Houses From Books

Houses From Books

Treatises, Pattern Books, and Catalogs in American Architecture, 1738-1950 : A History and Guide

Book - 2000
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Pennsylvania State Univ Pr

Many homes across America have designs based on plans taken from pattern books or mail-order catalogs. In Houses from Books, Daniel D. Reiff traces the history of published plans and offers the first comprehensive survey of their influence on the structure and the style of American houses from 1738 to 1950.

Houses from Books shows that architectural publications, from Palladio’s I Quattro Libri to Aladdin's Readi-Cut Homes, played a decisive role in every aspect of American domestic building. Reiff discusses the people and the firms who produced the books as well as the ways in which builders and architects adapted the designs in communities throughout the country. His book also offers a wide-ranging analysis of the economic and social conditions shaping American building practices.

As architectural publication developed and grew more sophisticated, it played an increasingly prominent part in the design and the construction of domestic buildings. In villages and small towns, which often did not have professional architects, the publications became basic resources for carpenters and builders at all levels of expertise. Through the use of published designs, they were able to choose among a variety of plans, styles, and individual motifs and engage in a fruitful dialogue with past and present architects. Houses from Books reconstructs this dialogue by examining the links between the published designs and the houses themselves.

Reiff’s book will be indispensable to architectural historians, architects, preservationists, and regional historians. Realtors and homeowners will also find it of great interest. A catalog at the end of the book can function as a guide for those attempting to locate a model and a date for a particular design. Houses from Books contains a wealth of photographs, many by the author, that enhance its importance as a history and guide.

Book News
While doing research in 1969 for the US Commission of Fine Arts, Reiff (art history, State U. of New York-Fredonia) noticed that some rare sophisticated architectural features, such as arches framing the ground-floor windows, were paralleled in contemporary builders' manuals. That discovery turned his research interest to the role of printed books in architectural design. He reports here on architectural books and their impact, beginning in 1550 in England and moving generally in chronological order through the catalog and mail-order house companies and designs of the 1920s to 1940s. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Publisher: University Park, Pa. : Pennsylvania State University Press, [2000]
Copyright Date: ©2000
ISBN: 9780271019437
Branch Call Number: 728.0973 REIFF
Characteristics: xi, 412 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 29 cm


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