MALTON, James. A Picturesque and Descriptive View of the City of Dublin Described


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In a series of the most Interesting Scenes taken in the year 1791. With a brief authentic history from the earliest accounts to the present time and twenty-five hand-coloured plates of views. London: after 1799, [watermarked text 1802-1811, plates 1809-1817]. Oblong folio. pp. ii, 18, [48], 26 (plates), 2 (maps), 3 (engraved title, dedication and coat of arms). Modern quarter green morocco over original marbled boards, printed title label on upper cover (with “Price £10:10:0”). Internally mostly very clean and unmarked, minor occasional spotting to text, mostly on dedication; occasional light offsetting to text; plates clean and very bright; marbled endpapers. Minor shelf-wear to covers and corners. In modern green cloth slipcase with gilt title on upper cover. Extremely rare hand-coloured copy in excellent condition. The only hand-coloured copy we ever had.

Abbey 374, coloured copy. Tooley 315.

James Malton (d.1803) architectural draughtsman, came to Ireland with his father, Thomas Malton, senior, and was for nearly three years, during the building of the Custom House, employed as a draughtsman in the office of James Gandon, the architect, but for breaches of confidence and many irregularities he was dismissed. He later devoted his time to drawing and engraving and he conceived and executed the most important series of engravings of Ireland's capital. He exhibited his first drawings of Irish subjects at the Society of Arts in London in 1790.

By the following year he had completed the series of drawings of Dublin buildings from which, after his return to London, twenty-five were reproduced in etching and aquatint, done by Malton himself, and their publication began between 1792 and 1799. These were originally issued in parts, each containing four plates, and the complete series was first published in book form in 1799. Like his father, James Malton also wrote a treatise on perspective, published in 1800. He died in London in 1803.

The preface says: "The entire of the views were taken in 1791 by the author, who, being experienced in the drawing of architecture and perspective, has delineated every object with the utmost accuracy; the dimensions, too, of the structures described were taken by him from the originals, and may be depended upon for their correctness." Though all the views were taken in the year 1791, yet, as the work was in hand till the year 1797, such alterations as occurred in each subject between the taking and publishing of any view of it have been attended to; to the end that it might be as perfect a semblance as possible of the original at the time of the completion of the work.

The arrangement of the plates in this volume are as follows: Engraved Arms of the City of Dublin (dated 1792); Engraved Title-page; Engraved Dedication (dated 1794); A Correct Survey of Dublin as it Stood in the Year 1610; A Correct Survey of the Bay of Dublin, 1795. 25 hand-coloured engraved plates by James Malton: Great Courtyard, Dublin Castle; The Parliament House, Dublin; Trinity College; College Library; Provost's House; St. Patrick's Cathedral; West Front of St. Patrick's Cathedral; Royal Exchange; Custom House; View of the Law Courts, looking up the Liffey; Tholsel; Old Soldiers Hospital, Kilmainham; Royal Infirmary, Phoenix Park; Blue Coat Hospital; Lying-in Hospital; Rotunda New Rooms; St. Catharine's Church, Thomas Street; Marine School, Dublin, Looking up the Liffey; Leinster House;

Charlemont House; Powerscourt House; View of Capel Street, looking over Essex Bridge; St. Stephen's Green; Barracks; Key Plate to the Barracks, and Distant View of Dublin (uncoloured); View of Dublin from the Magazine, Phoenix Park.

All the plates are inscribed James Malton del. et fecit. He published them himself; in some his name is joined with George Cowen of Grafton Street, Dublin. Malton's views are the most important series of engravings of Dublin. Most of the principal buildings are represented, and groups of figures and little scenes of the daily life of the people add a charm and variety, the whole forming a valuable pictorial record of old Dublin at the close of the eighteenth century.

Hardie in English Coloured Books writes that this “is one of the earliest and best of books with coloured aquatints ... Malton as a topographical draughtsman had few equals, and the plates ... have a distinction of their own in addition to their value as an architectural record.”

“Looking back at Malton's work, both in water colour and aquatint, one is struck by the gaiety and sparkling freshness of these townscapes, taken in Dublin's heyday of fashion and wealth. One cannot help but feel, however, that there were many more beggars than are shown and that the standard of cleanliness has been considerably exaggerated. Malton caught the city at the peak of its development and, after 1800, the melancholy of the Dublin of the nineteenth century crept over its buildings and streets. As Maurice Craig has noted, old photographs of the 1860's show the remoteness and mystery of Victorian Dublin, producing an atmosphere that forms a gloomy contrast to the twenty-five pristine plates reproduced in this work.” - Knight of Glin Malton’s Dublin 1790, Dolmen Press edition, Dublin 1978.


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