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[Title in Greek:] Ekphrasis tes Hagias Sophias.

Athens: P. D. Sakallarios, 1907-09 Stock Code: 143223
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From the library of Robert Byron

First and only edition of this scarce and important monograph, from the library of the traveler, aesthete, and writer on art Robert Byron (1905-1941), inscribed by him on a blank before the half-title in volume I, "Robert Byron, sent by A. E. Benaki" and with Byron's signature in the same location in the other volumes.

A fine provenance: Antonis Benakis (1873-1954) was a Greek art collector and the founder of the museum in Athens that bears his name; this gift to Byron is representative of his "proverbial generosity" (Benaki Museum website, retrieved 11 September 2020).

Born in Istanbul, Eugène Michel Antoniadi (1870-1944) was a Greek-French astronomer and "one of the leading visual observers of the planets in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries His talent for beautiful draftsmanship became evident at an early age; it appears he received at least some formal training in architecture" (Biographical Encyclopaedia of Astronomers). At the invitation of the eminent French astronomer Camille Flammarion, in 1893 he became assistant observer at Flammarion's private observatory. His observations of Mars were important and he played a key role in exploding the idea of Martian canals. At the Hagia Sophia Antoniadi's principal aims were a precise measurement of the building and an effort to determine the metric value of the Byzantine unit of measurement used in the building's construction; although in this last he was not successful, his work nevertheless "marks a milestone in the history of dimensionally accurate illustrations of Saint Sophia" (Hoffmann, p. 10). In The Byzantine Achievement (1929) Byron memorably described the Hagia Sophia as a "leviathan of architecture" and "the very pivot of the Byzantine world a dream abiding, planted entire from heaven".

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3 volumes, small folio (330 x 235 mm). Contemporary quarter morocco-grain sheep, spines gilt lettered direct and decorated with single gilt fillets, cloth corners, vols. I and II with German pattern marbled sides and blue Schrottel pattern endpapers, vol. III with Papier Tourniquet pattern marbled sides and Spanish on Italian pattern marbled endpapers.


100 plates (complete), including 6 in colour; text in Greek.


Bindings professionally refurbished, some light abrasions, portion torn or excised from each title page; unidentified library stamps (double-headed eagle with a Greek legend) scattered throughout.


Volker Hoffmann, Der Geometrische Entwurf Der Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Peter Lang, 2005.


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