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American Architects and Their Books, 1840-1915

edited by Kenneth Hafertepe and James F. O'Gorman

Publication Year: 2007

Since the Renaissance, architects have been authors and architecture has been the subject of publications. Architectural forms and theories are spread not just by buildings, but by the distribution of images and descriptions fed through the printing press. The study of an architect's library is an essential avenue to understanding that architect's intentions and judging his or her achievements. In this well-illustrated volume, a chronological sequel to American Architects and Their Books to 1848, twelve distinguished historians of architecture discuss from various points of view the books that inspired architects both famous and not-so-famous, and the books the architects themselves produced. They examine the multifaceted relationship of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century architects to print culture—the literary works that architects collected, used, argued over, wrote, illustrated, designed, printed, were inspired by, cribbed from, educated clients with, advertised their services through, designed libraries for, or just plain enjoyed. The result is a volume that presents the intersection of the history of architecture, the history of ideas, and the history of the book. Changes in print culture during this period had a significant impact on the architectural profession, as revealed in these well-informed scholarly essays. In addition to the editors, contributors include Jhennifer A. Amundson, Edward R. Bosley, Ted Cavanagh, Elspeth Cowell, Elaine Harrington, Michael J. Lewis, Anne E. Mallek, Daniel D. Reiff, Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr., and Chris Szczesny-Adams. Among the architects discussed are A. J. Downing, Charles Sumner Greene, James Sims, Samuel Sloan, John Calvin Stevens, Thomas U. Walter, and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xv

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Introduction: Architects and Their Books, 1840–1915

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pp. xvii-xxvi

“ ‘What is the use of a book,’ thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversations?’ ” Lewis Carroll surely hadn’t architects in mind when he wrote that memorable line; nonetheless, Alice’s question can overarch the following studies. Pictures in architectural books and the conversations such books include or engender are two of the most important ingredients of the genre, the one illustrating content, the other directing...

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Chapter I. Downing’s Readings—and Readings of Downing

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pp. 1-30

A. J. Downing was one of the most influential American architectural writers of the nineteenth century, setting the pattern, so to speak, for a generation or more of books aimed at American builders and their potential clients. Though many have hailed him as an arbiter of American taste and as a prophet with honor, others have castigated him as an elitist masquerading as a man of the people. Such assessments...

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Chapter II. Oliver Smith, Housewright and Itinerant Architect

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pp. 31-62

Historians of architectural practice emphasize two paths to becoming an architect in the United States of the nineteenth century: the “English” method of apprenticeship, and the “French” method of education.1 There was a third source—the indigenous carpenter-builders. Without exaggeration, they made up the majority of the besttrained architects in the Antebellum...

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Chapter III. “Vast Avenues to Knowledge”: Thomas Ustick Walter’s Books

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pp. 63-94

Early in his career Thomas Ustick Walter ( figure 3.1) acquired a self-described “strong disposition to indulge in books” that lasted through the fluctuations of his frequently successful, and occasionally tragic, life (1804–87).1 The expansion and contraction of his library across his six-decade career indicates the ebb and flow of his professional fortunes as clearly as any office ledger could. Even as its size changed,...

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Chapter IV. Samuel Sloan, Pattern Books, and the Question of Professional Identity

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pp. 95-128

In the preface to his first book, The Model Architect (1852–53), Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan observed, referring to contemporary pattern books, that “a great number of handsomely engraved designs on fine paper have been presented to the public, threatening annihilation to the architect’s bill.” Sloan’s book, rather than contributing to this “annihilation,” would be “a ‘matter of fact’ business like book on...

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Chapter V. “At the Core of His Career”: Enoch A. Curtis and Architectural Books

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pp. 129-147

Enoch A. Curtis (1831–1907), a little-studied regional architect who designed more than sixty buildings in western New York and northwestern Pennsylvania, epitomizes the carpenter who turned architect thanks to books. It is recorded that before and after serving in the Civil War, Curtis studied architecture from books, and in 1867 he opened an architectural office in Fredonia, New York. But to put his method...

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Chapter VI. Edward Townsend Mix: Books and the Professional Architect in Nineteenth-Century Milwaukee

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pp. 149-172

Edward Townsend Mix (1831–1890), a Milwaukee architect working 1855–90, owned a variety of architectural books that enhanced his professional practice (figure 6.1). Although not commonly recognized as a major figure in American architecture, Mix designed and built structures throughout the Midwest and played a critical role in Milwaukee’s architectural development. His designs encompassed various...

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Chapter VII. The Architectural Library of Henry A. Sims

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pp. 173-193

Two charges used to be made against Victorian architects, and both cannot be true: it was said that they copied their designs from books and that they made them up out of their heads. But if someone cannot simultaneously be a shameless copyist and a capricious fantasist, he may combine aspects of each. The peculiar mixture of bookishness and originality is perhaps the most distinctive trait of the High...

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Chapter VIII. “Either in Books or Architecture”: Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue in the Nineties

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pp. 195-213

In a letter of 28 June 1894, Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue (1869–1924) reported to the photographer-publisher F. Holland Day that he was experiencing a momentary lull in his labors, “either in books or architecture.”1 Within three years of his arrival in Boston, then, Goodhue was looking for work in two specialized fields, the two on which his fame principally rests, and the lull he then remarked was the last he...

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Chapter IX. John Calvin Stevens’s Architectural Library

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pp. 215-230

In 1997, Paul S. Stevens presented the 400-volume architectural library of his great-grandfather, John Calvin Stevens (1855–1940), to the Maine Historical Society in Portland. This impressive collection of eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and twentieth-century architectural books had been owned by three subsequent generations of architects before joining the historical society’s Stevens collection of drawings...

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Chapter X. Books and Libraries in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Oak Park Days

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pp. 231-256

Before Frank Lloyd Wright devoted his long life to architecture, he had discovered books and reading. They were central themes throughout his career. Since his death in 1959, Wright’s legacy remains an American cultural heritage of buildings and a wealth of books about that architecture. Indeed, books about Wright are a growth industry for scholarly and popular historians, inspiring several...

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Chapter XI. Wright and Melville’s Chimney

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pp. 257-263

As is well known, between 1889 and 1909, Frank Lloyd Wright developed a suburban, middle-class domestic building type known as the Prairie House.1 Simply described, this was a hearth-centered, frequently cruciform or quasi-cruciform plan realized in three dimensions as a broad masonry core from which low, floating, horizontal roofs covering the arms of the house radiated out into a typically wooded surrounding...

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Chapter XII. Exotic and Aesthetic: The Library of Charles Sumner Greene

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pp. 265-288

As principal designer in the southern California firm of Greene & Greene (1894–1922), Charles Sumner Greene (1868–1957), with his younger brother Henry Mather Greene (1870–1954), created compelling works of domestic architecture and decorative arts that today define a rarified niche within the American Arts and Crafts movement. During the first decade of the twentieth century the firm rose from...


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pp. 289-291


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pp. 293-303

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781613761038
E-ISBN-10: 1613761031
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558496026
Print-ISBN-10: 1558496025

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2007

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Architects -- Books and reading -- United States.
  • Architectural writing -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Architectural writing -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
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