Tuesday, July 22, 2008

At Large in the Archive

The architecture periodical Pencil Points (1920-1942) included in each issue a regular book review column titled "At Large in the Library." Reviews focused on everything from the mundane (standard plumbing fixtures, engineering terminology, use of gypsum) to the sublime (architectural utopianism) and were written by article contributors. Taking that as my model, from this point forward, I will periodically feature a recommended book, either one available in the TSA Library ("At Large in the Library") or in the Southeastern Architectural Archive ("At Large in the Archive").

A Story of Accomplishment 1866-1916. [New York: Sanborn Map Company, c. 1916].SEAA Reference G1204 .A4 S35

Sanborn fire insurance maps are of course a vital resource to anyone interested in the history of urban planning and architecture, for they indicate location and size of buildings, construction materials, fenestration, function and occupancy. This corporate history presents a history of fire insurance maps as a whole, tracing their origins to British tithe maps. It describes Sanborn's production model, from the surveying work, to the draughtsmanship, to the lithography, hand-coloring, mounting to canvas and binding. It further addresses the process of making revisions, and the tedious printing and adhering of correction "pasters." The book's anonymous author recounts the use of Sanborn Maps by insurance companies, municipalities, and utilities companies. Profusely illustrated with photogravures of company headquarters, printing plants, and employees.

[Pictured Above: Detail of Key of Signs Bound Maps, 1916. Illustration from A Story of Accomplishment 1866-1916, n.p. Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries].
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