Polymetis: or, An Enquiry concerning the Agreement Between the Works of the Roman Poets, And the Remains of the Antient Artists. Being An Attempt to illustrate them mutually from one another. In Ten Books. By the Revd. Mr. Spence. The Second Edition, corrected by the Author.

Joseph Spence

RA Collection: Book

Record number



Variant Title

Enquiry concerning the Agreement Between the Works of the Roman Poets, And the Remains of the Antient Artists


London:: Printed for R. and J. Dodsley, in Pall-Mall., M.DCC.LV.

Physical Description

vi, 361, [1] p., frontis. (port.), 41 pl. (pl. 39-41 in reverse order): illus.; 430 mm. (Folio).


[Port.; t.-p.] - Preface - [Text, with plates] - An Account of the Antiques, inserted in this Work - Alphabetical List; Of Each Particular Figure - Classical Index - The General Index - Directions for the Binder.

Responsibility Note

The frontispiece portrait of Spence is signed as painted by Isaac Whood and engraved by G. Vertue. All other plates and illustrations are signed as engraved by L. P. Boitard.


ESTC, T130824
A. Wright, Joseph Spence: a critical biography (1950).
J. Elsner, ed., Art and text in Roman culture (1996)
On the iconography of classical mythology see the bibliographic note on V. Cartari, Les Images des dieux (1581).

Summary Note

The first edition had been published in 1747 (after lengthy preparation - Spence had assembled preparatory material during his first visit to Italy). A new edition would appear in 1774, and abridgments for schools were current until the 1820s.

The text is in the form of twenty-one dialogues. It was attacked in Lessing's Laokoon (1766); but is thought to have provided the poet Keats with some of his mythological imagery.


A microfilm version was published in 1986 (Woodbridge CT: Research Publications).


Inscribed in ink on title-page, 'Given by Fras. Cotes to the Royal Academy'. Acquired by the Academy before July 1770.

Binding Note

19th-century half calf, brown cloth-covered boards; rebacked in 1988 by A. Wessely, retaining earlier black morocco spine-label lettered 'Spence's Polymetis'.


Mythology, Roman - Gods
Art, Roman - Latin poetry - History
Treatises - Dialogues - Art history - Great Britain - 18th century


Francis Cotes RA, previous owner, donor
Louis-Philippe Boitard, engraver
Isaac Whood, source artist
George Vertue, engraver
Robert Dodsley, publisher
James Dodsley, publisher
Anthony Wessely, binder