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image SM 37/4/4

Reference number

SM 37/4/4


[8] Design for the interior of the Cottonian Library


Longitudinal section, looking west


bar scale of 1/12 inch to 1 foot


205, 68, 16, 28, (later hand) No 4

Signed and dated

  • 1733

Medium and dimensions

Pen and sepia (brown) wash on laid paper, bound in volume (320 x 486)


Stephen Wright - 1780)
Dimensions in Kent's hand.


This drawing and drawing [9] are the only surviving designs for the interior of the Cottonian Library. The library has a coffered barrel vault, the top of which is 68 feet high, making the room a cube. The half-domes of the two apses, themselves 30 feet high, are also coffered. The books are stored in cases within a two-storey, five-bay arcade with a balustrade, based on the architecture of Andrea Palladio's basilica at Vicenza. Two visitors browse the shelves. The arcade uses the Ionic order at the lower level with the Corinthian order above. The set is completed by the Doric columns in the vaulted room at ground level. The screens in the adjacent rooms consist of four Corinthian columns each. In the dome above the barrel vault, trusses have been added in pencil, belying the structural impossibility of such an assemblage.

(Salmon, pp. 335-37)



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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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