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Austin, Henry

Thoughts on the abuses of the present system of competition in architecture; with an outline of a plan for their remedy.

London, J.Weale 1841.

Reference: 14548
Price: £395 [convert currency]

Full Description

8vo. 28pp. Recent marbled boards.

A scarce pamphlet, written in the form of a letter to Earl De Grey, the RIBA’s first president, arguing that the Royal Institute of British Architects should take over the management of all open competitions for new buildings. The name of its author, Henry Austin, does not appear on the pamphlet’s title leaf, but is printed at the end of the letter. Strangely enough, as Julia Elton kindly pointed out to us in relation to our previous copy of this title, Austin (c.1812-1861), a practising civil engineer with a social conscience and a specialist interest in sanitary reform, turns out to have been a close friend of the novelist Charles Dickens and to have married Dickens’s sister Letitia in 1837. Still more remarkably, the relevant volume of the OUP edition of Dickens’s correspondence includes a very characteristic letter from Dickens to Austin, dated 17 April 1841, now in the Pierpont Morgan Library, in which Dickens congratulates Austin on the present pamphlet – “extremely well got up, and looks capital” – and provides Austin with a list of dignitaries to whom Austin should send it, beginning with the President of the Royal Academy and ending with “His Majesty the King of the Cannibal Islands, Cannibal Islands, World”! Although this pamphlet is usually cited in histories of the British architectural profession, actual copies of it are hard to locate and this is only the second copy that we have ourselves handled.