Pin It

Architecture at Edward Worth Library

Just another WordPress site


Welcome to Architecture at the Worth Library

This exhibition explores the architectural material in the library collection of Edward Worth (1676-1733). Worth was an early eighteenth-century physician who set up his medical practice at Werburgh Street in Dublin following his studies in England and Holland. This web exhibition, curated by Dr. Elizabethanne Boran (Librarian of the Edward Worth Library), Mr. Tony Kelly (Architect and Trustee of the Edward Worth Library) and Mr. Antoine Mac Gaoithín (Library Assistant at the Edward Worth Library), examines Edward Worth’s collection of architectural editions in the collection. This is the eighth in a series of websites exploring the holdings of the Worth Library. The Edward Worth Library is a rare books collection, bequeathed to Dr. Steevens’ Hospital, Dublin, by Dr. Edward Worth, who was one of the Hospital’s earliest Trustees. For further details please contact our website:


Inigo Jones, The Designs of Inigo Jones Consisting of Plans and Elevations for Publick and Private Buildings. Published by William Kent with some additional designs (London, 1727), 2 vols. in 1, vol. 2, plate 18 (the plan, elevation and section of an octagonal building).

The Architectural landscape in Europe

Edward Worth lived during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, during the reigns of Charles II, James II, William of Orange and Queen Mary, Queen Anne, George I and II, in England and Louis XIV and Louis XV in France. By this time Baroque architecture was evolving from the Renaissance architectural style that flourished across Europe, itself having replaced Gothic as the preferred style for public, religious and cultural buildings. The Renaissance had its origins in Italy arising from the rebirth of interest by Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), Donato Bramante (1444-1514), Michaelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) and Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) in the style, rules and proportions governing classical Roman and Greek architecture. And while it had its origins south of the Alps it gradually spread north to other European countries.

This was the era of the ‘Grand Tour’ and the fifteenth-century development of the printing press provided a means of communicating ideas to a widely dispersed audience. And so the invention of printing exercised a considerable influence on the spread of architectural style. For Palladio the Italian translation and publication of Vitruvius’ manuscript, De Architectura, was a significant source for the development of his theory and architectural style. Palladio published his own architectural treatise, I quattro libri dell’architettura, in 1570. Books or ornament prints with engraved illustrations demonstrating plans and decoration were very important in spreading the Renaissance style across northern Europe.

The Renaissance architecture of Palladio made an impression on Inigo Jones (1575-1652). Through his travels in Italy and his exposure to Palladio’s studies of the classical design theories of antiquity, Jones developed an interest in pure Italian renaissance style. Jones’ designs, as Surveyor General to the Crown, for the Queen’s House at Greenwich in 1616 and the Banqueting House at Whitehall Palace in 1622 introduced Palladio’s Renaissance spirit to England. Worth was born 24 years after Inigo Jones’ death.

The Great Fire of London occurred in 1666 just 10 years before Worth was born and rebuilding work was underway during Worth’s lifetime. Worth’s contemporary, Christopher Wren (1632-1723), was producing Baroque designs to replace the 87 parish churches demolished by the Great Fire and St Paul’s Cathedral was completed during Worth’s lifetime, having been constructed between 1675 and 1710 when it was completed.

John Vanbrugh (1664-1726) and Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661-1736) were also contemporaries of Worth’s, producing Baroque designs for Castle Howard in Yorkshire in 1702 and Blenheim Palace which was completed in 1722.

In France, Louis XIV started his palace at Versailles in 1661 and in 1678, two years after Worth was born, the Hall of Mirrors was constructed, to a design by Jules Harduin-Mansart (1646-1708). The architect was a grandnephew of Francois Mansart (1598-1666), after whom the ‘mansard roof’ is named and who died in Paris in 1666, ten years before Worth’s birth.

In Italy the inspiration for many later Baroque churches, the Jesuit mother church of Il Gesù in Rome designed by late Renaissance architect Giacomo Vignola (1507-73), was already completed in 1575. The building is featured in the pages of Worth’s book collection. The Baroque design for the colonnades at St Peter’s Square in Rome had been completed by Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) in 1667, 9 years before Worth’s birth.

Architecture in Ireland

In 1677, the year after Worth was born, Charlesfort, a military star fortification designed by Sir William Robinson (d.1712), was built in Kinsale to protect the harbour. Another of Sir William Robinson’s buildings, the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham was completed in 1684 to a Neo-classical design when Edward Worth was 8 years old. In 1700, Thomas Burgh (1670-1730) replaced Sir William Robinson as the Surveyor General of Ireland, and commenced work on the Royal Barracks (now Collins Barracks, part of the National Museum of Ireland) from 1701 onwards. By 1706 Burgh’s design for the earlier Custom House at Essex Bridge (Capel Street Bridge) was built. In 1709 Burgh designed his country house at Oldtown, near Naas, and it is reputed to be the only building into which he introduced Palladian ideas.

In 1710 when Worth, now qualified as a doctor (Utrecht University 1701 and Trinity College 1702), was elected at 34 to the College of Physicians, the Mansion House was built by property developer Joshua Dawson (1660-1725) as his residence. Dawson Street was named after him. Five years later Dublin Corporation purchased the house from him as the official residence of the Lord Mayor.

Thomas Burgh commenced work on the design of Trinity College Library in 1711 while in 1715 he completed St. Werburgh’s Church. At 39 years of age Edward Worth lived on Werburgh Street and had his medical practice there at this time. Both men served in the Irish House of Commons, Burgh from 1713 (until 1730 for Naas) and Worth from 1715 (until 1727 for New Ross). They also served as trustees from 1717 for the proposed new hospital bequeathed to the city by Dr. Richard Steevens who died in 1710. Thomas Burgh served as a Governor of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, and in 1719 completed the design of Dr. Steevens’ Hospital.

In 1718 Castletown House, Celbridge, was designed in the Palladian style by Italian architect, Alessandro Galilei (1691-1737). He returned to Italy before work commenced and in 1725 Sir Edward Lovett Pearce (1699-1733), a cousin of Sir John Vanbrugh (1664-1726), was appointed to oversee the construction of Castletown House. Pearce was born in County Meath in 1699 and was originally one of Vanbrugh’s pupils, but rejecting the baroque, he spent three years studying architecture in France and Italy before returning in to Ireland in 1725. Castletown became a milestone in Irish architecture and Pearce became the driving force for classical Palladian architecture in Ireland.

Other Palladian designs carried out by Pearce included the new Irish Parliament Building at College Green with the foundation stone being laid in 1729, and Bellamont House in Bellamont Forest at Cootehill in Co. Cavan, for his cousins the Cootes; building work starting in 1730.

When Thomas Burgh died in 1730, Sir Edward Lovett Pearce was appointed to the role of Surveyor General of Ireland. In 1732 he was appointed a trustee of Dr. Steevens’ Hospital and would have served with Worth in that capacity. Pearce has been credited with the design of the library room in Dr. Steevens’ Hospital, but he died aged 34 in 1733 and would not have seen the design to completion.

In 1731 the building of Powerscourt House in Co. Wicklow commenced, to a design by Richard Cassels (c.1690-1751), a protégé of Pearce.

The architectural editions in Worth’s collection

Worth’s architectural collection is not extensive but as this online exhibition demonstrates, his interests included both the architecture of antiquity and the Renaissance and Palladian architectural style of his time.

Text: Mr. Tony Kelly (Trustee of the Edward Worth Library).