The Italian School Of Design: Being A Series Of Fac-Similes Of Original Drawings, By The Most Eminent Painters And Sculptors Of Italy; With Biographical Notices Of The Artists, And Observations On Their Works. By William Young Ottley.

William Young Ottley

RA Collection: Book

Record number




London:: Printed For The Author, By J. McCreery, Tooks-Court, Chancery Lane; And Published By Taylor And Hessey, 13, Waterloo Place, And 93, Fleet-Street., 1823.

Physical Description

[iv], ii, 72, [6] p., [84] pl.: illus.; 569 mm.


[T.p., dedic.] - Advertisement - [Text, with pl.] - Index - A List Of The Plates In This Work, With Directions For Placing Such As Are Not Printed On The Letter-Press. N.B. The Binder is desired to cancel the few leaves of text which were originally Published with the first three Numbers. [Lists 84 pl.]

Responsibility Note

All plates name the source-artist and are signed by their engraver - J. Vivares, G. Lewis, J.J. de Claussin, J. Vendramini (also as Giovanni Vandramini), F.C. Lewis, Thos. Vivares, W.Y. Ottley, W. Long, J. Perry, John Romney, Luigi Schiavonetti or Gaetano Bartolozzi. One of the Raphael plates is signed by a draughtsman also - Carlo Cencione. The in-text illustrations also name the source-artist, but only in some cases name the draughtsman ('WYO') or the engravers (Jas. Godby, 'WYO' or Thos. Vivaris).

Each plate carries the publisher's imprint of W.Y. Ottley and the date.

The work is dedicated by the author to the President and Council and other Members of the Royal Academy.


E.K. Waterhouse, 'Some notes on William Young Ottley's collection of Italian primitives', in Italian Studies, 17 (1962), p.272-80; J. Gere, 'William Young Ottley as a collector of drawings', in British Museum Quarterly, 18: 2 (1953 June), p.44-53.

A study of the printer McCreery was J.R. Barker,'John McCreery a radical printer 1768-1832', in The Library, 5th ser., 16 (1961), p.81-103.

Summary Note

The publication history of the work is described in the Advertisement: 'The work now offered to the public in its finished state, was commenced in the year 1808 by Subscription, in Numbers, each containing four and occasionally five plates ... As soon as five Numbers had appeared, it was judged convenient in future to sell them joined together ... under the appellation of Part I.; and four years afterwards the publication of Part II., consisting of five more numbers, took place ... the work, although it was at first intended to extend to fifty numbers, is now brought to a close, by the delivery of Part III ...'. The three parts appeared in 1808, 1813, 1823. In the one-volume 1823 edition the plates are arranged to follow the order of the text, not that of the publication-date which each bears. They were originally published serially, each carrying its date of publication, as follows: 1808 Nov. 1 (9 pl.), Nov. 7 (1 pl.), Nov. 16 (1 pl.); 1809 Mar. 1 (1 pl.), 1809? May 6? (1 pl.); 1809 May 14 (3 pl.), Jul. 17 (1 pl.), Aug. 1 (1 pl.); 1810 Mar. 1 (2 pl.), May 1 (1 pl.); 1812 Jan. 1 (4 pl.), Mar. 1 (1 pl.), May 1 (15 pl.); 1818 Mar. 1 (1 pl.), Apr. 1 (1 pl.), May 1 (22 pl.); 1819 (1 pl.), 1821 (1 pl.), 1821 June (3 pl.); illegible date (1 pl.). The in-text plates also carry dates.

The plates show drawings by an anymous Greek of the 9th century, Cimabue, Giotto (2 plates), Donatello (2 pl.), Fra Filippo Lippi, Mantegna, Luca Signorelli, Leonardo (2 pl.), Fra Bartolommeo (2 pl.), Michelangelo (12 pl.), Andrea Del Sarto, Beccafumi, Baccio Bandinelli, Raphael (23 pl.), Giulio Romano (2 pl.), Polidoro da Caravaggio (2 pl.), Giorgione da Castelfranco, Coreggio, Parmigianino (2 pl.), Bartolommeo Passarotti, L. Carracci (2 pl.), Ann. Carracci (2 pl.), Gregorio Pagani, Poussin (2 pl.), Gasparo Poussin, Claude (2 pl.) and Salvator Rosa. There are also thirteen headpieces or in-text illustrations, showing works by N. Pisano, Giunta Pisano, Cimabue, Giotto, Donatello, Mantegna, Signorelli, Fra Bartolommeo, Michelangelo (2), Raphael, Giulio Romano and Correggio. They present a mixture of Christian and miscellaneous subject-matter.

The work was intended to be a historical survey of the most eminent artists of Italy. Ottley reveals the conventional critical limitations of his period in describing his first drawing, an anonymous Greek work of the 9th century, as an example of the state 'to which design was reduced during the barbarous ages'.

The drawings shown were in Ottley's own collection - most of which was sold in 1823 to Sir Thomas Lawrence. Many of the drawings by Raphael and Michelangelo were later acquired by the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

The high quality of the facsimiles (etchings and aquatints) is matched by the excellence of McCreery's presswork.


Reprints: 1869 (London: G. Norman); 1980 (New York: Garland; in series Connoisseurship, criticism and art history of the nineteenth century) (ISBN 082403273X).


The title-page is inscribed in ink, 'To the Royal Academy from the Author W. Young Ottley'. Presented in 1823 (acknowledged RA Council Minutes, VI, 366).

Binding Note

20th-century half calf, marbled-papered boards; red morocco spine-label lettered 'Ottley's Italian School', spine lettered 'RA'.

Name as Subject


Christian art and symbolism
Drawings, Italian - Italy - History - Renaissance - Mannerism - Baroque
Collections - Great Britain - 19th century
Pictorial works - Typography - Great Britain - 19th century


William Young Ottley, previous owner, donor, engraver
John McCreery, printer
James Augustus Hessey, publisher
J. Vivares, engraver
George Robert Lewis, engraver
Ignace Joseph de Claussen, engraver
Giovanni Vendramini, engraver
Frederick Christian Lewis Snr., engraver
Thomas Vivares, engraver
William Long, engraver
J. Perry, engraver
John Romney, engraver
Luigi Schiavonetti, engraver
Gaetano Stefano Bartolozzi, engraver
Carlo Cencione, draughtsman
James Godby, engraver
Raphael, source artist
Michelangelo Buonarroti, source artist
John Taylor, publisher
Royal Academy of Arts (London), dedicatee
Taylor and Hessey (London), publisher

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