii, [2] p.), and includes a half-title, "Monumenti sagri e profani delle quattro eta di Roma ..." and a new address to the reader, which speaks of 'dieci libri' rather than of a work 'divisa in due tomi' and refers to the large map of Rome which Vasi published in 1765. RIBA speculates that this is a post-1765 printing (although the date and printed information remains the same) and the Royal Academy calls it a "second" edition.

Of special interest in this copy of Vol. I is a printed slip on the title page that covers the printer's name (Chracas) and address ("presso S. Marco al Corso"). The slip indicates that this copy was sold by Vasi himself ("si trova dall'autore") "nella Casa nuova di Barrazzi, presso la strada della Croce, secondo piano" (the modern day address is Vicolo del Lupo 11), for a price of ten zecchini, bound in these boards ("legato in rustico").

Vol II: Page xlvi is misnumbered xlv (and corrected by hand). Plate 21 is numbered.

Vol III: Pages xlii, xliii and l are misnumbered xl, xli, lii.

Vol VII: Small cancel slip on p. LVII (but not on p. XXXI) as in BAL copy.

Vol VIII: Plate 148 is correctly numbered.

Vol X: The illustration on page XXXI has another pasted over it.]

Cicognara, 3897. Berlin katalog, 1880. Schudt 306. Brunet V, 1098; RIBA 3389-98; National Gallery (Washington), Mark J. Millard Architectural, IV (2000), No. 141