Ruins Of The Palace Of The Emperor Diocletian At Spalatro In Dalmatia By R. Adam F.R.S. F.S.A. Architect To The King And To The Queen

Robert Adam

RA Collection: Book

Record number




[London]: Printed For The Author, MDCCLXIIII

Physical Description

iv, [8], 33, [1] p., [54] sheets (14 dble. or fold.) carrying 61 pl. (incl. pl. I, frontis.). 531 mm. (Broadsheet).

General Note

There are eight double plates (nos. 2, 5, 6, [11], 13, 20, 29, 35). The six folding plates (nos. 3, 4, 8, 10, 18, 19) are each formed from two sheets pasted together. There are twelve small plates printed either two per sheet (nos. 38-39, 50-51, 52-53) or three per sheet (nos. 54-56, 57-59) (but distribution of these varies in some copies).


[Frontis., t.-p., dedic.] - List Of Subscribers - Introduction - A Description Of The General Plan Of Dioclesian's Palace As Restored - Explanation Of The Plates - [Plates].

Responsibility Note

From documents in the Scottish Record Office it is known that the Introduction and dedication were contributed anonymously by William Robertson.

Most plates were engraved after drawings by C.-L. Clérisseau, who is briefly mentioned in the Introduction but whose name does not appear on the plates - except as a faint inscription on the sarcophagus shown in plate 28, 'Iced Iacet Corpus Clerissi Pictor'. But most plates are signed by their engravers: F. Bartolozzi, Zucchi, F. Patton, E. Rooker, P. Santini, Dom. Cunego, A. Walker, J. Basire, P. Mazell. Only plates 29, 44 and 52 are unsigned.

The printer is not named. One of the persons included in the List Of Subscribers is the printer John Enschede of Haarlem (who employed J.M. Fleischman as type-cutter).

The work is dedicated by Robert Adam to King George III.


National Gallery (Washington), Mark J. Millard Architectural, II (1998), 1; Royal Institute of British Architects, British Architectural Library ... Early printed books, 1 (1994), no. 27; E. Harris and N. Savage, British Architectural Books (1990), 4; Johns Hopkins University, The Fowler Architectural Collection (1961), no. 2, p.3-4; Jefferson 3. The bindings of the book are discussed in I.G. Brown, '"With an uncommon splendour": the bindings of Robert Adam's Ruins at Spalatro', in Apollo 136:371 (1993), p.6-11.

Adam's approach to the palace is considered in I.G. Brown, 'The picturesque vision: fact and fantasy in the capriccio plates of Robert Adam's Spalatro' in Apollo 136: 366 (1992), p.76-82; Monumental reputation: Robert Adam and the Emperor's Palace [exhibition catalogue] (Edinburgh and London, 1992). The context of Adam's work is described in J. Fleming, Robert Adam and his circle (1978).
ESTC, T46923

Summary Note

The work describes the villa - or rather, fortress-palace - which the Emperor Diocletian built at Split (the ancient Aspalathos) on his abdication in 305 A.D.

The plates are a mixture of plans, sections and elevations (14 plates) and views (47 plates).

To Robert Adam, newly arrived in Italy in 1755, Clérisseau was the one who 'rais'd my ideas, he created emulation and fire'. In this spirit of emulation Adam contemplated revising Desgodetz's Les édifices antiques or Burlington's Fabbriche antiche, following the meticulous format of Wood's The Ruins of Palmyra (1753); but by 1757 he and Clérisseau were exploring the unsurveyed palace of Diocletian at Split. The resulting publication has plates based on drawings by Clerisseau and an introduction by William Robertson; but the architectural commentary and the reconstructions are those of Adam. A principle of Adam's reconstruction (not confirmed by later excavations) is that of axial symmetry. The lay-out of the building is praised for its succession of varied spaces - 'a remarkable diversity of form ... to which the ancients were extremely attentive ... whereas modern architects ... are apt to fatigue us with a dull succession of similar apartments' (p.9). Some details of construction are noted as innovations, such as the lack of a base to the columns of the second order inside the mausoleum (pl. 24) or the way in which the arch and flanking niches of the Porta Aurea 'incroach too much upon the superior order' (pl. 13); while the ornamentation, as rich as that of Palmyra and Baalbek, was 'bold and pleasing' (pl. 32) and 'so finely executed that they afforded me the highest satisfaction' (pl. 46).

Adam had found the engravings of Wood's Palmyra 'as hard as iron and as false as hell'. Familiar with Piranesi's achievements, he was concerned that his plates should be evocative as well as accurate, and for the views he therefore employed as engravers Francesco Bartolozzi (afterwards a founding member of the Royal Academy), Fr. P. Santini, D. Cunego and F. Zucchi.

One of Clérisseau's original drawings may be seen at the Royal Institute of British Architects, London (for pl. 12); five, at the Hermitage, St Petersburg (for pl. 20, 22, 42, and two interiors not engraved).


An electronic reproduction was published in 2003 (Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale). A microfilm version was published in 2002 (Woodbridge, Conn.: Primary Source Microfilm [an imprint of Gale Group]).


Presented on 11 January 1769 (RAA Council Minutes I, 12). On a front endpaper is pasted the autograph letter of Robert Adam, presenting this copy; which reads, 'Mr Adam presents his Compliments to Mr. Chambers & sends him a Copy of The Ruins of Dioclesians palace at Spalatro which he begs Mr Chambers will do him the Honour to present to the Royal Academy & Beg their Acceptance of it, and of his Sincere wishes for the prosperity of so Great & so Usefull an Institution Lower Gros Street. 11th January 1769.'

Binding Note

Contemporary red morocco; upper and lower covers having gilt-stamped borders of palmettes and, in the centre, the royal arms of Britain (the covers probably designed by Adam); gilt-decorated spine, lettered 'Ruins Of Spalatro'. In 20th-century red cloth-covered box, spine-label lettered 'Ruins of Spalatro. Royal Academy'

Name as Subject


Palace of Diocletian (Split) - Architecture, Roman - Palaces, Roman - Villas, Roman - Ruins - Croatia - Split - History - 4th century
British - Expeditions - Croatia - Split - History - 18th century
Plans - Views - Surveys - Reports - Great Britain - 18th century
Pictorial works - Bindings - Armorial bindings - Great Britain - 18th century


William Robertson
Charles-Louis Clérisseau, draughtsman
Francesco Bartolozzi RA, engraver
Francesco Zucchi, engraver
Francis Patton, engraver
Edward Rooker, engraver
Paolo Santini, engraver
Domenico Cunego, engraver
Anthony Walker, engraver
James Basire the elder, engraver
Peter Mazell, engraver
George III King of Great Britain, dedicatee
Robert Adam, publisher, previous owner, donor

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