The SAHGB celebrated the tercentenary of Colen Campbell’s Vitruvius Britannicus with a symposium at the Royal Academy on 16 May.
The AA Library holds several editions of this work, its complete title, Vitruvius Britannicus, or, The British architect: containing the plans, elevations, and sections of the regular buildings, both publick and private, in Great Britain … by Colen Campbell, published in London between 1715-1731.
The book has been described as ‘arguably the most influential and original British architectural book ever published’. The first volume was very successful due to the combination of royal and noble patronage, the help of architects themselves, the work’s status as an expression of nationalistic pride, and the novelty and purity of the images. The publisher also made the decision to include only plan and elevations, making it seem more scientific (although picturesque views and gardens plans appeared in the third volume published in 1725). The books contain a selection of buildings from a variety of sources although Volume one is dominated by Inigo Jones, Vanbrugh and Campbell.
Two volumes of the work (volume two, 1717, and volume three, 1725) in the AA Library with an unknown provenance has the 18th century signature of Michael Newton (later Sir Michael Newton Bt., c.1695-1743) on the title page. He was one of the 600 or so subscribers of the publication. He lived at No. 30 Old Burlington Street (now demolished) from 1725 when the third volume of Vitruvius was published, the street front designed by Lord Burlington (and next door to Burlington’s General Wade’s house). Described as a man of taste, Newton had been to Italy on the Grand tour as a young man from 1711-13. He was responsible for decorating the interior of the house and lived there until his death in 1743. In 1734 he came into possession of Culverthorpe Hall, Lincolnshire and began its redecoration influenced by Kent’s work at Holkham as he was uncle, friend and mentor to the Earl of Leicester, Holkham’s owner.