London: Printed for J. Payne, 1755. 4to. [iv], xxxvi, 140 pp. SECOND EDITION. Frontispiece portrait of Evelyn plus 2 illustrations, including a fold-out mezzotint and full-page engraving. Mottled calf by Bayntun, covers gilt-ruled, spine in compartments with gilt decorations, morocco sine label and date in gilt, gilt dentelles, marbled paste-downs and endpapers; an absolutely stunning copy. Item #17451
Second edition of Evelyn’s Sculptura, the first book to announce the mezzotint process and the first actual mezzotint to be published in England. It was through this work that the mezzotint process came to be highly regarded as a graphic arts technique. Evelyn here first discusses the development of copper engraving from ancient times to the present. He follows this with a description of mezzotint, a printing technique wherein a “rocker” (as opposed to a burin) is used to make varying textures on a copperplate resulting in gradations of dark and light once the plate is inked and printed. Prince Rupert, an exiled Bohemian nobleman, introduced Evelyn to the technique upon his return to London in 1660 when his cousin, Charles II, was restored to the throne. Although Prince Rupert was credited by Evelyn with the invention of the mezzotint rocker, he most likely learned of the process and tools sometime earlier during his exile in Amsterdam where mezzotint was first created and used. In the first edition of 1662, Evelyn included one of Rupert’s mezzotints entitled “the Little Executioner”, first published in Frankfurt in 1658 after a painting by Ribera; in this second edition, an exact copy was created depicting a man in profile, an excellent example of the technique demonstrating the soft gradations of light and dark. This edition also includes a finely engraved portrait of the author. Another engraving demonstrates different elements of perspective. And as this second edition was published posthumously, there is brief biography of Evelyn (1620–1706), who authored no less than thirty books during his lifetime on a wide array of subjects.