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Giovanni Battista Pasquali

Bibliotheca Smithiana : seu catalogus librorum D. Josephi Smithii Angli per cognomina authorum dispositus. 1755

Printed on paper. Full vellum binding with gold-tooled decoration and red-leather spine label. | 24.8 x 18.3 x 5.8 cm (book measurement (conservation)) | RCIN 1155999

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  • A vellum-bound copy of the catalogue of Joseph Smith's library published by his own Pasquali press in Venice in 1755. Joseph Smith, British Consul in Venice from 1744, was a merchant, dealer and collector who acted as Canaletto's main agent and assembled a large collection of paintings and drawings. He was also a passionate book collector with a significant library. In the mid-1750s Smith's businesses ran into financial trouble, and at the age of 88 he started to think about how he was to provide for his second wife Elizabeth Murray after his death, as well as to consider a permanent home for his library. The catalogue listing all the printed books and albums of drawings and prints in his library, among them the volumes of drawings by Canaletto, Sebastiano and Marco Ricci, was assembled around this time, essentially acting as a sale catalogue in the hope of attracting potential buyers.

    Negotiations opened in about 1756 with the advisers to George, Prince of Wales, and the Bibliotheca Smithiana served as a detailed specification. At this point the figure mooted for the purchase was 20,000 sequins (about £10,000). The negotiations were interrupted by the Seven Years War: in his will of 1761, Joseph Smith wrote 'I was always desirous that some entire classes of my collection might remain united, such as my Library, Drawings, Gems, or Pictures, and with this view a treaty was commenced on the Part of a Royal Purchaser for my Library...but by reason of the present war breaking out about that time nothing was concluded'. Discussions resumed in the early 1760s and the sale was eventually concluded in 1762, by now including Smith's paintings, coins, gems and medals as well, and the price agreed now reaching £20,000. Many of the books from Smith's library that formed the nucleus of the library of George III at Buckingham House were passed to the British Museum by George IV and are now in the British Library, though the albums of drawings and prints were largely retained in the Royal Collection. Two copies of the Bibliotheca Smithiana in the British Library are the receipt copies of Smith and Richard Dalton, with entries marked off in red chalk. This copy belonged to Lord Bute and was later bequeathed to the Royal Library.

    Provenance

    Possibly owned by Lord Mount Stuart (later 1st Marquess of Bute); bequeathed to the Royal Library by Dr Frances Vivian (1919-2001) in 2001

  • Medium and techniques

    Printed on paper. Full vellum binding with gold-tooled decoration and red-leather spine label.

    Measurements

    24.8 x 18.3 x 5.8 cm (book measurement (conservation))

  • Alternative title(s)

    Bibliotheca Smithiana