Boston: Printed for the author by Munroe and Francis, 1814. First edition. Hardcover. Octavo. 96pp., 32 plates. Original speckled leather with gilt lettering on red label and gilt ruling on spine. Marbled endpapers. Includes "On The Origin Of Buildings, on The Five Orders of Architecture, on Their General and Particular Parts And Embellishments; With Examples for Cornices, Base And Surbase Mouldings, Architraves, And Stairs." Correctly engraved on thirty-two copper plates. Benjamin's intention was to "methodise and explain this work, in such a plain, and ease manner, that the young student may collect from it a general knowledge of architecture." (Preface).
The plates illustrate how to make various geometric calculations; Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite proportions, capitals, cornices and assorted features. Provenance: First owned by "A. Bournes," probably one of the Massachusetts Bournes, who signed the title page. Plate 32 is a double page. Contains descriptive list of plates at rear. Original spine label with light chipping but legible. Small part of lower spine expertly repaired. Endpapers reinforced with white linen tape. Endpapers and title page with browned strips along edges, title page with light chipping along top and bottom edges. Some type with offsetting to facing pages. Some damp-staining of plates, more extensive on plates 12-16 and 26-30. Good condition. Item #49344
Asher Benjamin (1773-1845) was born in Hartland, Litchfield County, Connecticut, but moved with his family to Greenfield, Massachusetts as a child. For thirty years he worked as a carpenter up and down the Connecticut River Valley, building and designing homes and churches. By 1795 he had become respected as a designer well enough to construct the circular staircase in Hartford's Old State House which boasted, as he claimed, New England's first circular handrail. In 1796 he hired a team of joiners to build what is now the Greenfield (Massachusetts) Public Library.
Though not a proponent necessarily of Greek Revival, he was canny enough in his guidebooks to ride its wave of popularity. By 1839 printings of his "Practical House Carpenter "numbered 6,000: an enormous number for a work of its time, place, and application, and in the meantime he had authored "The Practice of Architecture" and "The Builder's Guide." The Boston Housewright Society proofread his books and pronounced them "better calculated to assist the American Builder than any that has come within our knowledge."
In 1837 Benjamin helped to found the American Institute of Architects. He designed, among many other buildings in Boston, several homes on Beacon Hill as well as the Old West and Charles Street churches. His influence is evident in the innumerable buildings -homes, barns, churches, civic buildings- designed according to his specifications throughout the Eastern Seaboard.