(SCOTT, JAMES, bookbinder.) Milton, John. Paradise Lost. Engraved portrait of Milton on title (offsetting onto flyleaf). , 466,  pages. Folio, 372x235 mm, contemporary Edinburgh binding of red morocco lavishly gilt in rococo style by Scott, without label, decoration on covers consisting of figure of Minerva atop stylized arch enclosing musical trophy, with pointillé latticework cartouche in lower outer corners, the whole between a pair of twisting columns each surmounted by small figure with harp, joined by festoons, with musical trophy in center and radiating star above, flat spine divided into 4 compartments with morocco lettering piece in one and musical trophy and ornamental tools in the rest, single fillet along cover edges, scrollwork tooling along turn-ins, antique spot pattern marbled endpapers, faint rubbing along cover edges, unobtrusive repair at top of rear joint, possibly recased; occasional moderate foxing; gilt edges; cloth slipcase. Signature of W. Balmain, Hockliffe, on title; embossed stamp of Brentano's, New York, on rear free endpaper. Glasgow: Robert and Andrew Foulis, 1770
Estimate $8,000 - 12,000
first foulis folio edition of paradise lost, in a dramatic and well-preserved example of the work of james scott of edinburgh,which departed strikingly from the binding styles then prevalent in Scotland. Active from the early 1770s to the end of the 1780s, Scott favored Chippendale-inspired decoration in rococo style until around 1776, after which he shifted to a neo-classical style influenced by the work of the architects and designers Robert and James Adam. "The originality of Scott's tools and designs, imported from sources virtually untapped by Scottish bookbinders . . . made a considerable impression, if one may judge by the number of imitations of his work that appeared in Scotland in the seventies and eighties . . . Comparison of any of these bindings with almost any of Scott's shows how outstanding an artist he was in his limited medium, with a sense of space, a breadth and unity of vision, and skill in manipulating his highly individual design elements, all these qualities placing him far above his Scottish contemporaries, and high in any international comparison" (Loudon, pages 9-10).
Unknown to Loudon, the binding offered here is a large and opulent variation on a characteristic Scott design incorporating a variety of figures or motifs flanked by architectural columns linked by swags and drops. The principal tools are Loudon's An.8, An.4, Ar1.6, Mu.1, and Mu.4(?). He does not record the star motif and documents only one use of the twisting column roll, on a copy of James Beattie's 1776 Essays (JS32, 274x210 mm). In size and extravagance the present example stands comparison to the 1775 binding on a copy of William Maitland's 1753 History of Edinburgh (JS14.5, 366x230 mm) that Loudon describes as "the most splendid of Scott's rococo period." Gaskell (Foulis) 510; Loudon, James Scott and William Scott, Bookbinders (1980).