History of the Collection and Concordance

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History of the Collection and Concordance

HISTORY OF THE COLLECTION

Of the 226 sheets in the present St Paul's Collection, 36 have been added since the drawings came to light in two bound volumes in the Cathedral Library during the surveyorship of Somers Clarke (1897-1906). At that time the Collection consisted of 190 drawings and 23 engravings pasted onto 185 pages of the volumes. The pages were numbered consecutively and all the sheets were catalogued by these ‘SP’ page numbers, often with suffixes. When Kerry Downes first saw the Collection in 1956 the volumes had been broken up and the drawings mounted on cards. They were first catalogued as lists in The Wren Society vols 2 and 3 (1925–26) and were recatalogued in vol. 20 (1943) with expanded descriptions and two additional drawings acquired in 1935: a study for the dome and another for the lantern, gifted to St Paul's by the RIBA and the Friends of the National Libraries, from a sale of Sir Thomas Phillip's collections in that year, and first published in volume 13 of the Wren Society in 1936 (WRE/5/3/9 and 10).

In 1951 the Cathedral acquired 32 drawings from a sale of the Marquess of Bute's collections, through a gift from the National Art Collections Fund. This important group includes three for the Great Model (WRE/1/1-3) and designs for the dome, choir enclosure, churchyard and paving (two were wrongly linked with St Paul's; see WRE/7/4/7 and 9). See Concordance.  

Downes noted that ‘in October 1982 the Cathedral Librarian discovered in a cupboard what is probably the original paper in which the drawings came to St Paul’s library’ (Downes 1998b, p.11). This sheet is inscribed:

A Collection of Drawings / great part of which, seem to have been / made use of, at the building St Pauls / Cathedral, London -- / They were purchased for the use of that Fabrick, / by Robert Mylne Surveyor Treasurer and Paymaster thereof, in, MDCCLXVII from Mr. / White Bookseller in Fleet Street, who bought them / from Mr Strahan Printer in New Street, who in / like manner had them from the Sister and Executor / of the late Mr. Grover one of the Clerks to the / House of Commons –

Unfortunately, the sheet’s present location in the Cathedral’s collections is unknown. It records a purchase in 1767 by Robert Mylne – Surveyor from 1766 to 1811 – of a collection of drawings that had originally been bought by a ‘Mr. Grover’. Downes assumed that the roll contained all the drawings that were later bound into the two volumes. This is unlikely, as a ‘Grover’ – presumably John Grover, a clerk at the House of Commons – is known to have acquired ‘Lot 30’ from the sale of Wren’s drawings in 1749 and this comprised 82 drawings and two prints, the ‘most part’ of which were for St Pauls (‘Eighty-two Designs, and two Prints of St. Paul’s Church (most part) pasted into a Port Folio’; Geraghty 2007, p.7). 

More than 100 drawings and many engravings must already have been in the Cathedral’s office of works by 1767. There is evidence for this in a drawing dated 1752 from the office of Henry Flitcroft (Surveyor, 1746–56; see WRE/7/3/4). It post-dates the sale of Wren’s collections and is itself a copy of a Wren-office drawing of 1675 (see WRE/2/2/9).

A group of about 70 drawings bearing neatly written numbers in the top corners of the backs of the sheets in dark brown ink in an eighteenth- or early-nineteenth-century hand may be those bought by Mylne; see WRE/2/4/3 (Reverse). Seven of these sheets bear titles or inscriptions in a rightward-slanting hand that closely resembles Mylne’s; see WRE/2/3/1, WRE/3/1/4, 5 and 7, and WRE/3/2/8. 

A similar number of sheets, including all the studies for the dome and western towers, has another system of numbering on the backs: more loosely written numbers in lighter brown ink in an eighteenth-century hand; see WRE/5/1/5 reverse. This numbering probably pre-dates Mylne’s purchase. Mylne was probably responsible for pasting and binding the drawings into the two volumes soon after 1767, as none of the engravings listed with them dates later than about 1760 (see Downes 1988b, p.191).

THE PRESENT COLLECTION

In 1980 all the drawings and most of the engravings were deposited at the Guildhall Library. The drawings were conserved and remounted and the engravings were separately housed in the Guildhall collections of prints and maps. All the drawings were catalogued by Kerry Downes in Sir Christopher Wren: the Design of St Paul's Cathedral (Downes 1988b). He catalogued 220 items, including six drawings mounted in pairs (nos 114a and b, 196a and b, and 197a and b) and one drawing, separately mounted, that was originally attached to a larger sheet (no. 154 part 001). The four separate sheets in this group are now separately catalogued. See Concordance.        

Since Downes published his catalogue, two further Wren-office drawings have been added to the Collection:

  • WRE/7/1/1. A block plan of the precinct, datable c. 1696-97, which was added to the boxes of St Paul's Collection drawings in the Guildhall Library in about 1999.
  • WRE/7/2/3. A large plan of the churchyard and its underground drainage which was in the Cathedral's collections for many years before it was framed in c. 1990 and housed in the model aisle. It is now unframed in the Cathedral Archive.

In 2009 the St Paul's Collection of Wren Office drawings and associated engravings was placed on long-term deposit with London Metropolitan Archives.

CONCORDANCE

Kerry Downes catalogued 220 drawings in 1988 (D). The present catalogue (WRE) substantially reorders Downes's catalogue as a result of new reserach on the authorship, dating and purpose of the drawings. It also creates six new items by numbering all individual sheets and including the two previously unpublished drawings mentioned above. The Bute numbers are included separately. 

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