Compass and Rule - Gerbino, Anthony; Johnston, Stephen; Museum of the History of Science, University of Oxford - Yale University Press

Art and Architecture

Compass and Rule

Architecture as Mathematical Practice in England 1500-1750

  • Anthony Gerbino and Stephen Johnston
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The spread of Renaissance culture in England coincided with the birth of the profession of architecture, whose practitioners soon became superior to simple builders in social standing and perceived intellectual prowess. This stimulating book, which focuses in particular on the scientist, mathematician, and architect Sir Christopher Wren, explores the extent to which this new professional identity was based on expertise in the mathematical arts and sciences.


Featuring drawings, instruments, paintings, and other examples of the material culture of English architecture, the book discusses the role of mathematics in architectural design and building technology. It begins with architectural drawing in the 16th century, moves to large-scale technical drawing under Henry VIII, considers Inigo Jones and his royal buildings and Christopher Wren and the dome of  St. Paul’s, and concludes with the architectural education of George III.  Interweaving text and visual image, the book investigates the boundaries between art and science in architecture—the most artistic of the sciences and the most scientific of the arts.


Anthony Gerbino is a senior research fellow at Worcester College, Oxford. Stephen Johnston is Assistant Keeper at the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford.


Yale Center for British Art (opens February 2010)