Campbell, Colen (1676-1729; Scottish)
Vitruvius Britannicus, or, the British architect… (5 vols., London, 1715-71; with engravings by various artists)
Acquired 1860
State Library of Victoria [RARE SEF 720.942 C15]

Campbell’s book, originally published in three volumes (1715-25), has been called a “manifesto of English Palladianism” (Connor 1977), although it actually ranges widely, from Inigo Jones to Wren and Hawksmoor.

Lavishly produced, it comprised some 500 large-scale engravings of major buildings and projects, including Campbell’s own designs. A significant architect in his own right, he designed the main façade of Burlington House [1717], and various other buildings in London and elsewhere. Volume I commences with a plan and elevation of Wren’s St Paul’s followed by comparative images of St Peter’s, Rome, and Campbell’s own project for a grand church in London (reproduced here).

The text is in both English and French, and the scale and grandeur of a number of the plates, some of them in folded double-page format (e.g. of Greenwich Hospital, Blenheim etc.) bring to mind the spectacular engravings of the architecture designed for Louis XIV in the previous century: see e.g. Marot (J.) Plans and elevations of the Louvre 1676/78 {1879} NGV [PR].

Volumes 4 and 5 of the present book, by Woolfe and Gandon, published later (1767 and 1771), extended Campbell’s original study with engravings of more recent examples.

[photo: Campbell’s design for a church in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, from RA copy (c)]


MPL 1857, xv [1860], p.20; MPL 1861, p.77 (noting 3 vols., publ.1715)

See current SLV catalogue for details (not illustrated): 5 vols., noted as containing 500 plates. There is also a modern edition, ed.P.Breman & D.Addis, New York: B.Blom, 1967-72

See also T.P.Connor, “The Making of ‘Vitruvius Britannicus’,” Architectural History 20 (1977), pp.14-30 (available online); see also AKL 16 (1997), 14-15, and (both with further details and references). For the RA copy illustrated here, see [websites accessed 10 Dec.2020]