The British Architect or, The Builder's Treasury of Stair-Cases.
Seller ID: 1379
London: the Author, 1758. Later edition (viii, 16) illustrated with upwards of one hundred designs and examples on sixty folio copper-plate engravings with letterpress commentary. Folio (40cm) in modern, decorative half calf over fine complimentary marbled paper; six raised bands, gilt titles and decorations to spine on red and green morocco labels; new endpapers; title page, Introduction, and Plate 60 provided in facsimile. The contents of this influential architectural design book are somewhat lengthily summarized in the subtitle: "Containing, I. An easier, more intelligible, and expeditious Method of drawing the FIVE ORDERS, than has hitherto been published, by a Scale of Twelve equal Parts, free from those troublesome Divisions call'd Aliquot Parts. Shewing also how to glue up their Columns and Capitals. II. Likewise STAIR-CASES (those most useful, ornamental, and necessary Parts of a Building, though never before sufficiently described in any Book, Ancient or Modern); shewing their most convenient Situation, and the Form of their Ascending in the most grand Manner: With a great Variety of curious Ornaments, whereby any Gentleman may fix on what suits him best, there being Examples of all Kinds; and necessary Directions for such Persons as are unacquainted with that Branch. III. Designs of ARCHES, DOORS, and WINDOWS. IV. A great Variety of New and Curious CHIMNEY-PIECES, in the most elegant and modern Taste. V. CORBELS, SHIELDS, and other beautiful Decorations. VI. Several useful and necessary RULES of CARPENTRY; with the Manner of TRUSS'D ROOFS, and the Nature of a splayed circular SOFFIT, both in a streight and circular Wall, never published before. Together with Raking Cornices, Groins, and Angle Brackets, described." The influence of this one book by Abraham Swan (1720- 1765) on colonial and post- revolutionary architecture in America is suggested by the fact that it was the first book of its kind published in North America, having been reprinted by Bell in Philadelphia (1775). But by that time Swan's British Architect already had been available in at least two editions (1745 and 1758), and colonial builders had been busily reproducing and adapting Swan's patterns for nearly thirty years, as their ambitious clients sought to transplant British design to their new circumstances. In New England, Swan's pattern book (It comes with sets of measurements and detailed proportions) shared its popularity with Langley's Builder's Jewel (1741). Swan's chimney-piece designs are to be found, line by line, in the 'mahogany room' of the Lee house (1768) at Marblehead, Mass. Farther south, down along the Atlantic seaboard, William Buckland and William Sears followed Swan's patterns in the late 1750's in decorating George Mason's Gunston Hall and again, following Plate 51 verbatim, in the neo-classical chimney-pieces in the Hammond- Harwood and Brice houses in Annapolis. Mason's neighbour, a certain George Washington, also employed Sears who, following Swan's designs, produced the much praised chimney-piece in the small dining room at Mt. Vernon. Even after the Revolution had freed Americans from British tyranny, American builders of substantial houses who were looking for authentic Georgian designs sought out Swan's work, as witness the ethereal flying staircase and decorative woodwork in the McLennan House in Portland, Maine (1801). Generally speaking, the elements of neo-classical decoration found in the principal houses of colonial America, from Maine to Georgia, are traceable in whole or in part to the Swan's patterns and designs found in The British Architect. (See Whiffen & Koeper, 100; Hafertepe and O'Gorman, 4; mountvernon.org; gunstonhall.org ). Moisture stains at top corner of several prelims and plates 58, 59. An especially handsome copy of Swan's influential work.
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