LAFEVER, Minard (1798-1854)
The Modern Builders' Guide: by Minard Lafever. Architect; Illustrated by Eighty-Seven Copperplate Engravings
New York: Henry C. Sleight, 1833. 4to. (12 x 8 7/8 inches). 146 pp. 87 copper engravings including the additional title. Plates numbered 54 and 55 are not called for.
Contemporary sheep, gilt red morocco lettering piece, within a cloth box.
First edition of Lafever's second book, a significant improvement from his early work tailored towards American carpenters and builders.
One of the most influential books in the history of American architecture, The Modern Builder's Guide was responsible for the rapid dissemination of Greek Revival architecture in the United States. Local carpenters as far south as Kentucky and as far west as Wisconsin used the book as a "builder's guide" to construct Grecian temple-type houses and public buildings. Here Lafever established himself as a serious rival to his influential predecessor, Asher Benjamin. Like Benjamin, Lafever was a house carpenter turned architect, but from central New York rather than Massachusetts. Compared to The Young Builder's General Instructor, Lafever's first book, the present work had better drafted illustrations that demonstrated Lafever "had fully matured in terms of his handling of proportions, spacing, and ornament" (Williamson). The heart of The Modern Builder's Guide is the collection of plates showing elevations and full plans for churches and country residences, details of such structural elements as groin arches, roofing, staircases and window construction. Most important are the engravings in the Grecian-style for use on fireplace mantels, front doors, stairs, columns, cornices, interior wall and window treatments, building elevations, and other devices. There is also detailed information on practical geometry, and construction techniques of carpentry, masonry, plastering, etc. The engraved title page features the illustration of, and plan for, a country villa designed by J. Gallier. The numerous plates are after drawings by J.H. Dakin, M. Lafever, and J. Rothhaas, and were engraved by W.S. Barnard, Wm. D. Smith, H. Fossette, and Wm. B. Folger.
Hitchcock, H.R. American Architectural Books, 692; Roxanne Williamson, American Architects and the Mechanics of Fame (2014).