London: Smith, Elder, and Co., 65 Cornhill, Spottiswoodes and Shaw, New-Street-Square [from 1851], 1873-1874. Limited Edition. Decorative Cloth. A "mixed" set (vol. iii is a second edition, dated 1867, but see Wise), complete in three volumes, of Ruskin's exhaustive examination of Venetian architecture of the Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance periods, in the publisher's original matched bindings, identical to those of the first. Wise surmises that some sets "are evidentially 'remainders' of the Second edition, with new title pages," and that seems to be the case here. Limited to 1500 copies, signed by the author on final page of preface. Royal 8vo (258 x 170mm): xxii,400; viii,394; ,362pp, with 53 engraved, lithographed, and mezzotint plates (protected by guard tissues), including seven hand-colored, and wood engraved illustrations in the text, all after drawings by Ruskin. Publisher's original chocolate brown decorative cloth, covers with elaborate floral design in blind framing keyhole vignette in gilt drawn from plate XI of vol. II, spines stamped in blind and in gilt crowned by Lion of St. Mark's, top edges gilt, others rough-trimmed, terracotta end papers. Some small areas of darkening to covers; rear hinge of vol. 2 partly cracked, else a superb, tightly bound set, fresh and bright throughout, with fine renditions of the plates. Wise 297. PMM 315. Shepherd 28. Ray, Illustrator and the Book in England 31 (". . . an impressive book, if not a harmonious one."). Fine. Item #BB2197
The Third Edition, called the Autograph Edition (and the first in which all three volumes were published together). One of the key texts of the aesthetic movement, first published from 1851 to 1853, immediately becoming "a revolutionary success" (PMM). "Mainly a treatise on architecture, John Ruskin’s The Stones of Venice was meant to apply to the buildings of Venice the general principles enunciated in [his] Seven Lamps of Architecture (1848). It moves, however, beyond the earlier work’s abstract treatment, not only because it dedicates substantial attention to the details of architectural construction, but also because it places architecture within its social, political, moral, and religious context. Volume I, 'The Foundations', discusses the edifices of Venice and their functional and ornamental aspects and presents a brief history of the city; in Volume II, 'The Sea Stories', Ruskin turned his thoughts to the Byzantine period and the climactic development of Venetian life, its Gothic period, which meant to him 'not only the best, but the only rational architecture', while Renaissance architecture 'is pure in its insipidity, and subtle in its vice'. Crucially, it is in Volume III, 'The Fall' (which also includes the alphabetical guide to the most important buildings of all periods, the Venetian Index), that Ruskin puts forth his thesis that the onset of the Renaissance caused the city’s architectural decline; he felt that architecture had lost all of the moral character he had described so eloquently in his earlier volumes, and has instead been turned into the 'perpetuation in stone of the ribaldries of drunkenness' and rowdiness." (Literary Encyclopedia) The three volumes were the "product of the most concentrated period of study in Ruskin's life, including two long winters spent in Venice, from November 1849 to March 1850, and September 1851 to the end of June 1852. . . . [Its importance] lies not in its hostility to the Renaissance, but in its celebration of the Byzantine and the Gothic, which had an immediate effect on Victorian architects, who began to introduce Romanesque forms and Venetian and Veronese colour and sculptural features into their designs." (ODNB) N. B. With few exceptions (always identified), we only stock books in exceptional condition. All orders are packaged with care and posted promptly. Satisfaction guaranteed. (Fine Editions Ltd is a member of the Independent Online Booksellers Association, and we subscribe to its codes of ethics.).