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An Investigation Of The Principles Of Athenian Architecture, Or The Results Of A Recent Survey Conducted Chiefly With Reference To The Optical Refinements Exhibited In The Construction Of The Ancient Buildings At Athens, By Francis Cranmer Penrose, Archt. M.A., Etc. Illustrated By Numerous Engravings. Published By The Society Of Dilettanti.

Francis Cranmer Penrose

RA Collection: Book

Record number




London:: Printed By W. Nicol, Shakspeare Press, Pall Mall. Longman and Co., Paternoster Row, And John Murray, Albemarle Street., MDCCCLI.

Physical Description

x, 101, [1] p., frontis., 41 pl. (one dble.): [12] illus.; 539 mm. (Folio.)

General Note

Plates 27-32 are bound in in reverse order and upside-down.


[Frontis., t.p.] - Society Of Dilettanti. An. Soc. CXVIII ... A.D. MDCCCLI - Contents; Corrigenda - Introduction - The Author's Preface - [Text] - Glossary - Index - [Plates].

Responsibility Note

The frontispiece and most plates are signed as drawn by F.C. Penrose and engraved by James Carter. But two are signed as 'directed' by Penrose simply (pl. 1, 23); one is signed as drawn by G. Knowles and engraved by J. Carter (pl. 3); nine are signed as drawn by T.J. Willson and engraved by Carter (pl. 24-32); one as engraved by both Penrose and Willson and engraved by Carter (pl. 34).

A few carry the publisher's imprint of Longman and Co. and the date of 1851 (frontis. and pl. 2-4, 17, 28-30, 39).

Several in-text illustrations are signed as drawn by F.C.P and engraved by P.H. Delamotte.


C. Plante, Francis Cranmer Penrose, 1817-1903 [dissertation, Univy. Cambridge] (1987).

On ancient Athenian optical refinement see C. Zambas, Hoi ekleptynseis ton kionon tou Parthenonos (2002); L. Haselberger, ed., Appearance and essence: refinements of classical architecture: curvature (1999); R.A. Tomlinson, Greek and Roman architecture (1995).

Summary Note

Penrose was at Athens in 1845 and again in 1846-7 with Thomas Willson, on a commission from the Society of Dilettanti to test the theories of John Pennethorne published in 1844 as The elements and mathematical principles of the Greek architects. This expedition led to the publication of Penrose's Anomalies in the construction of the Parthenon (1847) and the present An investigation of the principles of Athenian architecture (1851) - both of which confirmed Pennethorne's theories, that the apparently straight lines of Athenian architecture of the fifth century B.C. are often inclined or curved. This was a fact of which hints had been found in the writings of Vitruvius, Aristotle and Plato.

The plates and the text describe details of the construction and measurement of ancient Athenian buildings - chiefly of the Parthenon (designed and built by Ictinus and Callicrates) and the Propylaea of the Acropolis (designed by Mnesicles), but also of the Hephaesteum ('Theseum') and the temple of Zeus Olympius. Chapters 8 and 9 discuss the polychromy of the Parthenon and Propylaea.

The first plate and plates 23-26 (relating to polychromy) are printed in colour.

Binding Note

19th-century half black morocco, green papered boards; black morocco spine-label lettered 'Principles Of Athenian Architecture - Penrose', spine lettered 'R.A.' and '1851'.

Name as Subject


Architecture, Greek - Optical correction - Polychromy - Temples - Public Buildings - Greece - Athens - Parthenon - History - 5th century B.C.
British - Greece - Athens - Expeditions - Archaeology - 19th century
Art history - Great Britain - 19th century
Pictorial works - Great Britain - 19th century


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