BENJAMIN, Asher (1773-1845)
The American Builder's Companion; or, A System of Architecture, particularly adapted to the present style of building ... Second Edition, Corrected and Enlarged
Charlestown: Samuel Etheridge, Jr., 1811. Quarto. (10 3/8 x 8 5/8 inches). iv, , 6-104,  pp. 59 engraved plates. Contemporary manuscript drawing of a staircase design on the rear blank.
Contemporary sheep, flat spine ruled in gilt, green morocco lettering piece. Housed in a blue morocco backed box.
Very rare early American architectural manual, by America's first architectural writer: a work which greatly influenced Greek Revival architecture in America.
Prior to the works of Asher Benjamin, beginning with his Country Builder's Assistant (Greenfield: 1797), 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 works are important American architectural treatises, 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 [Country Builder's Assistant and the American Builder's Companion] 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).
First published in 1806, the present 1811 second edition is the best edition of this early work on American architectural design, containing more plates than the first edition and with significant corrections. Benjamin writes in the Preface: "Five years have elapsed since the first publication of the American Builder; during which time I have been constantly employed in drawing and executing plans for buildings. The experience of that time enables me to confirm some, and reject other former methods. Sixteen plates, which were in the first edition, I have laid aside, and have added twenty-nine new ones; which almost make this a new work."
Although principally a handbook for carpenters, this book also gives designs for houses, churches, a courthouse and more. The 1811 edition is rare, with no examples in the auction records for the last half century.
Shaw & Shoemaker 22210; Rink 2527; Hitchcock 100; 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.