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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, Member of the Imperial Academy of Arts at Florence. To which is annexed, A Description of their Temples, Houses, Gardens, &c.

Sir William Chambers RA

RA Collection: Book

Record number



Variant Title

Desseins Des Edifices, Meubles, Habits, Machines, Et Ustenciles Des Chinois


London:: Published for the Author, and sold by him next door to Tom's Coffee-house, Russel-street, Covent-Garden: Also by Mess. Dodsley, in Pall-mall; Mess. Wilson and Durham; Mr. A. Millar, in the Strand, and Mr. R. Willock, in Cornhill., MDCCLVII.

Physical Description

[x], 19, [1], [viii], 19, [1] p., 21 pl. 538 mm. (Folio.)

General Note

An English-only issue was paginated [x], 19, [1] p., 21 pl. A French-only issue was paginated [viii], 19, [1] p., 21 pl. (without the two-page list of subscribers).


[English t.p., dedic.] - List Of The Subscribers - Preface - [Text] - [French t.p., dedic.] - Preface -[Text] - [Plates].

Responsibility Note

The plates are signed as engraved by P. Fourdrinier (pl. 1, 3-7, 11-16), Ignace Fougeron ( 2, 8), Edward Rooker (9, 10), Paul Sandby (17), Charles Grignion (19-21); no. 18 is unsigned.

The names of different booksellers and the name of a printer are given in the imprint of the French version: 'De l'Imprimerie de J. Haberkorn ... Se vend chez l'Auteur ... A. Millar & J. Nourse ...'.

The work is dedicated by the author to George, Prince of Wales (afterwards George III).


ESTC, T31726 and N50196
National Gallery (Washington), Mark J. Millard , II (1998), 12 (English-French)
RIBA, Early printed books, 1 (1994), 595 (English) and 5 (2003), 3789 (French)
E. Harris and N. Savage, British Architectural Books (1990), 113 (English), 114 (French).
J. Archer, Literature of British domestic architecture (1985), 38.1 (English), 2 (French).
Johns Hopkins University, The Fowler Architectural Collection (1961), no. 85, p.70 (French).
R. Colas, Bibliographie Générale Du Costume (1933), no. 592, col. 208.
P. Conner, 'China and the landscape garden: reports, engravings and misconceptions', in Art history, II:4 (1979 December), p. 429-440.
E. Harris, 'Burke and Chambers on the sublime and beautiful', in Essays in the history of architecture presented to Rudolf Wittkower (1967), p. 207-13
H.F. Clark, 'Eighteenth century elysiums: the role of Association in the landscape movement', in Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 6 (1943), p.165-89.
General studies include D. Jacobson, Chinoiserie (1993).
M. Sullivan, The meeting of eastern and western art (2nd. ed., 1989).

Summary Note

The title on the French title-page reads: 'Desseins Des Edifices, Meubles, Habits, Machines, Et Ustenciles Des Chinois'. In the same year the English and French texts were also published separately, with plates.

In the text Chambers describes briefly temples, towers, other forms of building, houses, columns, machines and dresses, and the art of laying out gardens.

Plates 1-12 show chiefly elevations of buildings, but plates 1, 5 and 8 show plans. Plates 13-21 show details of furniture, utensils, ceramics, ships, machines, Chinese script and costumes (but no garden lay-outs).

Chambers refers several times to Du Halde's Description géographique (1735); but his own book was an authoritative account of Chinese designs in a decade when several were published (Halfpenny 1750, 1752, Edwards and Darly 1754, Decker 1759). The royal family subsequently commissioned Chinese garden structures from Chambers at Kew (published in 1763), and these furthered the Chinese taste in Britain. Chambers writes that in extensive parks or palaces containing several apartments he does 'not see the impropriety of finishing some of the inferiour ones in the Chinese taste. Variety is always delightful'. He describes six examples of Chinese columns, carefully specifying the proportions of each. His concluding account of Chinese gardens - an art in which he thinks they equal the British - is very suggestive: the Chinese are said to regard gardens as of three types, the 'pleasing, horrid and enchanted' (the last being 'what we call romantic'), and include in them designated points from which to admire views, and buildings designed to evoke particular responses. Castell in his Villas of the ancients (1728) had already mentioned Chinese gardens where 'beauty consisted in a close imitation of nature ... tho' the parts are disposed with the greatest art, the irregularity is still preserved'.

The French text was republished (in reduced format) in Paris in 1776.


A reprint was published in 1968 (New York: B. Blom).


Acquired by 1802. Recorded in A Catalogue Of The Library In The Royal Academy, London (1802).

Binding Note

18th-century mottled calf, rebacked, retaining red and black morocco spine-labels, lettered, 'Chambers's Works Vol II'. Bound with: 'Plans, Elevations, Sections, and Perspective Views of the Gardens And Buildings At Kew ... By William Chambers' (1763). [i.e. 03/2522]


Architecture, Chinese - Furniture - Costume - History
Architecture, Chinese - Chinoiserie - Garden structures - Great Britain - 18th century
Plans - Elevations - Great Britain - 18th century
Pictorial works - Great Britain - 18th century


James Dodsley, bookseller
David Wilson, bookseller
Jimmie Durham, bookseller
Andrew Millar, bookseller
Robert Willock, bookseller
Paul Fourdrinier, engraver
Ignace Fougeron, engraver
Edward Rooker, engraver
Paul Sandby RA, engraver
Charles Grignion, engraver
George III King of Great Britain, dedicatee
Johann Christoph Haberkorn, printer
John Nourse, bookseller