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Finished drawings for the library, 1764, unexecuted (2)


In 1764 Lord Mansfield decided to balance Bute's orangery wing to the south-west of the house with a new library wing on the south-east. This library was to serve a dual purpose, also being the principal reception room of the house.

James Adam made these unexecuted designs for Mansfield's library in the year following his return from the Grand Tour. These are his first known designs after his return, and were intended to launch his career as an architect, and as his brother Robert's partner.

It is important to note that the scale of the two designs is different, Adam volume 11/110 shows a square ceiling, and Adam volume 11/111 shows a rectangular ceiling, but both are for the library, and follow the same design. It would appear that at this stage of James Adam's design the geometry of the new library wing was undecided. Both ceilings include rectangular panels showing Roman judgement scenes, presumably in reference to Mansfield's profession.

In the end Mansfield's library was executed to designs by Robert Adam (Adam volumes 11/112-113, 14/113-115, 22/234), and although his designs composed a more attractive, cohesive, and successful room than James's would have done, it is worth noting that the variant designs are not entirely dissimilar to one another.



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).  

Contents of Finished drawings for the library, 1764, unexecuted (2)