Gems and Cameos

Antonio Francesco GORIDactyliotheca Smithiana.

Venice, Ex Typographio J.-B. Pasquali, 1767.

2 volumes small folio, contemporary quarter calf over paper boards, smooth spines finely decorated and gilt with red and green lettering pieces, untrimmed. Title, dedication to King George III, fine engraved frontispiece by P. A. Novelli, XIX-97pp.; title, 3pp., CCXCVIIIpp. Initial letters, head- and tailpieces, 2 full-page plates (in volume II), 100 fine numbered engraved plates by G. B. Brustolon after drawings by A. M. Zanetti (two after Novelli). Complete.

First and only edition of Gori’s catalogue of the famous gem and cameo collection assembled by Consul Smith.

Joseph Smith (1682-1770), patron of art, art collector and British consul in Venice. He made a wide reputation as a collector of books, manuscripts, pictures, coins, and gems. He patronised painters, and among his protégés were the Florentine Zuccarelli and the Venetian Zais. Horace Walpole sneered at him as “the merchant of Venice”, who knew nothing of his books except their title-pages, but the censure seems undeserved (DNB). The Florentine antiquary Gori (1691-1757) not only carefully describes the gems but also includes a detailed history of  gem engraving, and unusually a discussion of gem engravers. Gori discusses Consul Smith’s gems chiefly in terms of subject matter, rarely passing judgement about date or attribution. Most of the gems were 17th and 18th century work, though some were of an earlier date. The collection was acquired by King George III together with Consul Smith’s library and the majority of his paintings and drawings in 1762. “Work on the publication was under way by 1753 and it was partly printed when Smith made his will in 1761. After the completion of the royal sale in 1762, it was only natural that the Dactyliotheca should appear, in 1767, with a dedication to the King. Of the gems shown in one hundred plates in that publication, 66 are identifiable in the Royal Collection” (A King’s Purchase, The Queen’s Gallery, 1993, p. 57). In antiquity, the word dactyliotheca [the Latin expression derived from the Greek words daktylios (ring) and theke (casket)] had two meanings: on the one hand it was used to denote jewellery boxes containing rings, on the other it referred to a collection of rings decorated with engraved precious stones, or – more widely – a collection of engraved stones (gems, intaglios). Roman tradition preserved their memory since the 1st century BC, as dactyliotheques acquired by the leading political figures of the time (including Pompeius and Iulius Caesar) were publicly displayed in Rome. In the 17th and 18th centuries the word denoted gem collections published in albums illustrated with engravings.

Unidentified armorial bookplate.

A very good crisp large paper copy.

Ref. Brunet, II, 1671 / Cicognara, 2870 / Graesse III, 120

Price: 3.000,00 euros

Get in touch
← Back to the highlights