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Friday, March 28, 2014

British Architect--Vitruvius Britannicus

I have an inordinately huge interest in England's stately homes. I have studied them (both those open to the public and those which have been demolished) for many years. In my studies I  frequently ran across Vitruvius Bratannicus, (the British Architect) published first in 1715 by Scottish architect Colen Campbell (1676-1729). It was something I longed to see in a great library, like the British Library. 

Unbeknownst to me until recently, this volume has now been published in an oversized paperback by Dover Publications, which has reproduced it exactly as it appeared originally. The list price is $24.95, but my new copy was cheaper.  

The Newest Addition to Cheryl Bolen's Collection of Books on British Homes

The book features 100 fine plates depicting some of Britain's finest stately homes as well as some public buildings. The plates not only show the elevation of these buildings, but also many floor plans. Some contain renderings of the layout of the formal gardens, too. 

Campbell was a disciple of Italian architect Andrea Palladio, founder of Palladian architecture movement, which began to sweep the British Isles in the 17th century. Campbell's book is also full of praise for British Architect Inigo Jones (1573-1652), citing Jones' Banqueting House (depicted in this volume) constructed in 1515 at Whitehall as "without dispute, the first room in the world." Not surprising, Jones was also a Palladian disciple. 
Many ducal seats are represented in Campbell's book, including ones for the Dukes of Argyle, Buckingham, Devonshire, Marlborough, Powis, and Queensbury. 

An interesting facet of the work is the list of subscribers, which was a common practice in Georgian publishing. The subscription list here is a veritable Who's Who of early Georgian times. Nearly every aristocratic family of the era is represented among the 300-plus names listed here. 

If I have a complaint about this invaluable resource it is that the manner in which Campbell presented the material is not user friendly. He gives all the property descriptions and dates completed at the very front of the book along with all the other descriptions--not connected to the relevant plates. Therefore, the reader must flip back and forth to read about the property. Another irritation is that there is no pagination or index, making searches difficult.

I am still delighted to add it to my collection of books on British homes.--Cheryl Bolen (More Articles at


Miranda Neville said...

Thanks for the heads up, Cheryl. I studied post-Restoration English architecture at Oxford and VB was such a seminal work. I am thrilled to be able to order my own copy.

Ella Quinn - Romance Novelist said...

What a great resource, Cheryl! I tweeted and shared on FB.

Louisa Cornell said...

I have this one in my Regency Research Library and it truly is a gem. The flipping back and forth can be annoying, but as a resource it is top drawer!

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