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image Image 1 for SM (172) 82/2/41 (173) 82/2/40 (174) 82/2/38
image Image 2 for SM (172) 82/2/41 (173) 82/2/40 (174) 82/2/38
image Image 3 for SM (172) 82/2/41 (173) 82/2/40 (174) 82/2/38
  • image Image 1 for SM (172) 82/2/41 (173) 82/2/40 (174) 82/2/38
  • image Image 2 for SM (172) 82/2/41 (173) 82/2/40 (174) 82/2/38
  • image Image 3 for SM (172) 82/2/41 (173) 82/2/40 (174) 82/2/38

Reference number

SM (172) 82/2/41 (173) 82/2/40 (174) 82/2/38


Working drawings for bookpresses, September 1833 (3)


172 Elevations of the doors of 27 bookpresses 173 Elevations of the doors of 18 bookpresses 174 Elevation of front (twice) and Plan, part Elevation and Section of Parts of the Brass Work


(172-174) to a scale of 1 inch to 1 foot and (174) details Full Size


172 No 1, New State Paper Office / Duke Street Westminster, (See Note Drawing No 2 / as to sizes), labelled: (pencil) B[oard]d Room (3 times), (pencil) Mr Lemon (7 times), Passage by Mr Lemon (3 times), Library 1 P[ai]r (15 times), One Pair Liby, Upper Liby and dimensions and quantities given, for example (pencil) 4 of these, 5 of these, 7 of these etc. 173 No 2, New State Paper / Office, Duke Street / Westminster, labelled: See parts at large / No 3, Note / The Dimensions here given as near as can at present be ascertained / but the dimensions for the Work must be taken from the Presses as fixed in the / building, (pencil) Liby 1 P[ai]r (4 times), (pencil) Upper Liby (11 times) and dimensions and quantities given, for example 3 of this size, 6 of this, 2 of this and 14 Upright Bars / 30 Cross Bars etc. 174 No 3, New State Paper Office / Duke Street Westminster, Note. It will be necessary that the whole of the horizontal bars / of the trellis work for the doors of the Presses which are connected / with each other should range accurately - likewise, the / vertical bars of those which are in two heights, These spaces to be adhered to as nearly / as possible but some trifling / adjustment will be necessary / especially in the spacing of the Vertical / bars to adapt them to the widths of the several doors and some dimensions given

Signed and dated

  • September 1833
    (172, 173) L I Fields 10 Sepr 1833 (174) Lincolns Inn Fields 10 Sepr 1833

Medium and dimensions

(172, 173) Pen, pricked for transfer on wove paper (508 x 679) (173) with two fold marks (513 x 577) (174) pen, burnt Sienna, yellow and sepia washes, pricked for transfer on wove paper with one fold mark (510 x 681)


(172-174) George Bailey (1792-1860, pupil then assistant 1806-37, curator 1837-60)


(172) J Whatman 1822


As Susan Palmer points out, Soane's bookpresses were fairly conventional in design, being made of deal and wainscot and not of fireproof materials. John Nash had proposed "that there should be no wood work whatsoever in the formation of the cases; that the shelves should slide in grooves formed in the side of the stone cases; that they as well as the doors should be formed of copper plates framed in pannels & fitted in with thinner plates perforated so that the evaporation from the paper may find a vent and the air circulate throughout the whole case" (quoted in Palmer, op. cit. below, p. 59). It was suggested by Henry Hobhouse that Soane should follow the example of the cases and presses in the new King's Library at the British Museum, built by Robert Smirke in 1823-27. Drawings 172 and 173 show in total designs for 250 doors for bookpresses with brass trellis work on the fronts. The brasswork was supplied by Richard Kepp, who had some difficulty in supplying such a quantity of metal within the estimated timescale. The new bookpresses were required to contain at least 2,500 feet of shelving with an average spacing of 16 inches between the shelves, which were also to be moveable. An additional press was required for treaties.

Literature: S. Palmer, 'Sir John Soane and the design of the new State Paper Office', Archivaria, 2005, pp. 59-63.



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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.

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