The First and Chief Grovndes of Architectvre is the first book in English
on architecture and of excessive rarity, even in an imperfect copy such as Avery
Library's, one of only two copies held outside the British Isles. Shute was a
painter-stainer and does not seem to have worked as an architect, although he
identifies himself as such. He had visited Rome and includes his own accounts of
ancient buildings there, although his text in the main is indebted to Vitruvius,
Philandrier, and Serlio, being largely a manual on the five orders.
The book's four engraved plates are less accomplished than contemporaneous
Continental work. The larger woodcut illustration of the Composite order has,
perhaps, greater charm and is the one original plate surviving in the Avery
copy. Shute's book was influential in establishing English architectural
terminology. One of the earliest English textbooks, it appears to have been
popular, going through three further editions in the sixteenth century. These
editions are even scarcer than the first, with no copies traced for two of them.
According to library lore, the first edition was serendipitously acquired for
Columbia when an Avery librarian walked into a London bookshop and asked if they
had any Shute.