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house-building books

January 20, 2014

SellingFrom Benjamin

The whole, huge history of domestic architecture in the US is covered in a jam-packed exhibition on now at the tiny Grolier Club – that gem of a collector’s library whose mission it is to preserve & celebrate books and the graphic arts. Selling the Dwelling: The Books That Built America’s Houses, 1775-2000 focuses on the pattern-books & periodicals used first by carpenters & builders, and later by owners, architects & developers, to fashion and fabricate, from organizational plans to ornamental details.

Those quintessential American predilections for do-it-yourself, historical style-sampling, and cross-class aspiration to home ownership are all showcased in this survey of over 200 books, manuals, advertising and ephemera, including a wonderful 1925 Buster Keaton film about (not!) building a house from a mail-order kit-of-parts in One Week.  The results reach far past the items as artifacts, right into the American way of life.  The Club is small. But it’s mandate – and this show – are truly monumental. Through February 7.

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