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Parentalia: Or, Memoirs Of The Family of the Wrens; Viz. Of Mathew Bishop of Ely, Christopher Dean of Windsor, &c. But Chiefly Of Sir Christopher Wren, Late Surveyor-General of the Royal Buildings, President of the Royal Society, &c. &c. In which is contained, besides his Works, A great Number of Original Papers and Records; On Religion, Politicks, Anatomy, Mathematicks, Architecture, Antiquities; and most Branches of Polite Literature. Compiled, by his Son Christopher; Now published by his Grandson, Stephen Wren, Esq; With the Care of Joseph Ames, F.R.S. and Secretary to the Society of Antiquaries, London.

Christopher Wren

RA Collection: Book

Record number




London:: Printed for T. Osborn, in Gray's-Inn; and R. Dodsley, in Pall-Mall., MDCCL.

Physical Description

[2], xii, [4], 120, 125-159, [1], 181-368, [4] p., [12]pl. (incl. frontis., dedic.): illus.; 363 mm. (Folio).


[Frontis. (port.), t.p., engr. dedic.] - A List Of The Subscribers To Parentalia - The Editor's Preface [by Ste: Wren] - Introduction - Contents - The Life Of Matthew Wren, D.D. Lord Bishop of Ely [with port.] - The Life Of Christopher Wren, D.D. Dean of Windsor [with port.] - The Life Of Sir Christopher Wren, Knt. [with port. and four pl.] - Appendix. Of Architecture; and Observations on Antique Temples, &c. [with three pl.] - An Alphabetical Index Of Names mention'd in the Book - Directions to the Bookbinder [listing pl. I-XII].

Responsibility Note

Most plates are unsigned by a draughtsman, but plates 8, 9, 11 and 12 are signed as drawn by H. Flitcroft. All are signed by their engravers - I. Faber, E. Thorowgood, G. van der Gucht, J. Mynde - including, probably, plate [5], which is inscribed, 'Engraved from a bust by S. Coignand'. The in-text illustration on p. 364 is signed as engraved by J. Mynde. The tailpiece on p. 368 is signed as engraved by J. Pine; other headpieces, tailpieces and decorative initials are unsigned.

RIBA's Early printed books states that the manuscript of the work assigns parts to the printers Hart (i.e. John Hart?) and Woodfall (i.e. Henry Woodfall); and that the ornaments used suggest the printer William Bowyer (1699-1777).

The compilation is dedicated by Ste: Wren to Arthur Onslow, Speaker of the House of Commons (and a well-known book-collector).


RIBA, Early printed books, 4 (2001), 3718; National Gallery (Washington), Mark J. Millard Architectural, II (1998), 97; E. Harris and N. Savage, British Architectural Books (1990), 949.
ESTC, T145737

Summary Note

Although the title-page and frontispiece are dated 1750, the book was possibly issued in January 1751 (see The General Advertiser, 15 January 1751; The Gentleman's Magazine, January 1751).

The biographies of Sir Christopher Wren and two earlier members of the Wren family are followed by four short tracts by Sir Christopher on the aesthetics and origins of architecture, and by notes on the temple of Diana at Ephesus and on the 'temple of peace' (i.e. basilica of Constantine) and temple of Mars Ultor at Rome.

The plates comprise: I. (frontispiece) portrait of Christopher Wren, son of Sir Christopher; II. dedication-plate; III. portrait of Bishop Matthew Wren; IV. portrait of Dean Christopher Wren; V. portrait of Sir Christopher Wren; VI, VII. mathematical schemes; VIII, IX. rafters and roof of the Sheldonian theatre; X. architectonic figures; XI, XII. plan, elevation &c. of the temple of Diana at Ephesus.

Only forty-six names are given in the List Of The Subscribers; and Stephen Wren is known to have given away fifty copies of the book to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge in 1751.


A microfilm was made in 1993 (British Library) (Neg. PB.Mic.34874). A facsimile of the RIBA's copy was published in 1965 (Gregg International).


Acquired between 1769 and 1802. Recorded in RAA Library, Catalogue, 1802.

Copy Note

Inscribed in ink on a front endpaper in an unknown hand, '2-15-0'.

Binding Note

18th-century calf; rebacked in 20th century, green morocco spine-label lettered 'Wren's Parentalia'.

Name as Subject


Architects - Architecture, British - Great Britain - Portraits - History - 17th century - 18th century
Biography - Great Britain - 18th century
Pictorial works - Great Britain - 18th century


Robert Dodsley, publisher
Thomas Osborne, publisher
Stephen Wren, editor
Joseph Ames, editor
Henry Flitcroft, draughtsman
Gerard van der Gucht, engraver
James Mynde, engraver
John Faber the younger, engraver
Edward Thorowgood, engraver
John Pine, engraver
S. Coignand
Sir Christopher Wren, compiler
Arthur Onslow, dedicatee