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Soane's use of his sketch/notebooks, 1778-80


Soane kept a sketchbook and a notebook going at the same time, but used them inconsistently so that notebooks have sketches and vice versa. Of the sketch/notebooks, one (SM volume 39) was used from beginning to end, while the other two were used from both ends and the middles left blank. All three are bound in vellum and were bought in Italy. Measuring roughly 6 by 4 or 7 by 5 inches, they easily slipped into a pocket. The medium is pen and pencil, the latter sometimes illegible, but it would have been easier to use a pencil when travelling than a pen, and in some cases Soane later went over the pencil in ink. The drawings are freehand (described as 'rough'), that is, drawn without straight edge or compasses and not to scale. These drawings record antique Roman buildings, such as the Colosseum or the newly excavated buildings at Pompeii as well as contemporary buildings such as the San Carlo theatre in Naples. There are also some designs, including that for the dining room at Downhill, Co. Derry. The written parts of the sketch/notebooks include lists of Italian words and phrases and translation exercises, a list of English ships sailing from Spithead in July 1778 at the start of the war with France, and a list of books in Soane's library (added in about 1782). Journal entries are a combination of practical lists: of laundry, purchases, letters to be written, things to take and things to do, as well as observations on buildings, agriculture, vulcanology and geology.



Digitisation of the Drawings Collection has been made possible through the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation

If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: drawings@soane.org.uk

Sir John Soane's collection includes some 30,000 architectural, design and topographical drawings which is a very important resource for scholars worldwide. His was the first architect’s collection to attempt to preserve the best in design for the architectural profession in the future, and it did so by assembling as exemplars surviving drawings by great Renaissance masters and by the leading architects in Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries and his near contemporaries such as Sir William Chambers, Robert Adam and George Dance the Younger. These drawings sit side by side with 9,000 drawings in Soane’s own hand or those of the pupils in his office, covering his early work as a student, his time in Italy and the drawings produced in the course of his architectural practice from 1780 until the 1830s.

Browse (via the vertical menu to the left) and search results for Drawings include a mixture of Concise catalogue records – drawn from an outline list of the collection – and fuller records where drawings have been catalogued in more detail (an ongoing process).