Part aesthetic treatise, part travelogue, and part history lesson, Julien David Le Roy's Les Ruines des Plus Beaux Monuments de la Grèce (The Ruins of the Most Beautiful Monuments of Greece) was published in 1758, on the crest of the wave of neoclassicism that swept both Europe and America through the second half of the eighteenth century.
Le Roy was a pioneering art historian, one of the first to argue that ideals of beauty are not universal, but rather are grounded in the specific geographic, social, and historical settings of communities. In Les Ruines, he attempts to provide the history of the monuments he inspected during his travels in Greece from 1754 to 1758, and to explain the development of the Greek orders of architecture based on a set of historical principles.
Later, Le Roy's controversial ideas led Luigi Piranesi and others to accuse Le Roy, by then a professor of architecture at the Academie Royale d'Architecture, of fraudulently asserting the superiority of French architecture by fabricating connections between Greek traditions and French academic methods.
The discoveries and travels described in this deluxe edition of Les Ruines are illustrated with large engravings in which landscapes and vignettes showing Greek-costumed figures highlight the "Greek" qualities of the ruins. Le Roy emphasized the authenticity and accuracy of his observations by signing them, noting that he had drafted them while in Greece.
Les Ruines, acquired with funds from the Louise Hall Library Endowment, enhances the library's strengths in the fields of architecture, classics, and French culture.