We use cookies to improve your experience online. By using our website, you agree to the use of cookies as described in our cookies policy.

A Narrative Of The Building And A Description Of The Construction Of The Edystone Lighthouse With Stone: To Which Is Subjoined, An Appendix, giving some Account of the Lighthouse on the Spurn Point, Built Upon A Sand. By John Smeaton, Civil Engineer, F.R.S.

John Smeaton

RA Collection: Book

Record number




London:: Printed For The Author, By H. Hughs: Sold By G. Nicol, Bookseller To His Majesty, Pall-Mall., 1791.

Physical Description

xiv, 198 p., 23 pl.; , 532 mm. (Folio).


[T.p., dedic.] - Preface - Contents Of the several Sections; being an Epitome of the Work - Errata - Introduction - [Text] - [Plates].

Responsibility Note

All plates are signed by their engravers. The charts and maps, dated 1784-90, are signed by W. Faden (1-3, 19, 20); most others, also dated 1784-90, are signed by J. Record (6, 7, 10, 11, 13-18, 21-23). Five have earlier dates, 1761-1763, and are by Hen. Roberts (4, 5) or Edward Rooker (8, 9, 12) - of which pl. 8 has figures engraved by Sam. Wale. The title-page vignette, dated 1789, is signed as drawn by M. Dixon and engraved by A. Birrel.

Perhaps the printer 'H. Hughs' is the Henry Hughes known to have been working between 1779 and 1811.

The work is dedicated by the author to the King (George III).


RIBA, Early printed books, 4 (2001), 3059 (on 2nd ed., 1793).

John Smeaton, civil engineer, 1724-1792 [exhibition catalogue] (1992); A.W. Skempton, British civil engineering 1640-1840: a bibliography (1987); A. W. Skempton, ed., John Smeaton, FRS (1981); D.B. Hague and R. Christie, Lighthouses: their architecture, history and archaeology (1975).
ESTC, T107557

Summary Note

Here Smeaton describes how he built the Edystone lighthouse, to replace the earlier constructions of Winstanley and Rudyerd, which had been destroyed. Smeaton's invention of a suitable cement (described on pp. 102-123) has been regarded as a 'turning-point in the history of building materials'. Smeaton's lighthouse was not replaced until 1882 - when it was re-erected on Plymouth Hoe.

The book went into a second edition in 1792, and a third in 1813.


A microfilm version was published in 2006 (Woodbridge, Conn.: Primary Source Microfilm [imprint of Thomson-Gale]).


Acquired between 1791 and 1802. Recorded in RAA Library, Catalogue, 1802.

Binding Note

20th-century half green morocco, green cloth-covered boards; gilt-decorated spine, lettered 'Smeaton's Edystone Lighthouse' and 'R.A. 1791'.

Name as Subject


Edystone Lighthouse - Spurn Point Lighthouse - Lighthouses - Engineering - Aids to navigation - Cement - Stonecutting - Masonry - Techniques - Great Britain - Plymouth - English Channel - History - 18th century
Manuals - Maps - Great Britain - 18th century
Pictorial works - Great Britain - 18th century


Henry Hughs, printer
George Nicol, bookseller
George III King of Great Britain, dedicatee
William Faden, engraver
Henry Roberts, engraver
James Record, engraver
Edward Rooker, engraver
Samuel Wale RA, engraver
M. Dixon, draughtsman
Andrew Birrel, engraver
John Smeaton, publisher