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The History of Monmouthshire by David Williams

I only have to write one featured book a year, but I see so many wonderful books though the year that it's hard to choose just one; but on the down side with many of the books it is hard to say something about them. The book I have chosen this time is of such good quality that I feel any words I write will detract from its sheer excellence - simply put - it is just stunning! However without words there would not be much of an article, just a series of photos, which would actually work well with this book, but anyway I procrastinate....

Why is the book stunning?

  • The binding: Whist this particular copy has been rebound since the book was originally published in 1796, it has been done extremely well and very sympathetically to the original. It has a beautiful leatherspine and corners with three-quarter cloth. On the spine the gilt titles and decoration are bright and beautifully done. It has some carefully chosen new marble end-papers, which just seem to fit.

  • Limited edition: This book was limited to 168 copies of which only 32 had the aqua-tints coloured in. Now, going off on a slight tangent about limited editions, it is common for books of this period to only get published and produced when a certain number of pre-orders had been received and paid for, then the names of these people were printed in the book, in this instance they are under the heading "Names and Engagements". History does seem to be repeated today in this respect and I am seeing and hearing stories about many modern books using the same model, usually with the author seeking orders before paying to get the book produced themselves.

  • The quirkiness: An error in the pagination (page numbering) so that it goes from page 116 straight to page 119. The old style English, which I find difficult to read already, and this is not helped by the odd misspelling of place names, as is admitted by the author on the errors page where it states "The author is apprehenfive, there may be many of thofe errors; but he has it not in his power to collect more than the following:-"

  • Hand-colour plates - I think I have saved the best feature until last. This copy has 36 simply stunning and fascinating illustrations from around Monmouthshire. The illustrations were done by John Gardnor and then engraved by Mr. Gardnor and Mr. Hill so that they could be re-produced using the aqua-tint printing process. Then the illustrations have been coloured by hand, some you see in this article. The colouring has been done so well it that it really brings the images to life.

The 36 illustrations are:

1. Llanfihangel juxta Usk Bridge, with St. Michael's Mount. 2. East View of Panty Goettre, with the Sugar Loaf. 3. East View of the Blorench, taken from the Grounds of Panty Goettre. 4. View of Caerleon. 5. South West View of Monmouth. 6. South West View of Usk Castle. 7. Chepstow Castle, taken from the Bridge. 8. South West View of Caldecot Castle. 9. East View of Grosmont Castle. 10. South West View of Abergavenny Castle. 11. View of Newport Castle. 12. North View of Tintern Abbey. 13. General South View of Llantony Priory. 14. Trinity Chapel, Sudbrook 15. View of Llantarnham. 16. View of Rhaglan Castle. 17. South View of Penhow Castle. 18. Front View of Pencoed Castle. 19. Front View of Troy House. 20. Front View of Tredegar. 21. Front View of Llanharth. 22. West View of Clytha. 23. South West View of Trostrey Forge and Clytha Castle. 24. View of Coldbrook House. 25. View of St. Pierre. 26. East View of Llangibby (Castle). 27. View of Llanfihangel Cillcornell, with St. Michael's Mount. 28. View of Pontypool House. 29. North View of Pontypool. 30. North West View of Llanwern. 31. View of Hadnock. 32. Llanfoyst, from Tudor's Gate, Abergavenny. 33. View of Wye Bridge, Monmouth. 34. North View of Llandeilo 35. North West View of Panty Goettre. 36. View of the Grounds of Persfield.

The author – David Williams

I think here it may be best to do some research yourself, but the most pertinent points are: that David Williamswrote 4 books, with the last being The History of Monmouthshire in 1796. Apparently he undertook the writing of this book at the insistence of Dr. Hooper of Pant-y-Goetre and Morgan of Tredegar and visited the county in 1792 to collect material.

The illustrator - John Gardnor

Gardnor began life as a drawing master teaching painting, drawing and calligraphy. He exhibited a number of times with the Free Society of Artists. As a vicar he officiated on 18th August 1782 at the wedding of William Blake. In 1782 he also exhibited at the Royal Academy for the first time and then regularly contributed landscape views untill 1796.

Scenery of Great Britain and Ireland in Aqua-tint and Lithogrpahy 1770-1860 from the library of J.R. Abbey – A Bibliographical Catalogue
Wikipedia and Dictionary of National Biography.

Contributed by Adam

(Published 9th Dec 2014)

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