All posts by betsynitsch

Baedeker’s Travel Guides

In addition to being a man of wide and varying interests, Blake Alexander was also extremely well traveled and amassed a great many guide books and travelogues over the course of his life. Although many of these have since become outdated and should, therefore, probably not be used to for any type of serious vacation planning, these titles can still be chock-full of useful information for historians and preservationists alike.

One of the most enchanting items now in our library is a series of 35 Baedeker’s Travel Guides. Known for their straightforward advice and meticulous detail, these little red books were first published by Verlag Karl Baedeker in 1827. English language publication began in 1861 and soon the guide books were considered an essential part of the tourist’s arsenal. The books, which included maps, route recommendations, and a star system for rating sights and accommodations, were once culturally significant enough to be referenced in E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View and in Thomas Pynchon’s short story, “Under the Rose.” They also had a more nefarious use during the Second World War when Nazi propagandist Baron Gustav Braun von Sturm declared “We shall go out and bomb every building in Britain marked with three stars in the Baedeker Guide” right before the Luftwaffe embarked on a series of brutal attacks against the historic cities of Exeter, Bath, Norwich, York, and Canterbury.

Blake’s collection of Baedeker’s spans from 1884 to 1988, with the bulk of the collection falling before the 1940s. The countries represented in his library include Egypt, Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Canada, Belgium, and France, as well as the now defunct Austria-Hungary and Syria-Palestine. City guides include London, San Francisco, Paris, Vienna, Budapest, and Berlin. The United States with excursions to Mexico, Cuba, Porto Rico, and Alaska is one of my personal favorites from the series. Particularly relevant (and amusing!) is this description of Austin (including the University of Texas):

Austin (Driskill, R. $1-2 1/2; Avenue $2-2 1/2; Hancock $2-2 1/2), the capital of Texas, a pleasant little city with 22,258 inhab., lies on the Colorado River, in full view of the Colorado Mts. Its handsome red granite Capitol, finely situated on high ground, was built by Chicago capitalists in 1881-88, at a cost of 3 1/2 million dollars, in exchange for a grant of 3 million acres of land. It is the largest capitol in America, after that at Washington, and is said to be the seventh-largest building in the world. Other prominent buildings are the State University (2290 students), the Land Office, the Court House, and various Asylums. The Monument to the Terry Rangers is by Pompeo Coppini. About 2 M. above the city is the Austin Dam, a huge mass of granite masonry, 1200 ft. long, 60-70 ft. high, and 18-66 ft. thick, constructed across the Colorado River for water-power and water-works. Lake McDonald, formed by the dam, is 25 M. long.”

Well, we’re still the second largest capitol!

Le Nouvel Opéra de Paris

Garnier, Charles. Le nouvel Opéra de Paris. Paris: Ducher, 1878-1881.

The recent transfer of Charles Garnier’s (1825-1898) Le nouvel Opéra de Paris from the Alexander Architectural Archive to the Architecture and Planning Library adds an additional copy of this beautiful title to the library’s special collections. Issued in parts between 1878 and 1881, this publication on the Palais Garnier originally encompassed two volumes of text, two folios of engraved plates, and four atlases of photographs. Blake Alexander’s library only includes one portion of the whole but, luckily, that portion is the folio of twenty sumptuous chromolithographs illustrating the luxurious interior decoration.

Garnier began work on his magnificent Neo-Baroque-inspired building in 1860 (at the young age of 35) when he entered a competition to design a new home for the Académie Nationale de Musique. After winning fifth prize out of 170 entrants in the first stage of the competition, Garnier’s submission for the second phase was ultimately selected for its “rare and superior qualities in the beautiful distribution of the plans” and “the monumental and characteristic aspect of the facades and sections.” Construction began shortly thereafter, although the building would not be completed for another fourteen years due to construction setbacks and the Franco-Prussian War. When the opera house was finally inaugurated in 1875, the lavish gala performance was attended by all of Europe’s most prestigious monarchs.

The first volume of Le nouvel Opéra de Paris was published in 1878 to both celebrate and defend Garnier’s architectural designs. The volume of chromolithographs followed in 1881 and depicts the delicate marbles, frescoes, mosaics, colored tiles, gold sculptures, ornate paintings, and curtains, as well as the ornamentation of the grand staircase.

Library of Congress call number: Coming Soon!

Nuova Pianta di Roma

Nolli, Giambattista Nolli, Leonardo Bufalini, and Joseph Rykwert. Nuova pianta di Roma data in luce da Giambattista Nolli, l’anno MDCCXLVII. London: Architecture Unit, Polytechnic of Central London, 1977.

