WIRSING, Adam Ludwig (1733-1797). Marmora et adfines aliquos lapides coloribus suis. Amsterdam: Johann Christian Sepp, 1776.

  • $ 14,000.00
    Unit price per 


4to (11 1⁄4 x 8 3⁄4 in.; 28.5 x 22.1 cm.). [6] ll. (title-leaf, letter to the reader in 5 different languages, each on a separate leaf), [102] pp., containing captions to plates in five languages, each section introduced by a section title. 94 etched and engraved plates by Wirsing, containing a total of 533 figures showing cross-sections of different types of marble, all hand-colored by the artist or at his direction in watercolor and gouache; original tissue guards; without the text to plates 69-94, trace of effaced inscription on title. Contemporary Dutch sheep, flat spine gold-tooled in compartments, fawn calf gilt lettering-piece stamped "Collection des Marbres," floral patterned endpapers; loss to headcap, joints cracked, backstrip detaching at top.

FIRST POLYGLOT EDITION OF WIRSING’S BEAUTIFUL AND RARE CATALOGUE OF MARBLES AND RELATED STONES, a tour de force of hand-coloring in the service of scientific illustration. Wirsing was an engraver, publisher, and art dealer who specialized in scientific color illustration (he also published an important and rare work on birds' eggs). He lavished immense care on these marvelously detailed illustrations of many different types of marble. One can infer from the small number of extant copies and the meticulousness of the coloring that Wirsing probably executed the coloring himself. Each figure is a veritable small painting, and the resemblance to works of twentieth-century and contemporary art is striking. The work was first published in parts, in 1775, at Nuremberg, and at Wirsing's expense, with each part reproducing the marbles of a different region, and with the text in Latin and German only. In this Amsterdam edition, which contains the same plates, and of which copies are found with the title in Dutch, French, or Latin, the number of languages has been expanded to five, adding Dutch, English and French, with the four vernacular captions printed in parallel columns and the Latin captions grouped at the bottom of each page.

Attributed to Casimir Christoph Schmidel (1718-1792), the text (published only through plate 75, according to Brunet) consists of an introductory letter to the reader and brief explanatory notes on each sample of marble. Areas covered include several regions of Germany, Switzerland, Tyrol, southern France, and Italy. The plates are numbered both in reference to the relevant part (in roman numerals), and consecutively (in arabic numerals). Because of the geographical division, the number of plates and figures in each part varies widely: thus part 1, on the marbles of Bayreuth, contains plates 1-13, with six figures per plate, for a total of 78 figures, but part 7, on the Dendrites of Baden in Argau Switzerland (not technically marble, but included because of the "elegance and variety" of their patterns), contains only 3 plates (50-52), each with 2 or 4 figures, for a total of 8 figures. The method of publication

explains the large variation in the number of plates in different copies; very few contain as many as the present copy, complete except for the final supplement of four plates. This is a fine copy of this unusual work, with the rich, deep quality of the coloring impeccably preserved. REFERENCES: Brunet 1V, 1243; Cobres II, p. 461, no. 44 (42 plates); Sinkankas 7281 (54 plates). # 000040