The Old Testament (& New Testament), Embellished with Engravings, from Pictures and Designs by the Most Eminent English Artists.
London: Printed for Thomas Macklin, by Thomas Bensley, 1800. 8 volumes, 19 inches tall in original box. A magnificent set of this 'sumptuous edition' (Herbert) bound by Lovejoy in superb full morocco. With double gilt raised bands, delicate gilt tooling to the panels and a series of wonderful rolls framing the boards. Gilt dentelles and all edges. Sewn leather joints. The Box measures 25 x 18 x 22 inches. With the binder's ticket of John Lovejoy, one of the great binders of the period, celebrated almost exclusively for his masonic bindings, this example being a rare and spectacular exception. Embellished with 76 full page engravings by the great artists of the time including Henry Fuseli, P.J. de Loutherbourg, James Northcote, Benjamin West, William Hamilton, Thomas Stothard, Richard Cosway, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Angelica Kauffman. A further 111 ornate vignettes are present.
The condition is excellent with no splitting or loss, even all 16 sewn leather joints are present and correct, a feature found in only the finest bindings. There is some minor rubbing, scuffing and scratching and the margins of one leaf have been expertly repaired with no loss.
The subscribers list is found in volume 1 and includes The King, The Queen, The Prince of Wales et al..
One of the rarest and most impressive features of our extraordinary set is that it is in 8 volumes, all with their respective title pages. Originally intended to be printed in 3 volumes, it was actually published in 6. The Apocrypha (Published in 1816) is occasionally found with the set, making 7 volumes. We can only find record of one other set in 8 volumes (in a much poorer condition) where, as here, the New Testament is bound in 2 volumes, each with a title page, making a spectacular 8 volume set.
The box dates from around the date of publication and no doubt explains the remarkable condition of this huge and impressive set.
Macklin announced plans for his great folio Bible in 1789 to promote 'the glory of the English school of painting and engraving and the interests of our Holy Religion'. New type (cut by Joseph Jackson and Vincent Figgins) and new paper were created for the venture, and the historic paintings were to be 'finished in a style of elegance (and magnificence in Paper, Printing, and engraving) of which there is not in Europe or the world any example'. Macklin's project was costly and ambitious. He paid Reynolds £500 for his Holy Family and William Sharp £700 for its engraving. The average cost for 45 of the Bible's other engravings was £220 and the total cost of the publication was an estimated £30000, a truly vast sum at the time.