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A Book Of Ceilings, Composed In The Style Of The Antique Grotesque; Designed And Etched By George Richardson, Architect ... Livre De Plat-Fonds, Composés D'Après Les Grotesques Antiques; Dessinés Et Gravés Par George Richardson, Architecte.

George Richardson

RA Collection: Book

Record number



Variant Title

Livre De Plat-Fonds, Composés D'Après Les Grotesques Antiques


London:: Printed For The Author., MDCCLXXVI.

General Note

Plate 48 is double. In some copies plates [1-12] also carry engraved numbering. In some copies the address 'To the Public' is bound in after the 'Explanation' instead of after the dedication.


[T.p., dedic.] - To the Public - A List Of The Subscibers - Préface - Explanation Of The Pictures And Bas-Reliefs - [Plates].

Responsibility Note

Plates 13-48 are signed as made by G. Richardson. In some copies, including that of the Royal Academy, plates 7-12 are inscribed in ink as made by G. Richardson. The decoration at the head of the dedication (incorporating the arms of Lord Scarsdale) is signed as engraved by E. Malpas.

The work is dedicated by the author to Lord Scarsdale, of Kedleston in Derbyshire.


RIBA, Early printed books, 3 (1999), no. 2752, p.1639-40; E. Harris and N. Savage, British Architectural Books (1990), 735; J. Archer, Literature of British domestic architecture (1985), 428.2; Life in England in aquatint and lithography ... library of J.R. Abbey (1953/R1972, 1991), no. 56, p.42.
ESTC, T90834

Summary Note

Plates 43-48 are dated, like the title page, 1776; the address 'To the Public' is dated 1774. The work was published serially, in eight parts of six plates each, the first part appearing in March 1774 (with a title leaf reading 'A Book Of Ceilings, In The Stile Of The Antique Grotesque; Composed, designed, And Etched, By George Richardson, F.S.A. London, March 22, MDCCLXXIV'). The work was available with plates uncoloured, or with plates having coloured grounds, or (in a few cases) with plates 'coloured and touched up in the manner of finished drawings' (the Royal Academy's copy represents the second of these possible states). The title page, Preface and Explanation are in both English and French. Plates 13-48 have the measurements of the ceilings engraved; in some copies plates 1-12 have these added by hand.

In the Preface to this, his first published work Richardson declares himself a former student of the Adam brothers, states that many clients and architects have already patronised his designs, and commends them not only to persons of taste but also to artists, architects, builders, plasterers, students and mechanics. (The Explanation indicates which plates show designs already executed - Lord Montalt's house, Dublin; Draper's Hall, London; Sir Robert Dundas's house, Edinburgh; the Society of Artists' exhibition room, London; the hall at Kedleston.)

In the List Of The Subscribers are included not only the name of the Royal Academy but also those of individual Academicians, Sir William Chambers, George Dance, William Hunter, Joseph Nollekens and Thomas Sandby. In the same year as the first part of this work was published, 1774, Richardson first exhibited with the Royal Academy. The Academy bought all his subsequent publications, except those which were issued for him by commercial publishers (Capitals of columns and friezes (1793) and A new book of ornaments (1796)).

So successful were Richardson's books of neoclassical designs that he never took up a career as an architect himself. His agents distributed his books not only in London, Edinburgh and Dublin but even as far away as Vienna.

A second edition of this work was published in 1793 (A collection of ceilings, decorated in the style of the antique grotesque).


A reduced photographic reprint was published in 1968 (Farnborough, UK: Gregg International Publishers) (ISBN 0576155098).


The first part was bought from the author on 26 March 1774; the second and third on 20 July 1774; the fourth on 25 November 1774; the fifth in June 1775; the sixth and seventh on 7 February 1776; and the eighth and last on 23 July 1776. The price paid for each part was 16s. (See entries in RA Cashbook 1769-1795). The Royal Academy is listed among the Subscribers.

Binding Note

18th-century mottled calf, upper cover gilt-stamped with royal arms of Britain and 'R.A.'; rebacked and recornered in 20th century, spine gilt-decorated in 18th-century manner, and lettered 'A Book Of Ceilings - Richardson R.A. 1776'.


Ceilings - Interior decoration - Great Britain - History - 18th century - Neoclassical
Designs - Pattern books - Great Britain - 18th century
Pictorial works - Etchings - Color prints - Armorial bindings - Great Britain - 18th century


Edward Malpas, engraver
Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Baron Scarsdale, dedicatee
George Richardson, engraver, publisher

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