Along with the maps of Paris, several other map facsimiles were transferred from the Alexander Architectural Archive to the Architecture and Planning Library. One of these was Nuova pianta di Roma data in luce da Giambattista Nolli, l’anno MDCCXLVII, a 1977 reproduction of Giambattista Nolli’s (1701-1756) famous ichnographic map of Rome. Nolli began survey work on his map in 1736 and the map was published in 1748. Composed of twelve copper plate engravings that could be assembled into a nearly six by seven foot display, the “Nolli map” was revolutionary for both its accuracy (down to the asymmetry of the Spanish Steps!) and the way it distinguished between open civic and closed private spaces rather than simply denoting interiors and exteriors. This meant that not just the streets, but the cathedrals, Pantheon, and colonnades of St. Peter’s, were left white, while private buildings, walls, and columns were shaded in poché. The map, which is beautifully rendered in crisp black and white, is framed by Stephano Pozzi’s (1699-1768) elaborate vedute depicting St. Peter’s Square.

In addition to the Nolli map, this publication by Polytechnic College of London (now the University of Westminster) includes an introduction by the University of Pennsylvania’s Paul Philippe Cret Professor of Architecture Emeritus, Joseph Rykwert (1926- ), as well as Nolli’s reproduction of Leonardo Bufalini’s 1551 Pianta di Roma. An interactive version of the map, created by professors at the University of Oregon, can be seen here.

Library of Congress call number: Coming Soon!

Plan de Turgot

Bretez, Louis. Paris au XVIIIe siècle; Plan de Paris en 20 planches dessiné et gravé sous les ordres de Michel-Étienne Turgot, prévôt des marchands. Commencé en 1734, achevé de graver en 1739. Levé et dessiné par Louis Bretez. Paris: A. Taride, [1908?].

Bretez, Louis, André Rossel, and Michel-Etiene Turgot. Le Plan de Louis Bretez dit Plan de Turgot. Paris: Éditions les Yeux ouverts, [1966?].

Recently, the Architecture and Planning Library took possession of several books, that were originally housed in the Alexander Architectural Archive. These books, formerly owned by the late Blake Alexander, were transferred to the library’s special collections in order to allow greater access to students and researchers alike.

Two of the books, officially titled Paris au XVIIIe siècle; Plan de Paris en 20 planches dessiné et gravé sous les ordres de Michel-Étienne Turgot, prévôt des marchands and Le Plan de Louis Bretez dit Plan de Turgot, represent different twentieth century facsimiles of a the same publication, Le Plan de Turgot. Le Plan de Turgot, a detailed bird’s-eye view of Paris, is one of the most famous urban maps ever created. Commissioned by the prévôt des marchands de Paris, Michel-Étienne Turgot (1690-1751), in 1734, the map was realized by Louis Bretez over the course of five years. Bretez, a member of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture who specialized in architectural perspective, was given free reign to enter Paris’ mansions, houses and gardens in order to capture every building, window, tree, shadow and park in exhausting (and accurate!) detail. The completed map, consisting of twenty pages that could be assembled into a massive display of the first eleven modern-day arrondissements, was engraved by Claude Lucas and published in 1739. Lucas’ original plates are kept by the Chalcographie du Louvre where they could still (theoretically) be used today for printing.

Of the two reproductions, Paris au XVIIIe siècle, is the oldest. This book was published circa 1908 by Alphonse Taride, a Paris based publisher who specialized in maps, tourist guides, histories, and pocket plans of France. The other facsimile, Le Plan de Louis Bretez dit Plan de Turgot, is much newer having been published circa 1966 by Éditions les Yeux ouverts.

Library of Congress call numbers: -F- 912.4436 B755P and -F- 912.4436 B755P 1966.

Ghosts Along the Mississippi

Laughlin, Clarence John. Ghosts along the Mississippi : an essay in the poetic interpretation of Louisiana’s plantation architecture. New York: Bonanza Books, c1961.

Within the Library of Drury Blakely Alexander there are many books that focus on regional and domestic architecture. However, one of these stands out from the rest. Clarence John Laughlin’s Ghosts Along the Mississippi is more than just your typical Southern architecture coffee table book filled with allusions to magnolias and Southern Living style photography. Instead, this book is an unusual blend of plantations and poetry by one of the South’s best known Surrealist photographers. Clarence John Laughlin (1905-1985) was born near New Orleans and, despite employment with Vogue and the United States government,  his interest in “the evolution of Louisiana plantation culture” stayed with him throughout his professional life. Ghosts Along the Mississippi, first published by Scribner’s Sons in 1948 and then reprinted by Bonanza in 1961, is among his best known works. This fascinating book contains 100 black and white plates of abandoned plantations, moss-strewn bayous, and decrepit old cemeteries. Subtitled An Essay in the Poetic Interpretation of Lousiana’s Plantation Architecture, each image is also accompanied by original text from the author/photographer. Through evocative language, colorful historic details, and unusual double-exposed photographs, Laughlin succeeds in capturing the “grandeur and decay” of the old South in a way that is both novel and compelling.

