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Rare Books

Architecture & Landscape Architecture

Ancient World

One of the treasures of LSU’s Rare Book Collection in the field of architecture is the Description de l'Égypte (1809-28), a record of the French scientific expedition that accompanied Napoleon to Egypt in 1798. Several of its plate volumes focus on architecture and contain the first detailed drawings of ancient Egyptian monuments.

Another important work held is James Stuart’s The Antiquities of Athens (1825-30, originally published 1762), a pioneering study that helped inspire the Greek Revival movement. Ionian Antiquities (1769), published by the Society of Dilettanti, is similar in nature and contains engravings of Greek temples.

Other available works on ancient architecture include:

Middle Ages

William Eden Nesfield’s Specimens of Mediaeval Architecture (1862) and Richard Norman Shaw’s Architectural Sketches from the Continent (1858) are especially fine examples of lithographic illustrations of churches and other buildings of the Middle Ages. John Britton’s multivolume Architectural Antiquities of Great Britain (1835) and Cathedral Antiquities (1836) focus on medieval England. See also John Dart’s finely illustrated History and Antiquities of the Cathedral Church of Canterbury (1726).

Medieval Italian architecture is best represented by Ferdinando Ongania’s La basilica di San Marco in Venezia (1880-93), an impressively illustrated eight-volume set of colored plates. A related item, L'augusta ducale basilica dell' evangelista San Marco, is a large facsimile of a set of engravings originally published by Antonio Zatta in 1761.

Views of medieval architecture may be found in various manuscripts from this period. See the checklist of the library's collection of Medieval & Renaissance Manuscript Facsimiles.


Compiled by Michael Taylor, 2013

Renaissance & Baroque

A highlight of the Rare Book Collection is Albrecht Dürer’s Institutiones geometricae (or Unterweisung der Messung), a landmark in the development of Renaissance art and architectural practice by the first northern European to treat matters of visual representation in a scientific way. It was published in 1532.

Equally important is I quattro libri dell’architettura (1790 printing) by the Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. A related volume, Descrizione delle architetture, pitture, e scolture di Vicenza (1779), contains engravings of buildings in Palladio’s hometown.

Filippo Baldinucci’s 1682 biography of Gian Lorenzo Bernini was published just two years after the architect’s death and contains fold-out engravings of his masterpiece, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Descripcion del real monasterio de San Lorenzo del Escorial (1764) contains many impressive engravings of the exterior and interior of this Spanish monastery and royal residence.

A made-up set of 100 engravings, cataloged as Recue des plans architecture du XVIII siècle, is a survey of French architecture from the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries, while Pierre Le Muet’s influential Maniere de bien bastir (1647) gives designs for elaborate townhouses in the Parisian style. Monographie du palais de Fontainebleau (1863-85) is an exhaustive work on the architecture of this French royal château.

For good examples of Baroque architectural fantasy, see Hans Vredeman de Vries’s Perspective (1604) and Athanasius Kircher’s Turris Babel (1679). The latter features imaginative engravings of the Tower of Babel and other legendary sites of antiquity.

Among works on English architecture is an early book of photographs titled Architecture of the Renaissance in England (1894). Also available are publications of the Wren Society (20 vols., 1924-40), containing reproductions of sketches and plans by Sir Christopher Wren. John Stow’s Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster (1720) contains numerous engravings of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century structures. Also of interest is Sketches in Architecture (1793) by John Soane and A Treatise on the Decorative Part of Civil Architecture (1791) by Sir William Chambers, pioneers of the British neoclassical style.

Nineteenth Century

British and American domestic architecture is the main focus of the library’s collection of architectural books from the nineteenth century. Representative works include:

Collection of Architectural Designs (1981) depicts the work of Karl Friedrich Schinkel, one of the fathers of German neoclassicism, and is a massive portfolio of 174 plates originally published in 1866 as Sammlung architektonischer Entwürfe. Several works on nineteenth-century architectural fantasies are available. See, for example, Henri Mayeux’s Fantaisies architecturales (ca. 1890) and Ralph Hyde, The Regent’s Park Colosseum (1982).

