Saltmarsh's Chapel book

Cover of John Saltmarsh's <em>King’s College Chapel: A History and Commentary</em>

Cover of John Saltmarsh's King’s College Chapel: A History and Commentary

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To mark the 500th anniversary of the completion of the stonework of King's College Chapel, as well as paying tribute to the author, King's College decided to publish a scholarly edition of John Saltmarsh's King’s College Chapel: A History and Commentary. Previously it had only been available to visitors of King's College Archive Centre, in manuscript form.

John Saltmarsh passed away in 1974, leaving a legacy which included several drafts of his unpublished magnum opus, King’s College Chapel: A History and Commentary. His roles as a historian and the College’s archivist enabled him to carry out more detailed research than would otherwise have been possible. Though not quite finished, his manuscript offers a significant new perspective on the iconic chapel of King’s College, Cambridge. In this volume, readers will find a transcript of Saltmarsh’s working copy of the manuscript, including his notes and annotation. A detailed biography prepared by the College following Saltmarsh’s death and contemporary reports on the manuscript are also presented.

The volume is in two books. The first book, the History, is an account of the building of the Chapel up to the completion of the stonework in 1515. Through detailed study of the College’s medieval accounts, Saltmarsh reconstructs the economic and social history of the building, as well as its place within King’s College and Cambridge. The second book, the Commentary, presents a detailed description of the Chapel as Saltmarsh saw it, building on the Chapel tours and public lectures for which he is fondly remembered.

This is a limited edition, with a print-run of just 500 copies. Each copy will be numbered and signed by the editors. A high quality hardback, it comprises 368 pages, including 95 plates. Most of the plates were selected by Saltmarsh.

To order a copy of John Saltmarsh's King’s College Chapel: A History and Commentary, please visit The Shop at King's.


This splendid study of one of the most important late medieval buildings in England is to be welcomed as much as a contribution to economic and social history as it is to the history of architecture, art, religion and the chapel itself. For it contains extraordinarily informative accounts of the financing of the project, the supply of raw materials and, most of all, of the employment, working conditions and wages of the hundreds of masons, carvers, carpenters, plumbers, tilers and plasterers who built it.
John Hatcher, Professor of Economic and Social History, Cambridge University

This valuable scholarly project gives life to John Saltmarsh's unfinished but extensive unpublished study of King's College Chapel. His lucid texts are a model of rigorous analysis, clearly expressed in the author's distinctive voice, which will be of great interest to architectural and social historians.
Jeremy Musson, Author and former Architectural Editor of Country Life

Slideshow overview

The following slides include a selection of plates from John Saltmarsh's King’s College Chapel: A History and Commentary, as well as a page from the manuscript. Please note that the book is a transcript of the manuscript, rather than a facsimile edition.




Peter Monteith - Assistant Archivist

Bert Vaux - Reader in Phonology and Morphology at the University of Cambridge and Fellow in Linguistics, Graduate Tutor, and Research Manager in King’s College


If you have any queries about the information in this page please contact the Archivist ( ).