CHAMBERS, William, Sir (1723-1796). Designs of Chinese Buildings, Furniture, Dresses, Machines, and Utensils, engraved by the best hands from the originals drawn in China by Mr. Chambers.... London: for the author, 1757.

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Designs of Chinese Buildings, Furniture, Dresses, Machines, and Utensils, engraved by the best hands from the originals drawn in China by Mr. Chambers, architect to which is annexed a description of their Temples, houses, gardens &c..​

Folio (21 1⁄4 x 14 1⁄2 in.; 54 x 36.8 cm.). Letterpress title-page, dedication to the Prince of Wales, 2-page list of subscribers, preface and 23 pages of text. 21 engraved plates of Chinese designs by Fougeron, Foudrinier and others. Modern half brown morocco, marbled paper boards, gilt.

 FIRST EDITION, ON HEAVY PAPER WITH STRONG IMPRESSIONS. William Chambers was a Scottish architect, born in Gothenburg, Sweden, where his father was a merchant. From 1744-49, he worked for the Swedish East India Company travelling extensively in China. Fascinated by the architecture he saw he returned to Europe, studying architecture with Blondel in Paris, and setting up his own architectural practice in London in 1755.

His work with Lord Bute and other members of the Royal Circle established him as one of the foremost architects of his day. “Designs of Chinese Buildings, Furniture, Dresses, Machines, and Utensils” was “the first time Chinese architecture was presented as a subject worthy of the kind of serious study formerly reserved for Western antiquity. One of the handsomest architectural folios of the century, among its 164 subscribers were many of the milordi he had met in Italy. Nevertheless, its influence in Britain was less than Chambers might have hoped. The high fashion for Chinoiserie architecture in England was in the 1740s, a mongrel style made up from diverse ornamental sources. It lacked the authority of first-hand study. Oddly, Chambers himself having created works in Ames-bury  WIltshire; Kew Gardens, Surrey; The Hoo, Hertfordshire; Blackheath, Kent; and perhaps Ingress Abbey, Kent, never used the authoritative detail of the very designs he published, except for his unexecuted design for a bridge for Frederick II at Sansoucci, Germany (1763). He may well have sensed that the Chinese architecture he had studied at first hand was an alien style in the Europe of rococo and early neo-classicism. Only after Cahmber’s death did the book come into its own in England as a model for Chinese decoration (and example is the Brighton Pavillion, 1815). However, on the continent circumstances were different, particularly in Germany and France, where the fashion did not reach a peak until the 1780s. There thebook’s plates had a profound effect throughout the century, particularly on garden architecture and interior decoration as with the Drottningholm China House, Sweded (17602), and Schloss Worlitz, Germany (1770s-1780s)” (John Harris for DNB). REFERENCES: Millard 12, Colas 592, Harris 113.