I used to confuse Christopher Wren with Christopher Robin. When I heard Wren I thought Robin and in my mind I would see Winnie the Pooh and his friends, only to be more confused when the context just didn’t fit. I haven’t made that mistake for quite awhile, but I have to admit that, until recently, I probably knew more about Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, & company than the famous architect of St. Paul’s Cathedral and many other notable parish churches in and around London.
My knowledge deficit has been swiftly and surprisingly remedied, however, by the wonderful gift to the library of a collection of books all having to do with the life, times, and accomplishments of Sir Christopher Wren. Wren (1632-1723) was a Renaissance figure. As professor of astronomy at Oxford, he was also skilled in mathematics and engineering. He gradually made his way to architecture. Having successfully designed buildings for several Oxford colleges, the Great London Fire of 1666 afforded him the opportunity to design 52 of the 87 London churches destroyed in the fire. Wren’s crowning achievement was the design for the rebuilding of St. Paul’s Cathedral. The Cathedral, whose 300th anniversary is fast approaching (January, 2011), was constructed over a 35-year period, “the sole English cathedral built from start to finish under the supervision of its original architect.” (Judith Dupre, Churches, 68).
On Thursday, October 29th, a number of these volumes of Wreniana will be on display as the object of the library’s annual Special Collections open house, 10:30 am-2:00 pm. Included in the showing will be several rare and unusual items, one among them being an elephant folio or “elephantine” size volume of “the dimensions, plans, elevations, and sections” of Wren’s London parish churches. You wouldn’t lose this book under the sofa cushions.
The books are a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Edward Sovik of Northfield, MN. Ed Sovik, himself an architect, had developed a strong interest in the life and work of Christopher Wren and collected these pieces throughout a distinguished career in architecture. We are extremely grateful for this exceptional gift from Ed and Anne Sovik, a delight for the eye, the mind, and the spirit.