Read Dozens of Historical Architecture Books for Free Online Thanks to New Library Exhibition

Buffalo and Erie County Public Library of Buffalo, New York, has recently opened a new exhibit at their Central Library titled Building Buffalo: Buildings From Books, Books From Buildings. The exhibit will feature a large selection of rare, illustrated architectural books from the Library’s collection dating from the fifteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. The bonus for those who are geographically distant from Buffalo is that, as part of the exhibit, the Library has also made dozens of historical architecture books available online, completely digitized and free to the public.

© Buffalo and Erie County Public Library

The free exhibition began on May 1 and will run through March 2018 in the Rare Book Room in the Central Library in Buffalo. The books included in the exhibit were curated to showcase the cultural heritage that inspired the design of the built environment in and around Buffalo, New York. The three architectural historians who curated the exhibit were the ones who revealed the (previously unknown) depth of the collection, over 400 books on architecture and landscape design. The books were originally assembled as a resource for architects and residents in the growing city of Buffalo and served as inspiration for much of the city’s design.

© Buffalo and Erie County Public Library

The subject matter of the books available for viewing is wide-ranging, including some titles from Frederick Law Olmsted’s reading list, books by local Buffalo authors, books that show how designers in the past envisioned the future and predicted the effects of the skyscraper, and many more. A companion catalog to the exhibit has also been released in memory of a local architect, Theodore "Ted" Lownie (1936-2017), which details the assembly of the Library’s collection and also describes the illustrations in the exhibit. The catalog is available for purchase through the Library as well as online.

© Buffalo and Erie County Public Library

Also online as part of the exhibit is a long list of books from the collection that have been digitized and are available to the public to read for free. The books included in the online collection span a range of years from the late 1400s to the early twentieth century, much like the physical exhibit. One of the highlights is John Ruskin’s The Stones of Venice, printed in 1851, a detailed examination of Venetian art and architecture including examples of over eighty churches. Another notable inclusion is Viollet-le-Duc’s Lectures on Architecture, in which he writes about his (hugely controversial at the time) approach to architecture and architectural education. Last but certainly not least, Vitruvius10 Books on Architecture is available as well--the English translation is not included, but the digitized version does contain original illustrations from the 1660 publication that are well worth a look.

© Buffalo and Erie County Public Library

The list of online books (with links) can be found here.

The BUILDING BUFFALO exhibition and catalogue were made possible through the generous support of The Baird Foundation, Catherine Flickinger Schweitzer, Gray Schweitzer, the Donald H. Cloudsley Foundation, Julian R. & Varue Oishei Foundation, Watts Architecture & Engineering, Weissman Family Foundation, Wayne & Janet Wisbaum and the Estate of Nicholas Bodnar.

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Cite: "Read Dozens of Historical Architecture Books for Free Online Thanks to New Library Exhibition" 28 May 2017. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884
© Buffalo and Erie County Public Library


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