William Lethaby, Symbolism and the Occult  book cover
1st Edition

William Lethaby, Symbolism and the Occult

ISBN 9780367405410
Published March 24, 2022 by Routledge
264 Pages 40 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This book delves into the life and work of architect William Richard Lethaby (1857–1931) and his relationship with the occult and alchemy, in particular. Using detailed analysis of Lethaby’s drawings and architecture, the research uncovers Lethaby’s familiarity with occult concepts and ideology during the spiritual revolution of the nineteenth century.

Throughout this time, countless individuals, particularly members of the avant-garde, rejected more traditional religious pathways and sought answers through experimental and mystical alternatives. William Lethaby, Symbolism and the Occult reveals how the architect was profoundly influenced by the Zeitgeist, which was saturated with references to spiritualism, mysticism and the occult, and explores the impact of occultism on his contemporaries and the wider Arts and Crafts Movement.

This book is written for upper-level students, researchers and academics interested in architectural history, William Lethaby and nineteenth century culture and society.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Foreword by Dr Nicholas Campion



Part I: Lethaby, Occultism and Symbolism: A Twenty-first-century Perspective

1. The Occult in Lethaby’s Time

2. Symbolic Theory and the Occult

Part II: Elements of the Occult in Lethaby’s work

3. Alchemical Imagery: Exoteric and Esoteric Emblems Found in Lethaby’s Work

4. Occult Magical Symbolism in A Beryl Shrine (1888)

5. Spaces of Transmutation: Lethaby’s Architecture and Comparisons with J. L. M. Lauweriks

Part III: The Occult and Lethaby’s Legacy

6. Contemporaries Influenced by Lethaby and Architecture, Mysticism and Myth 1

7. The Early Twentieth Century and Beyond: The Influence of Lethaby, the Arts and Crafts Movement, and Occult Concepts


Appendix I: Chronological summary of W. R. Lethaby’s life

Appendix II: W. R. Lethaby’s principal architectural works

Appendix III: Selected bibliography of W. R. Lethaby’s publications

Appendix IV: The modern scholarship on Lethaby




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Amandeep Kaur Mann is an architectural historian whose research focuses on the relationship between nineteenth-and twentieth-century architects and occultism. Amandeep holds a Ph.D. in Architecture from the University of Nottingham.


"William Lethaby, Symbolism and the Occult is a unique work and an important achievement. Thoroughly researched and as readable as it is significant, Mann carefully shows why Lethaby deserves considerably more scholarly attention than he has so far received. The compelling discussions of his understanding of symbolism, magic and alchemy, which have been largely overlooked, are particularly important. Hence, while most readers with an interest in art and architecture will find this book informative, lucid and engaging, anyone with a serious interest in the modern history of the occult cannot afford to ignore it."

Professor Christopher Partridge, Lancaster University, UK