Stunning collotypes and chromolithographs of Pompeii wall paintings in situ soon after their excavation

Mau, August. Geschichte der decorativen Wandmalerei in Pompeji [...]. Mit 20 Tafeln in einer Mappe.

Berlin, G. Reimer, 1882.

1 text volume & 1 portfolio with plates. 8vo (text volume) and 1mo (plates portfolio 53 x 43 cm). With 20 large numbered plates showing Pompeii wall paintings in situ, mounted on card stock, loose in a separate portfolio with letterpress title-leaf and contents leaf: 9 sepia collotypes (21 x 16 to 26.5 x 24.5 cm) and 11 chromolithographs (21.5 x 19 to 37 x 36 cm), no. 18 actually comprising 7 small chromolithographs on 1 card, each plate with a letterpress label on the back; and 7 black and white floor plans in the text. Set in roman type. XII, 462 pp. Contemporary half sheepskin parchment, sewn on 3 recessed cords, "Gustav" marbled sides (text); contemporary blue half cloth portfolio, blue-grey paper sides, letterpress title on the front board (plates).


First and only edition of a detailed and beautifully colour-illustrated study of Pompeii wall paintings by Augustus Mau, who "knew as much about Pompeii as any other scholar at the time and seems always to have been willing to share the latest information from new excavations with visiting scholars" (Pedley, p. 23). In the present book he established the classification scheme still often used today, distinguishing four different styles that he believed represented chronological phases, though this remains a point of dispute among archaeologists. Most importantly his stunning and richly-coloured chromolithographs and detailed collotypes show the wall paintings in situ and in the state they were found during the archaeological excavations. Besides their extraordinary beauty and their interest as examples of the scientific use of these reproduction techniques, they therefore also provide an extremely important record of the material, before attempts at restoration, the removal of items from their original context, and the loss or destruction of some items. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 preserved an unparalleled historical time capsule for modern society: a window into a nearly 2000-year-old society. While serious excavations began at Pompeii already in 1748 and continued on and off into the early 19th-century, Giuseppe Fiorelli carried out a new round of excavations using new techniques in the years 1863 to 1875, inaugurating the modern stage in the study of the city. Mau (1840-1909), who studied classical philology in his native Kiel and in Bonn, moved to Rome for his health in 1872 and worked at the Deutsches Archäeologisches Institut. When he visited Pompeii, Fiorelli encouraged him to spend his summers there studying the inscriptions that were emerging during the new excavations, which he did with help from the historian and archaeologist Theodor Mommsen. In the winters he returned to the Institut in Rome. Fiorelli was one of the first archaeologists to recognise the importance of studying the wall paintings in their original context, rather than removing the painted panels or other "important" items and taking them off to museums, where they would then be studied as "works of art". Mau therefore studied and reproduced them in their archaeological and architectural context. Eighteen of the twenty plates were drawn by A. Sikkard, a German artist at the Rome Institut. The collotypes were executed by J. B. Obernetter in München and the chromolithographs by several lithographers in Berlin, mostly W. Loeillet, his successor Carl Müller, and F. Schwabe. The portfolio with a contemporary owner's inscription by the Italian architect Vigilio Giuseppe Oberziner, and the paste-down and title-page of the text volume with library stamps of the American School of Classical Studies in Rome (established 1895) and the American Academy there (the two merged in 1916) with the librarian's note that the book was sold in 1921 and the later stamp of the Philadelphia architect Harry Sternfeld (1888-1976). With tears along the gutter fold of the final leaf and a couple others, but otherwise in very good condition, with only an occasional minor spot in the text and probably lacking a final blank leaf. In quire 14, bifolium 2.7 (pp. 211, 212, 221, 222) is misbound between pp. 216 and 217. The front board of the portfolio somewhat spotted. A stunning display of Pompeii wall paintings in situ, soon after their excavation.


Estelle Lazer, Resurrecting Pompeii (2009), p. 9; John G. Pedley, Life and work of Francis Willey Kelsey (2012), pp. 23-24, 53-55; not in BAL.