The Jim R. Ryan Rare Book Room
The Jim R. Ryan Rare Book Room is named in honor of Jim Ryan a longtime friend and supporter of Notre Dame, the Architecture Library and the School of Architecture.
In 1997 the Ryan Family supported the acquisition of 65 titles from the Helen Park List – a list of architecture books available in the US prior to the American Revolution. This generous gift formed the focus of the Notre Dame Architecture Library’s rare book collections and serves to educate and inspire students, faculty and lovers of the built environment
Search the holdings of the Ryan Rare Book Room
To request an appointment to consult materials in the Ryan Rare Book Room please use the online form below. Please schedule your appointment at least 24 hours in advance. For all outside researchers, please contact Jennifer Parker (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Viveca Robichaud (email@example.com).
The Helen Park List
Helen Park’s article, “A List of Architecture Books Available in America Prior to the Revolution” was originally published in the Journal of Architectural Historians in 1961, with 87 titles, and revised and printed as a book in 1973, with an expanded list of 106 titles. This work is an invaluable catalog of architectural publications that were available in colonial America, published between 1485 and 1775. In fact, this list demonstrates the origins of colonial architectural style. Specific titles illustrate motifs that were directly employed by builders. What is also significant about this work is that is shows precisely what books were not available in the colonies and the decidedly British nature of the architecture books that were present. Specifically, colonial America was influenced by British Palladianism, through the Earl of Burlington and his followers Colen Campbell, Giacomo Leoni, Robert Morris, and William Kent. While this list is predominantly British, it also contains the most important architectural treatises, including those by Palladio, Alberti, Vitruvius, and Serlio.
This list also highlights the use of “handbooks” for building, as alternatives to using trained architects, who were scarce in colonial America. Instead, early American buildings were built using these guidebooks, many of which show the signs of their obvious use, having been carried in pockets, used in all types of weather, and held with dirty hands. These guidebooks, of which all British authors of the genre are present, demonstrate the foundation of colonial American architecture.
The Architecture Library’s collection of the Park List was started with an initial donation of over 60 titles by the Ryan family in 1997. We are, whenever possible, able to add to the collection, which now consists of over 80 titles and is fully searchable through our online catalog, accessible through the “Books” tab on this website. The complete listing of Park List books can be found in both our Reference Collection and within the Ryan Rare Book Room in the Architecture Library.
Park, Helen. A List of Architecture Books Available in America Prior to the Revolution. New edition, Revised and Enlarged, with a foreword by Adolf K. Placzek. Los Angeles: Hennessey & Ingalls, 1973.
Henry-Russell Hitchcock’s list of American Architectural Books
In 1946 Henry-Russell Hitchcock published a bibliography entitled American Architectural Books: A list of Books, Portfolios, and Pamphlets on Architecture and Related Subjects Published in America Before 1895. The purpose of this bibliography, in Hitchcock’s own words, was “to serve students of American architecture of the periods between the Revolution and the end of the nineteenth century, as well as institutions and individuals who collect American architecture books.”1 Since its publication, however, this bibliography has served a much larger role in the history of American architecture. It demonstrates the source material that became the foundation for American design and the origin of American taste. What this list also provides is a printed record of buildings, some of which are no longer extant. This work, as noted by Adolf K. Placzek, in his forward to the 1976 edition, is “a historical record of the 18th and 19th centuries, stopping just short of the new era.”2
The Architecture Library’s collection of the Hitchcock List was begun with the acquisition of over 250 titles from the list, made possible by a gift from Gwen and John Burgee and Mary O’Shaughnessy and continues to grow with new additions being added whenever possible. The collection is fully searchable in the online catalog, accessible through the “Books” tab on this website. The full list of Hitchcock titles can also be browsed in the Architecture Library’s Reference Collection.
Hitchcock, Henry Russell. American Architectural Books: A List of Books, Portfolios, and Pamphlets on Architecture and Related Subjects Published in America before 1895. New expanded edition, with a new introduction by Adolf K. Placzek. New York: Da Capo Press, 1976.
1Henry Russell Hitchcock, American Architectural Books: A List of Books, Portfolios, and Pamphlets on Architecture and Related Subjects Published in America before 1895 (New York: Da Capo Press, 1976), vii.
2Adolf K. Placzek, forward to American Architectural Books: A List of Books, Portfolios, and Pamphlets on Architecture and Related Subjects Published in America before 1895 (New York: Da Capo Press, 1976), vi.
In the late 1990’s Thomas Gordon Smith, then chair of the School of Architecture, re-designed the Architecture Library and created the Ryan Rare Book Room (RRBR). The collections in the RRBR were begun by donations. The first of these was the Ryan Family Collection of the Park List. The Ryan family supported the acquisition of over 65 titles from the Helen Park list of architecture books known to have been in the country prior to the American Revolution. The second collection was comprised of the first architecture books published in the United States. Gwen and John Burgee and Mary O’Shaughnessy supported the acquisition of over 250 titles from the Hitchcock List of American architecture books published between 1775 and 1895. These generous donations directed the focus of the RRBR on the History of the Study and Practice of Architecture in the United States and the Study of Classical and Traditional Architecture.
Ryan Rare Book Room Policies
The purpose of this policy is to provide guidelines for using collection housed in the Ryan Rare Book Room (RRBR) and ensuring that the collection is accessible to researchers while being protected as much as possible.
Access to the Room: