Sketchbook with London and Roman subjects dated (London material) 1780 and 1782 Label on front cover inscribed Miscellaneous / Sketches / 1780-82 (sic) / J. Soane (by G. Bailey, curator 1837-60) with 84 leaves of laid paper watermarked with part of fleur-de-lis within crowned cartouche and GR below (Whatman, not dated), bound in brown calf leather with brass clasp (121 x 192). The medium is pen with slight pencil except when stated otherwise and the drawings are freehand, that is ‘rough’. The leaves were (in the past) numbered as ff. recto and verso. The Roman entries start at the back and run from 84r to 71r; the London entries run from 2r to 12r.
The first entries in this London section of the sketchbook are dated November and December 1780 and show Soane at the Royal Academy, Christies auction house and Old Somerset House. Then follow non-specific designs for villas (4v-7r) including a design attributed to George Dance. A design for a gateway inscribed Peacock is a reminder that during the early days of private practice, Soane was supported by his old friends James Peacock and George Dance. Rough drawings relate to two commissions: minor works for Mrs Perry’s house in Berkeley Square, London (dated November 1782) and more substantial work for Francis Adams of Adams Place, Borough High Street, Southwark, London.There is a difficulty in establishing a date for the Italian material in this sketchbook (84r-71r). The question being whether the drawings of Roman buildings were made in Rome or on Soane’s return to London. It would seem at first glance that these must be preliminary studies made in situ for final measured drawings. And indeed, there are measured drawings (q.v.) for six of the eight buildings recorded in the sketchbook though only one is directly related to this sketchbook (78verso). However they seem too carefully drawn and neatly dimensioned to have been made on site and it is likely these are small scale re-drawings from finished measured drawings. There may be a connection with Thomas Hardwick for three of the buildings (Pantheon, Temple of the Sun, Temple of Vesta) were measured and drawn by Hardwick in association with Soane. And for three more of the buildings (Farnese gateway, Arch of Titus and Temple of Antoninus and Faustina) there are drawings and details by Hardwick in the RIBA Drawings Collection. If they were based on Hardwick’s drawings, the copying would have been done before the end of 1778, that is, before a serious falling out between the two men. A connection with Hardwick may be a red herring since there was a strong tendency for architects to measure and draw the same buildings. Soane’s three surviving Italian sketch/notebooks with their vellum covers and with the pages rubbed, compiled December 1778 to June 1780, are of Italian manufacture while the sketchbook catalogued here has fresh and un-rubbed pages and was manufactured in England. It could have been taken by Soane to Rome or bought when he returned to London.Margaret Richardson has suggested (in an unpublished lecture on 'record drawings' given at a symposium on architectural drawings for the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain in 1989) that this sketchbook is a record book that follows a similar format to those in Henry Holland's office where Soane had worked from 1772 to 1778. Examples of Holland's record books are in the Drawings Collection of the Royal Institute of British Architects (SKB 122/3-4).