Evelyn Sculptura title page and frontispiece
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A: London, England, United Kingdom

The First Book on the Appreciation of Prints and the First Description of Mezzotint

Evelyn Sculptura mezzotine by Prince Rupert

Prince Rupert's print, after Jusepe de Ribera, known as Head of the Executioner, or The Little Executioner, or The Small Executioner. It was a detail from Rupert's largest and most famous work, "The Great Executioner." 

In 1662 English diarist, gardener, and ecologist John Evelyn issued a book entitled Sculptura: or the History and Art of Chalcography and Engraving in Copper: with An ample Enumeration of the most renowned Masters and their Works. To which is annexed a new Manner of Engraving, or Mezzotinto. . . .This book, published in London, was the first book on the appreciation of prints rather than a technical manual for producing them. In it Evelyn announced a new printmaking process, the mezzotint, "Invented, and communicated by his Highnesse" the soldier, inventor, and amateur printmaker, Prince Rupert, Count Palatine of the Rhine and Duke of Bavaria. The work included Prince Rupert's print, after Jusepe de Ribera, known as Head of the Executioner, or The Little Executioner, or The Small Executioner. It was a detail from Rupert's largest and most famous work, "The Great Executioner," considered one of the genre's finest examples. From Evelyn's diary and papers preserved in the British Library we know that Rupert first showed the technique to Evelyn February 24, 1661. However, Rupert and Evelyn conspired to keep details of the process secret, lest it be "prostituted" at too cheap a rate.

The second edition of Evelyn's book appeared in 1755. It incorporated corrections and additions taken from Evelyn's manuscript notes, a portrait of Evelyn by Thomas Worlidge (1700-1766), translations of the passages in Greek and Latin, and a memoir of the author.

In his "Advertisement" to Sculptura, Evelyn stated that he, as well as William Faithorne (1662), had made a translation of the second part of Bosse's Traicté (1645) "but, understanding it to be also the design of Mr. Faithorn, who had (it seems) translated the first part of it, and is himself by Profession a Graver, and an excellent Artist; that I might neither anticipate the worlds expectation, nor the workmans pains, to their prejudice, I desisted from printing my copy, and subjoyning it to this discourse."  This second part of Evelyn’s translation did not therefore appear in his Sculptura 1662 or any subsequent edition until the discovery of Evelyn's manuscript in the library of the Royal Society. The complete Evelyn translation did not appear until 1906 as Evelyn's Sculptura with the unpublished Second Part, edited by C. F. Bell.

Wax, The Mezzotint: History and Technique (1990) 21-22.

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