FROM THE LIBRARY OF ADAM SMITH

The present State of the Arts in England.  By M. Rouquet, member of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture; who resided thirty years in this kingdom. 

London, for J. Nourse, 1755. 

8vo, pp. vi, [2], 136; p. iv misnumbered ‘ii’; factotum initials composed of typographic ornaments, typographic headpieces and rules; some foxing and offsetting to title-page and last leaf; a very good copy in contemporary calf, neatly rebacked and recornered, spine gilt in compartments with gilt red morocco lettering-piece, front free endpaper renewed; some rubbing to boards; book label of ‘Adam Smith’ to front pastedown.

£19500

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The present State of the Arts in England.  By M. Rouquet, member of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture; who resided thirty years in this kingdom. 

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First edition in English, published in the same year as the French original, from the library of the great Scottish economist and philosopher Adam Smith (1723–1790). 

L’Etat des Arts en Angleterre is the most famous work of the Swiss writer and painter Rouquet (1701–1758), who worked for many years in London as a portrait miniaturist in enamels, befriending William Hogarth and David Garrick, and whose writings ‘reflect his interest in, and ambivalence towards, English art and offer a fresh and often ironic perspective on both fine and decorative arts in England’ (Grove Art Online). 

The Present State ‘criticized the nation’s indifference to its growing artistic culture and served as a polemic for the establishment of an English academy based on the French model.  In it Rouquet also examined a wide range of artistic activities from silk manufacture to metalwork, and he condemned Abbé Jean Bernard Leblanc’s Lettres d’un Français (1745) for being unreasonably critical of British art’ (ibid.). 

Covering painting, sculpture, engraving, printing, jewellery, porcelain, architecture, theatre, and music, there would have been much in Rouquet’s work to interest Adam Smith, who himself contributed to eighteenth-century British aesthetics with his essay ‘Of the nature of that imitation which takes place in what are called the imitative arts’ (first published in Essays on Philosophical Subjects, 1795).  This volume is listed in the 1781 manuscript catalogue of Smith’s library, on the third shelf of his ‘left hand book case’, where it sat between ‘Avison’s Essay on Musical Expression’ and ‘Thomas’s British Negotiator’.  Smith had several other works on aesthetics and the arts in his library. 

ESTC T55726; Mizuta, Adam Smith’s library: a catalogue 1445 (‘Unlocated’); Yanaihara, A full and detailed catalogue of books which belonged to Adam Smith, p. 92. 

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