It's been a long wait; as the previous reviewer pointed out, until recently any one interested in this greatest classic of English architecture would have needed to deplete his bank savings in order to get a copy. Fortunately Dover (who else?) finally issued this beautiful reprint of the complete three volumes of Vitruvius Britannicus. For anyone interested in 18th century architecture or the English country house, there can be no greater delight - the reader, as Mr. Campbell in his introduction says he hopes, is indeed 'agreeably entertained' with a rich array of elevations, floor plans, interiors and perspective views. All the greatest houses (Chatsworth, Blenheim, Castle Howard, Grimsthorpe, Drumlanrig, Houghton) are featured, as are many more modest ones, and some that were never actually built, were dramatically changed in later years, or were lost altogether (Lowther castle seems a particular painful specimen of the latter category, by the look of it). In addition, several public buildings (e.g. the Royal Hospital in Greenwich), as well as St. Paul's cathedral and, somewhat incongruously, St. Peter's in Rome, are portrayed. The plates allow detailed study of the composition, proportions and decoration of these masterworks.
As always, Dover also provides the full text of the original, which allows interesting insights into the social world of the early 1700s. The introduction, in which Campbell scolds Borromini for 'debauching mankind with his odd and chimerical beauties', and proudly proclaims Britain at least the equal of Italy in matters of architecture, is an entertainment in itself. The lists of subscribers show that no fashionable nobleman of the time could afford to go without his own copy.
The plates are clearly and beautifully reproduced, on lightly cream-colored paper, without blemishes. My only niggle concerns the two-page spreads, of Castle Howard and Blenheim for instance, where inevitably the centerpiece of the composition is lost in the center fold of the book. Otherwise this is as good as it gets.