Past Exhibitions

Hooked on Books: The Library of Sir John Soane, Architect, 1753-1837

An exhibition at the Weston Gallery, D.H. Lawrence Pavilion, Lakeside Arts Centre, University Park, Nottingham from 30 April to 30 August 2004

Why do people collect books? What do our books reveal about our identity, our world and the times in which we live? This exhibition will explore these questions by looking at the library of Sir J

ohn Soane (1753-1837) one of England's greatest architects and, for over sixty years, a passionate collector of books.

Since his death in 1837, Soane's library has remained intact as part of his London museum. However, the books are seldom displayed and rarely exhibited. Hooked on Books will put the jewels of Soane's library on public display for the very first time, offering a fascinating insight into the tastes, passions, and preoccupations of the architect and the age in which he lived.

For this exhibition fifty volumes have been selected from the seven thousand in Soane's diverse collection. Soane's great interests and passions will be revealed in ten different sections: Architecture and the Architect; The Origin of Architecture, Egypt, Exotic Horizons, Pompeii and Vesuvius; the Black Arts; Romantic Agony; Shakespeare; Napoleon Bonaparte and 'Master Nash, Master Nash...'.

The books on display will range from bibliographical treasures to modest guidebooks and professional manuals. Highlights will include a presentation copy of Percier and Fontaine's Palais, maisons et autres edifices modernes, 1798, from the Empress Josephine's library at Malmaison; a sumptuously bound copy of Sir William Hamilton's Campi Phlegraei. Observations on the volcanoes of the two Sicilies, 1776-79, with its dramatic coloured engravings from illustrations by Pietro Fabris; a French translation of Goethe's Faust, with lithographs by Eugène Delacroix, 1828; a copy of the 'Second Folio' of Shakespeare's plays, 1632, and two further volumes from the library of the actor David Garrick. A number of related prints, drawings and objects from Soane's collection have also been included, in order to show the way in which Soane's library and Museum are related.

Hooked on Books is curated by Sir John Soane's Museum, London, in collaboration with the Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections, University of Nottingham. The exhibition and accompanying 40-page catalogue have been generously funded by the Designation Challenge Fund.