Twentieth Century

The Rare Book Collection contains miscellaneous examples of books on twentieth-century architecture, as does the Laughlin Collection, assembled by noted Louisiana architectural photographer Clarence John Laughlin (1905-1985), author of Ghosts Along the Mississippi (1948). Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Homes (1909) and Daniel Burnham’s The Plan of Chicago (1909) are representative early works. The International Competition for a New Administration Building for the Chicago Tribune (1923) contains approximately one hundred designs submitted to the competition and is a colorful record of innovations in the architectural thinking of its day. Buildings: Plans and Designs (1963) is a portfolio of 100 plates reproducing the work of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Two books of sketches, studies, and projects from the Wagnerschule, an architectural school founded by Otto Wagner, a member of the Vienna Secession, are available. Related materials include Moderne Bauformen (1902-44), an illustrated journal devoted to Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Bauhaus, and other modern architectural styles, including Nazi architecture. The journal L'Architecte (1924-28) documents innovations in French design.

Landscape Architecture: Europe

LSU’s Rare Book Collection contains many books about British landscape design in the late 18th and early 19th century.

These include influential works on theories of the picturesque such as William Gilpin’s Observations on the River Wye (1782), Sir Uvedale Price’s Essay on the Picturesque (1796), and Humphry Repton’s An Enquiry into Changes of Taste in Landscape Gardening (1806). An original edition and several facsimiles of Repton’s “Red Books” are held, containing overlays that show before-and-after views of “improved” landscapes. See: Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1805) and The Red Books of Humphry Repton (1976). 

Samuel Ireland’s Picturesque Views on the River Thames (1792) and Picturesque Views on the Upper, or Warwickshire Avon (1795) contain etchings of landscapes illustrating the aesthetic theories of their time. William Gilpin’s Observations Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty (1792) is similar, focusing on England’s Lake District. Other works pertaining to landscape design, theory, and appreciation include:

Of related interest is William Combes’s Tour of Dr. Syntax in Search of the Picturesque (1815), a satire on landscape theorists, with comic illustrations by Thomas Rowlandson.

The McIlhenny Natural History Collection contains many books and journals on botany and gardening that influenced landscape designers, including the important Curtis's Botanical Magazine (1787-present).

A few miscellaneous works on landscape design in other European countries are held. Hortorum Viridariorumque is a facsimile edition of garden engravings first published in Antwerp around 1587. Other works on Renaissance and Baroque gardens include The Art of Garden Design in Italy (1906) by H. Inigo Triggs, and G.A. Jellicoe’s Baroque Gardens of Austria (1932).

Landscape Architecture: U.S. & Louisiana

The Rare Book Collection contains a copy of A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1859) by Andrew Jackson Downing, sometimes considered the father of American landscape architecture. William Ranlett’s The Architect (1854) features plans for country homes and gardens, adapted from European models for the United States. See also early American works on ornamental gardening, such as Robert Buist’s American Flower Garden Directory (1845) and William White’s Gardening for the South (1856). Selected modern photographic books on Southern gardens are held in the Louisiana & Lower Mississippi Valley Collection.

The McIlhenny Natural History Collection contains many nineteenth-century garden books and journals, as well as European publications that influenced American designers and gardeners, such as Curtis's Botanical Magazine (1787-present).

Works on Louisiana landscape architecture include books on nineteenth-century plantation gardens, urban parks, domestic landscaping, city planning, and histories of individual gardens, such as the Jungle Gardens of Avery Island. Special Collections holds copies of final projects, theses, and selected design studies produced by students and faculty in LSU’s School of Landscape Architecture. To locate these in the catalog, enter “Louisiana State University School of Landscape Architecture” as author. 

Search Tips

Try beginning your search by entering names of architects, styles and/or movements, or key concepts. To narrow your search results, use the advanced search feature in the library’s online catalog and limit your search to the Rare Book Collection, Laughlin Collection, or the Louisiana & Lower Mississippi Valley Collection. You can also enter a date range and limit your search specifically to books (under catalog format) to omit manuscript/archival materials.

A subject search using the keywords “architecture,” “landscape architecture,” or “landscape gardening” will locate many of most of the relevant titles in the library’s collection. Entering more specific terms, however, may yield better results (for example, “dwellings,” “neoclassicism,” “picturesque,” “gardens,” etc.).

By using the “wildcard” search feature (truncating the ending of a search term with the $ sign), you will increase your search results. For example, the keyword or title search “landscap$” will locate records containing the words landscape, landscaping, landscapers, etc.

Although the Special Collections shelving areas are not open to the public, you can browse virtually by locating an item relevant to your research interests in the online catalog and clicking “Nearby items on shelf” in the upper left corner of the catalog record.

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