Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries Special Collections

Exhibition Themes > Art & Architecture > 59. Thomas Wright

59.  Thomas Wright (1711-1786).  Various & Valuable Sketches and Designs of Buildings. Album of ca. 175 drawings mounted on ca. 64 full leaves and numerous partial leaves, ink, pencil, and wash on paper, (30 x 25.5 cm.) Avery Library, Classics Collection

Thomas Wright is best known as an astronomer, but he was also active as a landscape gardener and architect. His Universal Architecture (1755) in two parts (Arbours and Grottos) is a beautiful printed book of true rarity. This manuscript volume, however, is even rarer, being, of course, unique, and one of just two surviving that document Wright's designs beyond his published work.

For thirty years, Wright was employed by the 4th Duke and Duchess of Beaufort at Badminton, where he filled their grounds with follies, grottoes, and garden buildings, in the rustic, gothic, and Palladian styles. He also designed country houses, pavilions, and gatehouses for other wealthy patrons. Some drawings in the Avery volume have been identified as specific built projects for Badminton and elsewhere; others are still unassigned. An identified and wholly fantastic design is this garden barge with Chinese-style pagoda for Frederick, Prince of Wales, intended to travel the Thames.

The Avery Wright manuscript was previously owned by Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872), the greatest of all manuscript collectors (he owned over 100,000). Its front endpaper is inscribed: "Phillipps MS / 13448* / and / 13451 / (vol 1)." Phillipps manuscripts were dispersed in a series of sales, this one at London, in 1898.

Purchase, 1967

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