Books of the Trade

Valentin Biston. Nouveau manuel complet du charpentier, ou, Traité simplifié de cet art : suivi d’un petit traité de géométrie descriptive renfermant la solution des problèmes dont on fait le plus fréquemment usage / par MM. Biston et Hanus ; avec une introduction et un appendice par C. BoutereauParis: Librairie encyclopédique de Roret, 1861 (1865 printing). 

Batty and Thomas Langley. The Builder’s Jewel: or, The Youth’s Instructor and Workman’s Remembrancer. London: J. Tiranti [1928] (originally published 1741).

Today I wanted to share two well used books I found in Special Collections. The first is a handbook on carpentry written by  Valentin Biston and published in 1861.  The text includes chapters on the elements of geometry, types of trees, theories of force, construction, and tools & instruments. It concludes with an appendix to include numerous plates and a glossary.

The second is a collection of plates by Batty and Thomas Langley, originally published in 1741 but reprinted again in 1928. According to Thomas Langley, the book was intended as a pocket guide for the job site:

Notwithstanding there are many Volumes already extant, on the Subject of Architecture; yet as not one of them are made a fit size for the Pocket; and it being an Impossibility for the general Part of Workmen to retain and carry in their Minds, all the useful Rules and Proportions, by which Works in general are performed: I have therefore at the Request of many good Workmen, and for the Sake of young Students, compil’d this work; wherein I have reduced the whole of such short and easy Rules, that the Workman not only at his first view, renew his Memory, as Occasions may require, but Apprentices, who may be absolutely unacquainted with this noble Art… (Introduction)

A previous owner of this edition appears to have made well use of The Builder’s Jewel and Treasury. On front endpapers, he has pasted in his own drawing, entitled “Improved Compass Spiral Volute”. Furthermore the plates appear to have been set out of order and do not match the list in the Table of Contents. Someone has renumbered the illustration list to correspond to the order of the plates.

Little Churches of France

Albert A. Chadwick. Little Churches of France: Their Origin; Their Characteristics; Their Periods. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1930.

I was curious which churches in France would be described as “little”. Santa Sabina, an Early Christian church in Rome, is often described as such. To be sure, compared to St. Peter’s or other cathedrals, it is indeed a little church. I had always imagined Santa Sabina to be little like a small country church. I was shocked at the size when I saw it the first time. Since then I always take “little” with a grain of salt.

It was not the size of the churches documented by Chadwick that surprised me but rather the diversity. Chadwick writes in his introduction:

It must not be assumed from this that France has not her fair share of charming, small, parochial churches. They are there in large numbers and of greater variety than in England, but they are difficult to find. The average Frenchman cannot tell you where to look for them; he will answer your query vaguely, “I do not know; perhaps in Burgundy.” This is because they lie largely in the villages off the beaten tracks- and the French railroads and motor roads have a happy faculty of passing such villages by. (pg. 1)

Perhaps I am not supposed to admit this, but I did not recognize a single church in Chadwick’s collection. To be fair, medieval French architecture is not in  my wheelhouse, though I expected to know at least a handful of the plates. While Chadwick’s introduction is quite broad and general and his use of the terms “primitive Romanesque” and “primitive Gothic” is problematic, the collection of plates is quite remarkable. If one is so inclined to broaden their knowledge of French medieval and Renaissance architecture, spending some time with these plates is a must.

Dublin of the Future, 1922

Patrick Abercrombie, Sydney Kelly, and Arthur Kelly. Dublin of the Future: The New Town Plan, Being the Scheme Awarded the First Prize in the International Competition.  Liverpool: The University Press, [1922].

The frontispiece for Dublin of the Future, entitled “The Last Hour of the Night” and created by Harry Clarke, drew me into the work. The image was unexpected and felt out of place in a planning report.

The Last Hour of Night

The plan itself has a complicated history. In 1914 The Civics Institute of Ireland held a competition seeking entries to redesign Dublin; however, the outbreak of World War I delayed judgment. A winner could not be selected until 1916, but then civil war further delayed the publication of the plan until 1922.  According to the authors:

The authors…were in a dilemma: whether to publish at this late hour the original scheme which gained the first premium in the Competition; or to set work to bring their plan up to date in view of every circumstance of increased knowledge and altered conditions. The last course they decided was impossible without being unfair: they could not revise and redraft their plan without having before them the work of the other competitors, many whose solutions they recognised as superior to their own. 

It was therefore decided, in the face of the drawbacks given above, to issue the Competition Scheme, supplemented with many drawings subsequently prepared to elucidate further the authors’ recommendations, reinforced by data which was in their possession at the time (but which haste had prevented them from presenting) and revised so far as was consistent  with its original framework….

…it may serve as a starting point, and possibly as a quarry of ideas, from which the final plan may be built. (pg. x)