The world's cultures illustrated: one of the greatest publishing ventures ever, the rarest work to be found complete

Ferrario, Giulio (ed.). Il costume antico e moderno o storia del governo, della milizia, della religione, delle arti, scienze ed usanze di tutti i popoli antichi e moderni provata coi monumenti dell' antichita e rappresentata cogli analoghi disegni.

Milan, tipografia dell'editore, 1829-1834.

Folio (380 x 265 mm). 37 vols. incl. supplements and index. With 7 engraved folding maps, 5 engraved maps, 1619 coloured aquatints (2 double-page-sized), 2 engraved portraits, 2 engraved plates of musical notes, and 4 tables. Late 19th century half calf with giltstamped spine title. Untrimmed.


Without question the largest pictorial encyclopedia of the world published during the 19th century, and one of the rarest works to be found complete. Printed in a press run of no more than 300 copies, this set is numbered "12" and was inscribed to a friend of the author ("del socio Signor G. Ferrario"); as such, it was printed on superior paper and coloured particularly carefully (according to Brunet, most of the 300 copies produced were issued entirely uncoloured). The purpose of this 37-volume set in large folio format was to provide a complete account of all known parts of the world not only by describing in detail the various peoples' costumes, governments, religion, habits, military, arts and science, but also by showing them in splendid illustrations, all of which are here individually coloured by hand. The engravings include not only many costumes, but also buildings, objects of religious and of everyday use, monuments, historical scenes and much more. The plates are printed on wove paper and bear the publisher's drystamp. In spite of the enormous number of plates, the colouring is meticulous throughout.

Initially planned for no more than 13 volumes (1816-1827) and also published in French, this present Italian edition is the only one that was issued complete with all supplements and the plates in their impressive folio format.

Of the utmost rarity: we could not trace a single complete copy on the market since 1950. Auction records list only the abridged 8vo reprint or single volumes of the present folio edition (Sotheby's, May 28, 2002, lot 426: £8,720 for vol. I, pt. 3 only). Interior shows occasional slight foxing to blank margins. Altogether an excellent, complete set of the luxury edition: uniformly bound, untrimmed and wide-margined.


Ibrahim-Hilmy I, 231. Lipperheide Ad 7. Colas 1051. Hiler 311. Brunet II, 1232f.