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Plate  James Gibbs, design for a round window, plate 110, A Book of Architecture (RIBA Library Photographs Collection)

If we were to name architects who had the greatest influence on the buildings of the English-speaking world, Palladio would undoubtedly head the list. Although it is tempting to put Sir Christopher Wren next, second place more realistically should be given to James Gibbs (–), a Roman Catholic Scot who was never part of the inner circle of the English architectural establishment of his day. Wren fashioned wonderful architecture, works treasured and praised since their completion, but he produced no books. To be a truly influential architect, it is necessary to publish. As much as the actual buildings, knowledge of architectural designs, theories, and ideas are spread through the medium of print. Palladio’s villas and churches would certainly be admired to this day, but his influence over the past four centuries would have been minimal had he not produced his Quattro Libri

34. James Gibbs, design for a round window, plate 110, A Book of Architecture (RIBA Library Photographs Collection)

impact, particularly on the architecture of Britain’s trans-Atlantic colonies, eventually to become the United States of America. In order to appreciate America’s classical tradition, it is essential to understand Gibbs’s role in it.