Travels through Spain, in the years 1775 and 1776. In which several monuments of Roman and Moorish architecture are illustrated by accurate drawings taken on the spot.

London, P. Elmsly, 1779.

Large 4to, pp. xv, [i], 427, [1, blank], [14], with 18 plates (four folding) and a folding map of Spain (repaired split in one fold); some mild foxing affecting a few preliminary leaves, but a very good copy in tan polished calf of c. 1830, spine gilt, gilt arms in centre of covers (see below); slightly rubbed, neatly rebacked preserving spine; from the library of Ian Robertson (1928–2020).


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Travels through Spain, in the years 1775 and 1776. In which several monuments of Roman and Moorish architecture are illustrated by accurate drawings taken on the spot.

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From an old Roman Catholic family, Swinburne (1743–1803) ‘was educated at Scorton School, near Catterick, Yorkshire, the monastic seminary at Lacelle, France, the University of Paris, Bordeaux, and finally the Royal Academy in Turin, where he developed a keen interest in the arts’ (Oxford DNB). Tiring of English country life, he and his wife travelled to France in 1774, Swinburne going on to Spain, without his wife but in the company of Sir Thomas Gascoigne, in 1775. ‘In my plan of inquiry, an investigation of the soil, cultivation, government, commerce, and manners of that kingdom, was to be the grand primary object; but what I was more confident of my strength in, and what I own I found more suitable to my inclinations, was the study of its antiquities, especially the Moorish: in that line, my own eye and labour were sufficient helps to enable me to collect interesting materials for a publication’ (preface, p. iv).

Setting out from Perpignan (‘a most disagreeable town . . . destitute of every kind of recommendation’) on 24 October, Swinburne and Gascoigne soon found themselves part of ‘as burlesque a caravan as ever left inn . . . . Several ingenious persons travelling to the fair of Girona had joined company with us; we composed the center; our vanguard was formed by a drummer and a tabor and pipe; the rear was brought up by a camel, loaded with five monkies, escorted by two men who carried his portrait’. On leaving Gerona, the bottom of Gascoigne’s chaise suddenly gave way, dropping him and another of the party into the river Ter, to much hilarity: ‘they were obliged to walk in the chaise (literally se promener en voiture) quite through the water, before their horses could be prevailed upon to stop’ (p. 7).
At Barcelona, ‘a sweet spot’ where ‘except in the dog-days, they have green pease all the year round’ (p. 15), they saw the fandango danced: ‘odd and entertaining enough . . . but it exceeds in wantonness all the dances I ever beheld . . . . A good Fandango lady will stand five minutes in one spot, wriggling like a worm that has just been cut in half’ (p. 46).

Near Tortosa they ‘came to a liquorice-work, carried on by an Englishman’ (p. 83) and at Alicante they were received ‘with the usual politeness by the British subjects residing there’ (p. 111). After fourteen hours on the road, on Christmas Eve they approached Granada, ‘beautiful beyond expression, even in its winter weeds’ (p. 138). At the Alhambra, ‘the walls are entirely unornamented, all gravel and pebbles, daubed over with plaister by a very coarse hand; yet this is the palace of the Moorish kings of Granada, indisputably the most curious place within, that exists in Spain, perhaps in Europe’ (p. 176). Cádiz, swarming with rats, was reached on 14 January 1776, and at the end of February they set off on horseback to San Roque and Gibraltar. A project to sail to either Tetuan or Tangiers was dropped, and they returned to Cadiz before proceeding to Seville and then Córdoba. They remained at Aranjuez, where they were presented at court, probably by the British ambassador Lord Grantham, for a month. While there Swinburne attended a bull-fight in which two bulls killed seven horses and ‘both the bulls were hacked to death in a very awkward manner’ (p. 347), as well as a puppet-show which ended with the representation of a bull-fight. After Madrid, where ‘there are few buildings worthy of attention’ (p. 350), they returned towards France via Segovia (noting in particular the aqueduct, which ‘is perfectly well preserved, and does not seem leaky in any part’, p. 404), Valladolid, Burgos, and Vitoria.

Provenance: John Frederick Campbell, 1st Earl Cawdor (1790–1860), with his gilt arms in centre of covers.

Creswell 334; Palau 325909. See Robertson, Los curiosos impertinentes (1992) pp. 57–68.

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