Browsing John Drayton’s Library: Architecture Books

John Drayton Library

This listing from Charles Drayton’s journal is likely an inventory of his father John Drayton’s library.

An individual’s personal library has the potential to reveal significant information about their character, interests, worldview, and education. Such is certainly the case at Drayton Hall where research has identified what is likely a list of the titles that once graced the bookshelves of John Drayton (c.1715-1779), the builder of Drayton Hall. Written by son Charles Drayton (1743-1820), such a list contains more than 440 titles published before or during John Drayton’s lifetime, indicating his intellectual pursuits and attention to the ideals of the enlightenment.

Not surprisingly, the list of titles includes nine architectural pattern books that were undoubtedly utilized to construct Drayton Hall and written by English neopalladian designers including Colin Campbell, James Gibbs, Isaac Ware, William Salmon, William Halfpenny, John Evelyn, and Batty Langley. Additional areas of interest include natural history, astronomy, landscape design, horticulture, dance, and even gastronomy. As research continues to investigate the titles of Drayton’s library, we anticipate that an increased understanding will be brought to Drayton, his educational opportunities, and academic pursuits.

This month, we are sharing our latest research on John Drayton’s library with a series of posts featuring some of the volumes he would have owned and read.


Architecture Books


  Plate 91, A Book of Architecture, by James Gibbs, published in 1728. This mantel and overmantel appear in the northwest chamber on the first floor of Drayton Hall.

Plate 91, A Book of Architecture, by James Gibbs, published in 1728. This mantel and overmantel appear in the northwest chamber on the first floor of Drayton Hall.

Given that Drayton Hall is widely considered to be the earliest and finest example of Palladian architecture in the United States, one might expect the design of such a remarkable edifice to be attributed to a famous architect. However, research indicates that the architect of Drayton Hall was very likely John Drayton (d. 1779) himself. Several popular 18th century architecture books are listed among the volumes that likely comprised the personal library of John Drayton. Such books were often consulted by wealthy intellectuals who wished to direct the construction of their estates. Among the architectural elements in Drayton Hall that are clearly attributable to these books are two classically-inspired overmantels that appear in William Kent’s, Designs of Inigo Jones, and James Gibbs’ A Book of Architecture. Considering the extravagant cost of acquiring such volumes and the education necessary to utilize them, the architectural books in John Drayton’s library offer valuable insight into his wealth and intellect.

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