The Elements of Architecture

Sir Henry Wotton, London, 1624 (Google Books, 1651)

Lister read this work in May 1665, clearly part of his efforts to attain the virtuosic knowledge required of a gentleman.

Sir Henry Wotton was an English diplomat and courtier of James I.  In 1604, he served as ambassador to Venice, bringing back a small number of the architect Palladio’s drawings that he subsequently gave to the architect Inigo Jones.  In this manner, Wotton helped to introduce Italianate Architecture to England.

His Elements of Architecture (1624) was similarly influential.  As Susan Stewart noted, ‘Wotton briefly, and critically, reviews the texts of the Vitruvian theoretical tradition to date. He concludes that none of his predecessors have adequately articulated the precepts of ancient architecture . . . He proposes his Elements of Architecture as a remedy for this lamentable slate of affairs’. 1

Wotton certainly made Vitruvius’s text more approachable to English readers with maxims such as ‘Well building hath three conditions: firmness, commodity and delight’.  2

Wotton’s work continued to have great influence into the nineteenth century, artists such as J.M.W. Turner taking note.

  1. Susan Stewart, ‘Architecture Reviewing Theory:  Sir Henry Wotton’s Dialectical Articulation of the Vitruvian Tradition’, Architectural Theory Review 8, 2 (2003), 186-200, on 186.
  2. See

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