Saturday, October 26, 2013

Our New Design Library Kicks off with William Morris Titles

Along with history and design, one of our favorite pastimes is reading and designing books and publications, and through our publishing arm, American Biblioverken, we've set out to offer some quality paperback editions of important works from the past.The first two, Hopes and Fears for Art and The Art and Craft of Printing, are two of Morris' works that we have produced; both are primarily comprised of material and lectures from the late 19th century.

While they certainly can't match the beauty of a Kelmscott Press product, we feel they provide a far superior product than many of the commonly-available reprints available today, which often deliver a poorly-scanned copy of an old book and an ugly, generic cover that doesn't even relate to the material in the book. The interiors have been designed and typeset in fonts that enhance the material, and best of all, perhaps--the price is lower than most other new editions currently available.

These 6" x 9" editions make a great addition to anyone's bookshelf, and the low price make them great for casual reading on a trip, handy reference, or for students and classrooms.

We have several other older classics that we are preparing to add to our TLG Design Library, and we'll be sure to keep you updated as we bring them along. The books are available at Amazon and across Amazon Europe, including

HOPES AND FEARS FOR ART /   on Amazon   $9.50           on Amazon UK  £7.00
List Price: $10.00
6" x 9" (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
198 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1492919186 
ISBN-10: 1492919187

THE ART AND CRAFT OF PRINTING on Amazon $7.60        on Amazon UK  £5.00
6" x 9" (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
100 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1493538973
ISBN-10: 1493538977

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ohio Mart at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens October 3-6, 2013

For many, Fall is a favorite time of year, when you're ready for a rich ale, maybe some cool apple cider, or some other tasty treats. It’s also the time of year to visit Ohio Mart, Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens’ annual artisan craft fair— held in the beautiful gardens on the Estate.  

Fall colors will be in evidence again this year from Thursday through Sunday, October 3-6, featuring, 120 artisans selling jewelry, handmade textiles, ceramics, sculpture, garden art, photography and more. Ohio Mart Hours are 10am-5pm, Thursday-Saturday; and 10am-4pm on Sunday. Stan Hywet is located at 714 North Portage Path in Akron, Ohio. 

While Ohio Mart always features a great assortment of juried exhibitors, there are a wide range of additional other activities to keep you busy. The Vintage Finds and Curious Goods Sale features the unusual and the collectible. Inside the Manor House, you can experience Inspiration in Bloom, a display of fresh floral arrangements and the Fallscape--lectures/demonstrations on home d├ęcor. Both of these activities are available via a Combo Ticket, which includes Ohio Mart and a self-guided Manor House tour.

Ohio Mart tickets: $9 adult, $2 youth (ages 6-17). Combo ticket: $15 for Ohio Mart + self-guided Manor House tour (includes Inspiration in Bloom and Fallfest). Onsite parking is $5. Free off-site parking is available on Saturday & Sunday with complimentary shuttle.

Vintage Book Reproductions: Buyer Beware.


There's no doubt about it – I love old books, especially books on architecture. Unfortunately, many of the best examples are fairly rare, and when available are often obtainable only at a very high price.

One book I've had my eye on for some time is Alan Jackson's The Half-Timber House: Its Origin, Design, Modern Plan, and Construction – which was originally published in several editions, from about 1912 through 1929. What makes the book particularly interesting for me is that the author is American, and he studies the characteristics of Tudor-revival homes from an early 20th century viewpoint--analyzing the style's appropriateness for [his] time and offering both good and bad examples of how it might be adapted for American homes.

As far as the text is concerned, it may be slightly “wordy” for the average reader; the language is perhaps too flowery and expressive for today's tastes, and might have benefited from a firm editing. Nevertheless, it makes for an interesting read, especially since the period when it was written was a time when Tudor-revival was one of the most popular of American residential styles.


Behind Jackson's clear admiration for the warmth and comfort offered by the “Old English” style, you can sense the popular notions and attitudes that caused so many of these homes to be built across the United States from 1900 to about 1935. Interestingly, a bit of waspishness sneaks in as he discusses other “sub-types” of half-timbered architecture, specifically examples found in France (Norman) and Germany, both of which he subtly dismisses as seeming “foreign” to most Americans.

