The history of the building of the Gothic Revival library and adjoining lobby and staircase in Stowe House, Buckinghamshire, from 1805 to 1807 by John Soane is discussed in detail following a sequence established by the drawings for the commission and corroborated by letters, accounts, and office records in manuscript. These documents, for the most part preserved in the Sir John Soane Museum, London, have not previously been examined or published in detail in connection with the building, and they allow a very close demonstration of the working of the Soane office. The importance of the Stowe library in Soane's oeuvre is suggested by reference to his earlier and his later works. Though he is generally considered to have been unhappy or unfortunate in his Gothic Revival work, it is argued here that this commission allowed free rein to the expression of his artistic personality and is a notable example of successful historicism. It is further argued that in its close fidelity to the historical model chosen, the Chapel of King Henry VII in Westminster Abbey, the Stowe library represents the culmination of a trend in architectural design that originated with Horace Walpole and was of the first importance to the pioneers of the Gothic Revival, especially of Soane's early patron and friend, Thomas Pitt, Lord Camelford, who had designed the house at Stowe. This commission deserves far greater attention, therefore, than it has received hitherto in the literature of the Gothic Revival. Finally, the iconographical justification of the choice of style and the appropriateness of the model selected by Soane and the Marquis of Buckingham is established by reference to the publications of the antiquary Thomas Astle, whose manuscript collection was to be housed in the new library.

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