John Papworth was the son of a stuccoist whose talents were discovered by Sir William Chambers. By the age of 18 he had already served as an apprenticeship to a builder and acquired the rudiments of interior design during a year spent with a well-known firm of furnishers and decorators. He started showing his drawings at the Royal Academy in 1791 and was soon in command of a flourishing business specializing in remodeling houses, laying out gardens and designing furniture and trophies. It was for his design of a Waterloo trophy that his friends acclaimed him a second Michelangelo and led him to adopt Buonarroti as his second name.
However, before his rise Papworth had been writing a regular series of architectural notes with illustrations for the well-known London publisher Ackermann. The 76 plates illustrating contemporary aspects of London were selected from Ackermann’s periodical The Repository of Arts, Literature, Science, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics and reissued in volume form in 1816. The majority of the plates are aquatints, although a few are line engravings with only an aquatint sky, and are finished in hand-colouring.
The volume proved extremely successful with its clean architectural lines and pale transparent washes and continues to appeal as one of the most attractive works of London in the early eighteenth-century.
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