Library of Congress call number: F 370 L3 1961

East Texas Architecture

Garner, John S. East Texas architecture: a select study / prepared for the Texas Society of Architects by John S. Garner. [College Station, TX: J. Garner], c1979.

John S. Garner’s East Texas Architecture: A Select Study is a labor of love describing more than 150 buildings across 33 counties in East Texas. This incredibly useful study, undertaken through a grant from the Texas Society of Architects to further scholarship in the “History of Architecture and the Southwest,” spotlights a myriad of forms – from log or “dog-trot” cabins to Gothic Victorian mansions and Greek revival courthouses. The book is organized according to city (Texarkana, Longview, Tyler, Mexia, Lufkin – to name but a few), with each community featuring several structures of varying styles. The buildings are represented by a single, yet straightforward image, and a description detailing the building’s history and significance. Although this publication is not glamorous or glossy (like many of the books in the Architecture & Planning Library), it provides a wealth of information on historic, regional architecture.

Library of Congress call number: NA 730 T5 G37 1979

Historic Houses of Early America

Lathrop, Elsie. Historic houses of early America. New York: Tudor Pub. Co., 1941, [c1927].

When I first saw Historic Houses of Early America sitting on the library shelf I didn’t even consider it for a blog post. With such a dry, straightforward title I was expecting plans and diagrams which, although useful for architectural scholarship, don’t often equate to riveting reading. This book, however, proved to be anything but boring! Written by Elsie Lathrop in 1927, Historic Houses was popular enough to enjoy several editions, including this 1941 publication bequeathed to the library by Blake Alexander. With 464 pages and copious illustrations, Historic Houses of Early America is more than your average architectural history book. Not only does the book provide detailed descriptions of some of this country’s earliest dwellings, it contains colorful stories and amusing anecdotes which truly make the homes, and their inhabitants, come alive! So if you’d like to see history through the lens of domestic architecture or if you just want to read some good ghost (!) stories, check out Lathrop’s Historic Houses of Early America.

Library of Congress call number: E 159 L34 1941

Art Deco Interiors In Color

Fry, Charles Rahn. Art deco interiors in color. New York: Dover, c1977.

Sometimes the images in a book are too good not to share with a wider audience! That is definitely the case with Art Deco Interiors in Color by Charles Rahn Fry (1943-1990). Filled with 62 watercolor drawings, Art Deco Interiors in Color showcases important and rare illustrations from several French design portfolios of the 1920s. The author, Charles Rahn Fry was a founding member of the Lenox Society of the New York Public Library and a fellow of the Morgan Library. He was also an avid collector of pochoir, a hand-colored stenciling method that flourished in France at the turn of the century. Many of the book’s plates were produced by this technique, which was popularly used in the creation of Art Nouveau and Art Deco design, fashion, and architecture publications. Although the colors and patterns (check out that…zebra?) might seem ridiculous to today’s tastes, the images are historically interesting for their representation of what was, at the time, considered to be the height of fashion.

Library of Congress call number: NK 1986 A78 A77

Memories of Blake Alexander

I never had a chance to meet Blake Alexander, who passed away one year ago today, but after perusing his library for the past six months I feel as if I have a strong sense of what he was like as both a professor and a person. One of the many ways he has revealed himself is through the gift inscriptions often found between the endpapers and cover pages of his books. These short, and often charming, messages show what an impact he had on his students as well as the high regard he was held in by his colleagues. I’m always touched when someone inscribes a book to me, and I’m sure Blake especially treasured these books with their sweet and thoughtful notes. Here are some of my favorites:

Old House Colors

Schwin, Lawrence. Old house colors: an expert’s guide to painting your old (or not so old) house. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., 1990.

I had some initial hesitations about allowing Old House Colors: An Expert’s Guide to Painting Your Old (Or Not So Old) House by Lawrence Schwin III back on the shelf. “Really,” I said to myself, “do we actually want to encourage people to paint their homes garish reds, greens, and yellows?” However, Schwin’s color schemes are not meant for just any old house. An “insider’s manual for choosing the most beautiful and most authentic exterior paint selection for your home,” the title contains a total of 35 styles from every period, each showing “in gorgeous full color the exact shadings and nuances” essential to obtaining an exact reproduction. And, because the composition of paint has changed so much over the decades, the book includes “valuable charts showing how to mix today’s brand-name paints” to exactly replicate the recommended colors. Although I initially dismissed it, the more I looked through the pages of Old House Colors the more I realized what a useful resource it could be for anyone interested in historic preservation and restoration, two topics that aligned exactly with Professor Alexander’s interests.

Library of Congress call number: TT 320 S38 1990