2 vols, folio, pp. xxxi,  (blank), 299, , pp. xvii,  (blank), 306, , text in Italian and Latin on facing pages, with added engraved title-page to vol. I and engraved dedication to Gustav III, and together 207 engraved plates by Francesco Bartalozzi and others on 160 leaves, and 4 large engraved initials; two leaves with paper flaw in bottom margin, one old restored, but an excellent crisp and clean copy printed on thick paper and bound in English polished calf, c. 1800, sides with gilt fillet border and blind tooled Greek key borders, marbled edges, joints cracking, flat spine. Engraved armorial bookplate of Stewart Mackenzie of Seaforth; and engraved armorial bookplate of John Clerk Brodie.
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First edition and an imposing set of this splendidly illustrated and luxuriously printed work. The interesting preface records Bracci’s work on the book since 1758, his falling out with Winckelmann and other vicissitudes.
The Abate Bracci was a native of Florence who had spent 15 years living in Rome, first under the patronage of Cardinal Albani, then increasingly under his own steam making a living as a cicerone and acknowledged expert on gem forgeries. He had no private means and his book took rather a long time as he had to secure financing from individual subscribers for the production of his plates. Bracci was a well known figure in the coffee shops of Rome discussing ancient gems and perpetually clutching a sheaf of plates for his forthcoming work. Upon publication there was a chorus of disapproval as the plates were deemed to be inaccurate in their depiction of the gems. Some of this criticism was malicious, but Cicognara and Vinet also question the scholarship of the work.
The fine plates illustrate the discussed gems (intaglio and cameo) much magnified but also show the actual size. The gems were taken from the Stosch collection, and other princely and private collections in Italy. There are also some taken from private cabinets abroad such as the Earl of Arundel, Lord Percy, Thomas Hollis or the Earl of Carlisle. There are also supplementary plates of ancient sculpture to facilitate comparisons.
Cicognara 2785; Vinet 1638; Zazoff, Gemmensammler, pp. 122-7 and p. 139; Sinkankas, I, 882.
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