BENJAMIN, Asher (1773-1845)
The Country Builder’s Assistant, fully explaining, the best methods for striking regular and quirked mouldings: ... Correctly engraved on thirty-seven copperplates with a printed explanation to each
Boston: Spotswood and Etheridge, 1798. Small 4to. (7 5/8 x 6 inches). pp. 37 engraved plates (two folding).
Contemporary sheep, rebacked to style retaining the original lettering piece.
The first original American book of architecture: second edition, after the exceedingly rare Greenfield first edition printed the previous year.
Earlier architectural works printed in the United States were simply compilations or reprintings of British material (e.g. John Norman's Town and Country Builder's Assistant of 1786). Benjamin's work is a classic and important American architectural treatise, by the man who was most responsible for disseminating late colonial details throughout New England, beautifully illustrated with engravings of colonial buildings, elevations of churches and homes, ornaments, cornices, etc., reflecting the influences of the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders. "[T]here is scarcely a village which in moulding profiles, cornice details, church spire, or farm-house does not reflect his influence" (DAB).
"The career of our first American architectural writer, Asher Benjamin (1773-1845), covered several decades of the early nineteenth century. Both the books he wrote and the buildings he designed had an influence on building in New England that is still visible. He probably will be best remembered for his popularization of the federal style through his early books (and the Greek revival in his later ones)" (Thompson).
Although the title states that each plate would include a textual description, there was no text issued for plates 9-10, 17-18, and 29-33; the work is complete with 18 unnumbered leaves of text (including the title) and 37 engraved plates. The first obtainable edition of the earliest architectural book written by an American and printed in the United States.
Rink 2484; Evans 33399; Hitchcock 112; Neville Thompson, "Tools of Persuasion: The American Architectural Book of the Nineteenth Century" in The American Illustrated Book in the Nineteenth Century (1987), p.142.