(Buckler, John Chessell)
Observations on the original architecture of Saint Mary Magdalen College, Oxford ; and on the innovations anciently or recently attempted.
London, “printed by and for John Nichols and Son … and sold by Joseph Parker, Oxford” 1823.
8vo. xi + (1) + 182pp. Contemporary quarter morocco, worn at head, foot and joints of spine, board sides. Nineteenth century book label of (Rev) C.H.Bickerton Hudson, a Magdalen College graduate and antiquary. No subsequent ownership inscription but Sir Howard Colvin’s copy.
First and only edition of a scarce book which occupies its own niche in the literature of the Gothic Revival movement in Britain. Schemes for the rebuilding and enlargement of Magdalen College, Oxford, where the older college buildings were of mediaeval date and occupied only the front part of a large area of parkland, had been under discussion for many years, and between 1790 and 1822 the President and Fellows had considered and rejected proposed designs by James Wyatt, Repton, Nash and the Chester architect Thomas Harrison. The college then appointed a younger and much less prestigious architect, Joseph Parkinson, who quickly found an excuse to demolish the north side of the college’s Cloister Quadrangle ; but any more ambitious plans by Parkinson were abruptly thwarted by wider public opinion, aroused by the architectural draughtsman John Chessell Buckler, whose father John Buckler had long been employed in the management of the college’s London estates. The Bucklers, father and son, were pioneers in the accurate recording of mediaeval buildings, and the present book, issued without an author’s name but in fact written by J.C.Buckler, successfully establishes the merits of the existing college buildings and Mr Parkinson’s lack of experience as an architect in the Gothic style, while ridiculing Wyatt’s “long sullen pile of impure Roman architecture”, and the “preposterous absurdity” and “ruinous splendour” of the designs by Repton and Nash. In his History of the Gothic Revival Charles Eastlake duly recognises that Buckler’s book did “good service at Oxford”, arguing “well and earnestly for the preservation of the old colleges, which had been sadly maltreated under the guise of improvement”. See also Colvin, Unbuilt Oxford, 1983, pp 78-104. BAL Cat 476.