Before Vitruvius Britannicus: Rethinking the Origins of the British Architectural Plate Book | Dr James Legard (University of Edinburgh)


  • 5.15pm

  • Minto House, Room 4.18
    20-22 Chambers Street
    Edinburgh
    EH1 1JZ

Led by Dr James Legard (University of Edinburgh)

The publication in 1715 of Vitruvius Britannicus has long been recognised as a watershed in British architectural history. Not only was it the first ‘plate book’ to depict contemporary British buildings using technical, rather than topographical, methods of representation, but it has also traditionally been regarded as the first sign of the imminent change from ‘Baroque’ to ‘Palladian’ as the dominant stylistic idiom.

What appears to have escaped notice, however, is that had an ambitious, though apparently unfinished, predecessor. Conceived in the years before 1710 by the leading Baroque architects, John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor, The Description of the Palace of Blenheim was to be a collection of superbly executed plans and elevation of their most important commission. This paper will reconstruct the history of this extraordinary publishing endeavour before going onto to consider its remarkable implications for our understanding of the origins and stylistic agenda of its better-known successor.

Part of the 2017-18 Architectural History and Theory Seminar Series. The seminars are free and everyone is welcome.