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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

American Cottage No. 1
American Cottage No. 1, hand-colored lithograph, Alexander Jackson Davis, Rural Residences, 1837.
Although mistaken when claiming the log house to be “peculiar to America,” Davis composed a remarkable combination Classical temple/log cabin. The fanciful structure is framed by a portico supported by tree trunks, rustic “columns” referencing both the ancient Greek roots of the column form and the wilderness of the American frontier.

“Reader, look at this picture! Study its lessons.”

So Americans were commanded when seeking guidance about architecture and design during the mid-19th century. Professional advisors used the illustrated book as a way to help Americans navigate a period of political and cultural change. For the first time, design encyclopedias, pattern books, architectural advice books, art instruction manuals, and international exposition catalogs opened the door to a world where architecture, applied art, and ideas met. Such offerings can be viewed as examples of graphic approach and style and, on a larger scale, as codifiers of applied art and domestic design. Professionals and amateurs, artists and artisans, and builders and homeowners turned to these publications to learn about both technique and aesthetics.