An Essay on Design: including Proposals for erecting a public Academy to be supported by voluntary Subscription (till a royal Foundation can be obtain’d) for educating the British Youth in Drawing, and the several Arts depending thereon ...

London, Printed: and sold by John Brindley ... S. Harding ... & M. Payne ... 1749.

8vo, pp. [2], vi, 92, and an engraved frontispiece and engraved title, with three engraved vignettes, one of which shows the elevation of the proposed academy; a very good copy in contemporary speckled calf, rebacked, spine with red label.


US $1679€1368

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First edition of the first public appeal for a national academy of arts. John Gwynn’s Essay called attention to the inadequacy of art training in England. ‘Whatever thoughts about an academy were in the air at the time were set in motion by the Essay’ (Harris). It was Gwynn’s first salvo in a campaign that eventually led to the foundation of the Royal Academy (1768), of which he was a founding member. The essay’s head-piece vignette is an attractive neo-classical building engraved after a design by Gwynn (an architect by profession), depicting his vision of the Academy. Oddly enough it is not unlike the Chambers built Somerset House which became the home of the Royal Academy in 1779.

Harris, 274; RIBA, British Architectural Library, 1415.

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