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The Roots of Scottish Baronial: Drawings for David Bryce’s Book Project, 1827–36

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 November 2023

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This article re-evaluates an unfinished book project by the celebrated Edinburgh architect David Bryce (1803–76). It demonstrates that a group of drawings in the British Architectural Library hitherto attributed to Bryce’s employer William Burn (1789–1870) was in fact the work of the young Bryce, who executed them between 1827 and 1831. This corpus emerges as the first stage of Bryce’s book project, of which only one volume, ‘Sketches of Scotch and Old English Ornament’ (c. 1831–36), was compiled but not published. Bryce’s initiative, in turn, emerges as the preparatory effort for one of Victorian Scotland’s great sourcebooks, The Baronial and Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Scotland (1845–52) by Robert William Billings. In itself, Bryce’s unpublished work represents a notably early engagement with the architecture of early modern Scotland; in its relation to the work of Billings, it played an appreciable role in the revival of Scotland’s national architecture.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licence (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is unaltered and is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial reuse or in order to create a derivative work.
© The Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, 2023