The Book of all Books

At Mary Washington, one of the required courses in the preservation sequence was HISP305: American Building, taught by Professor W. Brown Morton, III. Professor Morton had more accolades in historic preservation than we could ever dream of, so we students tended to hang onto his words and take his advice. One book he introduced us to was Twentieth Century Building Materials: History and Conservation, edited by Thomas C. Jester of the National Park Service.jesterThis book is long out of print, but most of us cannot figure out why since it’s an incredibly rich resource with sections and chapters on metals, concrete, wood, masonry, glass, flooring, and roofing. It’s a beautiful book. Take a look at the Amazon preview pages and you’ll see what I mean. As of today it appears that Amazon is selling it for $69.95, which is barely more than it’s in-print price. If I were you and wanting this book (normally around $100) I’d buy it today!

As I had mentioned in one of the Preservation in Pink Christmas posts, this book would make an excellent gift for those interested in historic preservation and historic architecture or those involved in restoration. But, I’m mentioning it again because it is just that good. Are you writing a building description of an 18th century building, but wonder when that glass block window was added? Well, the chapter on glass block may help you a lot. Or how old is that plate glass window on that storefront? When was that terra cotta added? It’s so much fun.

Inevitably, I cracked and bought a copy of this book before starting graduate school, rationalizing the purchase by the fact that I already had some of the other expensive required texts (such as Recording Historic Structures).  And I will admit that sometimes I just like to flip through the pages and gaze at them. Aside from McAlester’s Field Guide to American Houses, this is my favorite book. And it’s a marvelous addition to any preservationist’s library. My point of all this? You should own this book.

What’s your favorite book? What can you not resist, even if it is a splurge on a book? What makes homework or work not so bad because you’re happy to familiarize yourself with the book?