3 DECEMBER 1954, Page 36

London As It Was

Original Views of London As It Is: Vol. I. By Thomas Shotter Boys. (Charles W. Traylen, Guildford. Two volumes 12 guineas, or 7 guineas each.) Tins modern re-issue emphasises Boys's London As It Is as a peak of pictorial reproduction. The topographical print demands a number of ingredients for absolute success; when artist, engraver, scene, paper and process are all of the best, such a masterpiece as this will emerge.

Boys was a considerable topographical artist with a sense of liglri and shadow, and a first-class technician in both pencil and—particu•

laxly neutral—colours. His printer was Hullmandel, his scene, London of a little over a hundred years ago—warm, colourful ano, architecturally stately. By Boys's time, lithography had established itself, over aquatint and mezzotint, as the medium for the best repro; duction of landscape, but Boys turned back towards those riches of aquatint which the lithograph lacked, and developed the lithotint, with its capacity for graduation of shades and tints.

Three years earlier, Boys and Htillmandel, although already able to produce the lithotint, decided against it, in favour of the chromo' lithograph, for their Picturesque Architecture in Paris, Ghent, Antwerp' Rouen. Thereafter, they turned back to the lithotint, first with Views in York (1841)—handsome but hardly promising the triumph of the - second book—before London As It Is, with its twenty-six superb plates. Unfortunately, the lesson they demonstrated was not learnt' `Progress' demanded chromolithography as the method and, unfof' tunately, the worst of Victorian art and design as subject, so that, 171 the time of the Great Exhibition, the English colour plate had fallen, in a mere ten years, from its peak to its utter pit. The plates of-' for instance—Digby Wyatt's Industrial Arts of the Nineteenth Century' which is, in effect, a pictorial souvenir of the Great Exhibition/ are technically remarkable ; but they are not pleasant to the eye.

In its own time, Boys's book was issued in plain and, probably' hand-coloured states. The re-issue is in seven-colour offset litho' graphy, based on the coloured version in the Guildhall Library which may have been coloured by Boys himself. Mr. Traylen,, better known perhaps as ail antiquarian bookseller specialising 7) topographical and colour-plate books, is issuing the work in tw, volumes, the first of which is now ready. The original text by Churl! Oilier is retained with parallel modern comment by James Laver' It is bound, French fashion, in wrappers to allow the two volt117 to be bound up together, or the plates extracted for framing. indeev' it is strange that the plates are not seen more often as wall-decorati°o


for, in colour, theme, balance and for their decorative and historiP' value, they must rank with any prints ever issued. JOHN ARLO