It depicted part of one of the fantastical suite of pictorial title and nine engraved plates that make up the artist and engraver Filippo Morghen’s gloriously illustrated record of an imaginary voyage to the Moon.
A mix of the rococo and hints of chinoiserie, his illustrations depict the exotic inhabitants and wildlife on the Moon, along with the modes of transport and the pumpkin houses of the lunar locals.
Some of the latter are seen in the illustration shown above, while another was depicted under sail on the catalogue cover.
The set sold for £14,000 in Knightsbridge was a second-issue example, printed in Naples c.1767-68, in which the full Italian title of Morghen’s Raccolta… was altered to give a name to his imaginary lunar explorer.
It was that of John Wilkins, a learned Anglican bishop, natural philosopher, academic and founder member of the Royal Academy, whose much earlier book, The Discovery of a World in the Moon. Or, a Discourse Tending to Prove ‘tis Probable There May Be Another Habitable World in that Planet, had been published many years earlier, in 1638.