George Dance office drawings: the drawings of George Dance the Elder and George Dance the Younger
The last great addition to Sir John Soane’s collection took place on 18 November 1836, just weeks before he died on 20 January 1837. Soane’s accounts show that he paid the generous sum of £500 for the drawings collection of his late friend and former architectural master George Dance the Younger. This comprised 1,342 drawings from Dance’s own office, 277 prints and six volumes of drawings in other hands, including numerous drawings by George Dance the Elder which had survived in that corpus. The collection remains at Sir John Soane’s Museum, an invaluable record of the work and collection of George Dance the Younger, a towering figure of British architectural history.
The drawings of Dance the Elder and Dance the Younger were catalogued by Jill Lever for hard copy publication by Azimuth Editions and Sir John Soane’s Museum in 2003: Catalogue of the drawings of George Dance the Younger (1741-1825) and of George Dance the Elder (1695-1768) from the collection of Sir John Soane’s Museum. It is a significant, scholarly edition, but given its cost and low print run, it is somewhat difficult for the public to access, nor is every drawing illustrated. Now, Lever’s catalogue is being carefully digitised by Eileen Gunn for public access via the Soane Museum’s Collections Online. The catalogue will appear online, chapter by chapter, as Gunn progresses with her task.
Jill Lever (1935-2017)
After leaving school in 1952, Lever trained as a librarian in the public library in Brighton. She later worked as librarian to various architectural practices, before joining the Royal Institute of British Architects. Together with John Harris and Margaret Richardson, Lever set about the heroic task of cataloguing the RIBA drawings collection. The first volume of this catalogue appeared in 1969 and by 1984 there were 20 volumes, complete with an index. The RIBA drawings catalogues brought forgotten architectural works to the fore, enabling previously impossible research into the field of architectural history. Lever’s other published works include the Illustrated Glossary of Architecture 850-1830 (1966, with John Harris), and Architects’ Designs for Furniture (1982). In 1987 Lever became Curator of the drawings collection at the RIBA, and during her tenure she oversaw a variety of high-quality exhibitions. Following her retirement from the RIBA in 1995, Lever began working part-time on the drawings collection at Sir John Soane’s Museum, first tackling the Dance drawings collection, published in hard copy in 2003, and thereafter a portion of Soane’s own drawings for online publication.
Frances Sands, Curator of Drawings and Books, 2023