Tristram Shandy, Uncle Toby and a plea for modern architecture

[Bothmer, Carl von]. Betrachtungen und Einfälle über die Bauart der Privatgebäude in Teutschland.

Augsburg, Conrad Heinrich Stage, 1779.

Folio (245 x 378 mm). (4), 44, (2) pp. MWith engraved title vignette and 60 (21 folding) engraved plates showing horizontal and cross sections of residences.

(Bound with) II: Schübler, Johann Jacob. Acht Tabellen von der alten Civilbaukunst. Nuremberg, Christoph Weigel, 1783. (4) pp. With 8 engraved plates. Contemporary half calf with brown marbled covers and gilt-stamped spine label. Coloured paper pastedowns.


First edition, reprinted as late as 1824. A rare, spirited and pointedly witty discussion of the architecture of private residences from an enlightened point of view: "Whoever has read Tristram Shandy may gladly call building my hobby-horse; though I should regret it if my sections were not more useful than Uncle Toby's fortifications and sieges on the bowling green" (cf. p. 5). Taking aim against the imitation of Renaissance and southern European architecture, the author ridicules the "symmetromania" of classicism and makes a plea for practical, modern building styles. "[Bothmer's] ironic voice puts him outside the serious, tradition-bound tone of most architectural treatises. Given his advocacy of buildings never much included in serious treatises, Bothmer can only write as someone who does not belong to the architectural profession [... He] has something of the know-nothingism of the healthy bourgeois, albeit in the context of the Enlightenment drive to eliminate prejudice and to encourage independent thought [...] Bothmer [was] writing for an educated, nonaristocratic class that had never made the grand tour but had encountered instead only regional examples of classical buildings" (Purdy, p. 42f.).

II: Bound with Bothmer's work is the last original edition of "Acht kurtzgefasste Tabellen, in welchen die antique Architectur enthalten" ("Eight concise tables containing the classical architecture"), first published in 1732 by the Nuremberg architect Johann Jakob Schübler (1689-1741), who was in his time much read by theoreticians and practicioners alike. The 24 profiles on eight plates show mouldings, pediments, bases and capitals. Rare; OCLC lists a single copy (at the Getty Research Institute). A reprint appeared in 2017.

Binding a little rubbed, spine-ends bumped, hinges starting. Interior a little browned and spotty; a tear to a single text leaf has been repaired.

From the library of the Piarists of Vác in Hungary with their 18th century handwritten ownership to the title-page, small stamp on verso, and printed Vác shelfmark label to front pastedown. This copy, the only one ever to have surfaced in the trade, was sold at Hartung & Karl's first auction, in 1972, and acquired by the Viennese-born scholar of monuments, Othmar Birkner (1937-2020, with his bookplate on the front free endpaper); it has now re-entered the market from his estate.

I: Ornamentstichslg. Berlin 2031. Holzmann/B. I, 6286. D. L. Purdy, On the Ruins of Babel (Ithaca, 2011), p. 42f. VD 18, 14406837. OCLC 311286651. II: OCLC 82265965.

Stock Code: BN#59353 Tags: , , ,