Skip to main content

Ryan Rare Book Room

Helen Park List

Helen Park’s article, “A List of Architecture Books Available in America Prior to the Revolution” was originally published in the Journal of Architectural Historians in 1961, with 87 titles, and revised and printed as a book in 1973, with an expanded list of 106 titles. This work is an invaluable catalog of architectural publications that were available in colonial America, published between 1485 and 1775. In fact, this list demonstrates the origins of a colonial architectural style. Specific titles illustrate motifs that were directly employed by builders. What is also significant about this work is that it shows precisely what books were not available in the colonies and exactly how British in nature the architecture books are that were available. Specifically, colonial America was influences by British Palladianism, through the Earl of Burlington and his followers Colen Campbell, Giacomo Leoni, Robert Morris, and William Kent. While this list is predominantly British, it also contains the most important architectural treatises, including those by Palladio, Alberti, Vitruvius, and Serlio.

This list also highlights the use of “handbooks” for building, as alternatives to using trained architects, who were scarce in colonial America. Instead, early American buildings were built using these guidebooks, many of which show the signs of their obvious use, having been carried in pockets, used in all types of weather, and held with dirty hands. These guidebooks, of which all British authors of the genre are present, demonstrate the foundation of colonial America.

The Architecture Library’s collection of the Park List was started with an initial donation of over 60 titles by the Ryan family in 1997. We are, whenever possible, able to add to the collection, which now consists of over 80 titles and is fully searchable through our online catalog. The complete list of Park List books can be found in both our Reference Collection and within the Ryan Rare Book Room in the Architecture Library.

Park, Helen. A List of Architecture Books Available in America Prior to the Revolution. New edition, Revised and Enlarged with a foreword by Adolf K. Placzek. Los Angeles: Hennessy & Ingalls, 1973.

Henry Russell Hitchcock's List of American Architectural Books

In 1946 Henry-Russell Hitchcock published a bibliography entitled American Architectural Books: A list of Books, Portfolios, and Pamphlets on Architecture and Related Subjects Published in America Before 1895. The purpose of this bibliography, in Hitchcock’s own words, was “to serve students of American architecture on the periods between the Revolution and the end of the nineteenth century, as well as institutions and individuals who collect American architecture books” (Hitchcock, vii). Since its publication, however, this bibliography has served a much larger role in the history of American architecture. It demonstrates the source material that became the foundation for American design and the origin of American taste. What this list also provides is a printed record of buildings, some of which are no longer extant. This work, as noted by Adolf K. Placzek, in his forward to the 1976 edition, is “a historical record of the 18th and 19th centuries, stopping just short of the new era” (Hitchcock, vi).

The Architecture Library’s collection of the Hitchcock list was begun with the acquisition of over 250 titles from the list, made possible by a gift from Gwen and John Burgee and Mary O’Shaughnessy and continues to grow with new additions being added whenever possible. The collection is fully searchable in the online catalog. A full list of Hitchcock titles can also be browsed in the Architecture Library’s Reference Collection.

Hitchcock, Henry-Russell. American Architectural Books: A List of Books, Portfolios, and Pamphlets on Architecture and Related Subjects Published in America Before 1895. New and Expanded edition, with a new introduction by Adolf K. Placzek. New York: Da Capo Press, 1976.