Swan's The British Architect
Swan's The British Architect
Swan's The British Architect
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Swan's The British Architect
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Swan's The British Architect

PHILADELPHIA, 1775

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Swan's The British Architect
Philadelphia, 1775
SWAN, Abraham (fl. 1745-1768). The British Architect: or, the Builders Treasury of Stair-cases. Philadelphia: R.Bell for John Norman, 1775.

First architecture book printed in America, published on the eve of Revolution. The first American edition of a work of "great influence on the builders and architects of eighteenth-century America" (Fowler). This copy with two prospectus leaves, for John Norman and John Folwell's The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Assistant, dated June 20th 1775; and for Abraham Swan's A Collection of Designs in Architecture, dated June 26th 1775. Because of the war, the former work was never published. Norman, an Englishman, first arrived in Philadelphia in 1774, and in the same year he submitted a proposal to publish the present work, "a handsome reprint of Abraham Swan's The British Architect" (AAS).

First printed in London in 1745, Swan's architectural pattern book was a prime example of the vogue for Palladian design in that period, and its publication in America helped bring American architects into conversation with Europe. Before its appearance in 1775, builders and carpenters relied on shared libraries of books printed across the Atlantic. It had a major influence on American design; the architect William Buckland, who worked in Maryland and Virginia, owned a copy of the London edition, and its impact can be felt particularly at Brice House in Annapolis. Like many trade books, it is rarely found complete at auction; ABPC records only two other copies. Just a year after printing this, Robert Bell would be issuing Thomas Paine's Common Sense. America Pictured to the Life 57; Fowler 341 (second American edition); Evans 42944/B4124; "The Colonial Scene-1602-1800," in Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society (April 1950, Volume 60), p. 73.

Folio (415 x 249mm). 2 prospectus leaves and 4 pp. "Names of the Encouragers," 60 engraved plates (dampstain at upper gutter, some browning and staining). Contemporary sheep (rebacked, losses of leather on surface of boards). Custom half morocco box. Provenance: John Kearsley Mitchell (1798-1858, physician & scientist, inscription noting gift to:) – Franklin Institute (inscription "Presented to the Franklin Institute / by J. K. Mitchell / Aug. 16 1841").

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