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Printing Technology and the Role of Illustration

America's Introduction to Aesthetics


Architectural Pattern Books

Architectural Advice Books: The A.J.s

Architectural Advice Books: Other Writers

Art Instruction and Leisure Pursuit Manuals

Exposition Catalogs


Further Information

Villas and Cottages
Cover, gilt-stamped cloth, Calvert Vaux, Villas and Cottages, 1857. Gift of J. Dennis Delafield. Vaux presented this volume to Louise Livingston of Montgomery Place.
Architectural Advice Books: Other Writers

Calvert Vaux, an English architect recruited by A. J. Downing as a junior partner, ranked Downing's obvious successor. Through Villas and Cottages, Vaux exhibited an amazing familiarity with the tangled issues of home design and cultural identity that consumed some Americans. Unlike Downing, who often published designs by a variety of working architects, the plans Vaux chose for Villas and Cottages were his own. Vaux is best known for his partnership with Frederick Law Olmsted in the creation of Central Park, but the content of Villas and Cottages accords him lasting status as an architectural and social critic.

Samuel Sloan’s The Model Architect (1852), a cross between a pattern book and a “positioning piece” for this successful working architect, contains full-page lithographs. Some of these illustrations were printed in multiple colors, a highly unusual feature at the time. Fifteen years later, Sloan produced the more modest but also important Homestead Architecture (1866). The title refers to the potent symbol of the “old family place,” the homestead, an unerring moral compass throughout life. Gervase Wheeler and other architectural writers also drew upon this particularly American emblem of pride and sentiment.

Grapery, chromolithograph, Samuel Sloan, The Model Architect, 1852.
Wheeler, like Downing, Vaux, and Sloan, catered to a financially comfortable clientele. The English-born, Connecticut-based architect added to the body of architectural literature through Rural Homes; or Sketches of Houses Suited to American Country Life with Original Plans, Designs, &c. (1851) and Homes of the People, in Suburb and Country (1855). He addressed subjects ranging from art and architectural theory to the “nuts and bolts,” literally, of interior design--door knobs, locks, and coat hooks!

Some advice givers addressed less wealthy readers who dreamed of building their own homes. Typical of them is Charles Dwyer, who authored The Economic Cottage Builder; Or, Cottages for Men of Small Means (1856). Likewise, John W. Ritch unflinchingly categorized his offerings in the subtitle of his work, The American Architect, as “Original Designs of Cheap Country and Village Residences.” These books helped Americans, no matter what level their income, to incorporate good design into their homes.

Encaustic Tiles: Praised by Sloan,
Installed at Sunnyside

The Economic Cottage Builder
Title page, lithograph, Charles P. Dwyer, The Economic Cottage Builder, 1856.
The dwellings depicted in this volume were imaginative yet inexpensive.
Architectural Advice Books for All