An Essay On Design: Including Proposals for Erecting a Public Academy To be Supported by Voluntary Subscriptions (Till a Royal Foundation can be obtain'd) For Educating the British Youth In Drawing, And the several Arts depending thereon . [Epigraph from Horace]

RA Collection: Book

Record number


Variant Title

Proposals for Erecting a Public Academy


London,: Printed: And Sold by Ino. Brindley, Bookseller to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales in New Bond Street. S. Harding on ye. Pavemt. in St. Martin's Lane & M. Payne at the White Hart in Pater-Noster-Row., MDCCXLIX [Price 1s.6d.]

Physical Description

[2], vi, 92 p., frontis., engr.; [first copy:]196 mm.; [second copy:] 202 mm. (Quarto.)


[Frontis., engr., dedic.] - Preface - [Text].

Responsibility Note

The frontispiece is signed as designed and drawn by S. Wale and engraved by C. Grignion; the engraved title-plate is unsigned.

The dedication headpiece is signed as designed by S. Wale; the Essay headpiece, as drawn by J. Gwynn and engraved by E. Rooker; its tailpiece, as designed by ' S. W.' and made by J. Bonneau.

The work is dedicated by 'J. Gwyn' [i.e. John Gwynn, R.A., the author] to the Duke of Rutland.


Royal Institute of British Architects, British Architectural Library ... Early printed books, 2 (1995), no.1415; E. Harris and N. Savage, British Architectural Books (1990), 274.

J. Fenton, School of genius: a history of the Royal Academy (2006); H. Hoock, The King's artists: the Royal Academy of Arts and the politics of British culture 1760-1840 (2003); I. Pears, The discovery of painting: the growth of interest in the arts in England 1680-1768 (1988); I. Bignamini, 'Art institutions in London 1689-1768', in Walpole Society Journal, 55 (1988), p.19-148; S. Hutchison, The history of the Royal Academy 1768-1986 (1986); H.C. Morgan, 'The Schools of the Royal Academy', in Brit. J. Educ. Stud., XXI/1 (1973), p. 88-103; A.W. Boschloo, ed., Academies of Art (1989); N. Pevsner, Academies of art ( 1940 /R New York, 1973).
ESTC, T138175

Summary Note

Gwynn's essay may have been written partly in response to B. Le Blanc's Letters on the French and English nations (1747). Gwynn was connected with the St Martin's Lane Academy, participated in the abortive attempt to found a Royal Academy in 1755, and became a Founder Member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768.

The book is decorated with a frontispiece (captioned 'ad ultimos Orbis Britannos' and showing Mercury introducing Britannia and Minerva, beneath a bas-relief of George II), two headpieces - to the dedication (showing the arms of the dedicatee) and the main text (showing the courtyard of an Academy) - and a tailpiece.


An electronic reproduction was published in 2003 (Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale). A microfilm version was published in 1986 (Woodbridge CT: Research Publications).


[First copy:] Inscribed in ink on the recto of the frontispiece, 'Bequest of Sr. Augustus W. Calcott' [d. 1844]. An earlier-acquired copy is recorded in RA Library, Catalogue, 1802, p. 5.

[Second copy:] The front pastedown carries a 19th-century bookplate inscribed in ink 'J.H.A. 18 June 1846.' and 'from Upcott's Collection'. This is repeated in an inscription on a preliminary leaf, 'Lot 886. of a curious & interesting Collection of Books, MSS. and prints. - J.H.A. this Vol sold on 18. June 1846. in Mr. Upcotts sale for 10/6.-'. The pastedown is inscribed in ink, 'Gift of Mr. J.H. Anderdon to The Library of The Royal Academy of Arts in London Nov 1878.'

Copy Note

[Second copy:] Preliminary leaves are copiously inscribed in ink, on the Contents &c., in what appears to be Anderdon's hand. There are some marginal annotations in ink and pencil on other pages of the text.

Binding Note

[First copy:] 19th-century quarter morocco, red cloth-covered boards; spine lettered 'Gwyn On Design 1749' and 'R.A.'

[Second copy:] 20th-century half calf, grey cloth-covered boards; spine lettered 'Essays On Design And Royal Academy Gwynn', 'R.A.' and '1749-97'. Bound with others.


Design - Drawing - Theory
Academies (organizations) - Art education - Teaching - Great Britain - 18th century
Essays - Great Britain - 18th century


John Gwynn RA, author, draughtsman
Samuel Wale RA, draughtsman
Charles Grignion, engraver
Edward Rooker, engraver
Jacob Bonneau, engraver
John Manners, 3rd Duke of Rutland, dedicatee
John Brindley, printer, bookseller
Samuel Harding, bookseller
M. Payne, bookseller
Sir Augustus Wall Callcott RA, previous owner, donor
William Upcott, previous owner
James Hughes Anderdon, previous owner, donor