While I have come close to purchasing some original editions of this book on Ebay, they are uncommon and usually demand a stiff price. Happily, the recent proliferation of publishers who are now offering facsimile copies of the book via page-scanning of the originals (now in the public domain) has made it easy to add a copy to my architecture library.     But in that realization there remains a critical caveat.

Quality Matters

One of the reason I love old books is that I find them attractive, and in the best examples, quite beautiful. While I have not seen an original copy of The Half-Timber House, it looks like it was produced with some level of care and attentiveness to design—all of which suffered greatly in the repro copy I purchased from Forgotten Books via Amazon.

Be aware that there are several publishers offering this book, and the prices vary from $7.56 for a paperback version (my sample) to almost $30.00 for a hardcover reprint.  The quality of the final product will depend on how the scanning equipment was set up and what type of sample was used—the Forgotten Books edition looks like it was scanned not from an original, but from a poor xerox copy. While the text was of acceptable quality, most of the illustrations were useless—not looking like halftone photos at all (as in the original) but more like super-high-contrast black and white drawings, offering little detail and large areas where the image dropped out completely. I suppose one issue might be that the contrast setting on the scanner was set extra high to make the text clearer (and ruin the halftone images in the process) but the illustrations are so poor that I find it impossible to believe that an original copy of the book was used.
Perhaps a better solution would be to purchase the book on CD; I have seen some examples available on Ebay as well, where the book has been scanned into PDF and the images look fairly decent. In any case, I would recommend to any buyer that if page samples of these reproduction copies are available to view, they take a careful look to see that the quality is acceptable.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood...

It's hard not to be inspired on a beautiful morning...especially after the summer we've had so far. Plenty of rain has kept everything green, and a number of projects keep calling my name. Just finished the mailbox; next I will be adding some corbels on either side of my bay window and maybe some detail in the gable above the porch - including a finial post. We'll see...

Friday, August 9, 2013

In This Case, I'll Say Bravo to "Faux"

To some, the very thought of using one material to simulate another is a vile concept; the quest for “truthfulness” in every aspect of building construction is of utmost importance—and anything that might be considered “fake” or “simulated” should be shunned at all costs.

Of course, this truthfulness has a price, in pure monetary terms, maintenance requirements, or in sustainability. That’s why I gave up the game a long time ago, and decided that I would happily compromise when needed—and if the results looked fine from ten or twenty feet away.

I admire the philosophy of the Craftsman movement, but I cannot afford to sustain it in my own building projects. Clay wall tiles or even wood shingles are beautiful, but I have substituted vinyl where I wanted that effect. Clay or even slate roof tiles are always preferred, of course…but the very-expensive dimensional composite roof that I finally managed to afford 15 years after I moved into my house will have to do (and it does look wonderful). Likewise, the Tudor-style vertical timbering found in some of my gables is wood, yes—but wood that was wrapped in white aluminum, so I wouldn’t have to paint it every few years. I could go on, but I think you get my point.

I know this approach may sound like heresy, but the overall effect is pretty effective, and frankly, I think the house looks better than a lot of modern “Mock-Tudor” houses I’ve seen that do use slightly more traditional materials. This is probably due to the fact that the overall design and proportions are more authentic—the second floor really is jettied out over the front entrance porch, the roof is the proper pitch, and the extra detail I’ve added, like the carved floor-level banding, real wood corbels and even the flowerbox—make it look…right.

Which brings me to the subject of this post, which is a new product available in the UK: Telford-based Faux Wood manufactures and sells reproductions of English oak planks, which have been developed for replacing high-maintenance timber used on Tudor-revival homes. It turns out that a few years ago, one of their customers asked if they could replace the rotten mock Tudor planks on a house facade with a maintenance-free alternative, that better resembles timber than the smooth PVC.

The product that they finally developed is molded from original oak timbers, using high-density rigid polyurethane. It comes in a range of colors, and is designed to be as realistic as possible. While not cheap – about $45 wholesale/$62 retail for a 10 foot plank, I think the product certainly hits the sweet spot with a combination of great looks and low/no-maintenance qualities.

Overall, I think it represents a great example of when original thinking, great technology and good design come together to solve an age-old problem. To read more about Faux Wood, check out this article in the Shropshire Star.