November 20, 2020

Ex Libris Albrecht: Efforts Underway to Highlight Rare Publications

Housed in The Ohio State University's Thompson Library, the Albrecht Library has plans underway to elevate the visibility and accessibility of its valuable collection of works from the sixteenth century to the mid-twentieth century.

Appearing in Florence in 1485, Leon Battista Alberti’s De re aedificatoria is the first printed architecture book and the first modern treatise on the subject. Covering topics from history to town planning, and engineering to the philosophy of beauty, the book's influence on architecture is incalculable. Adding to its considerable catalog of rare architectural publications from around the world, the Herman J. Albrecht Library of Historical Architecture has recently acquired an original 1485 edition of Alberti's seminal book.

Housed in The Ohio State University's Thompson Library, the Albrecht Library has plans underway to elevate the visibility and accessibility of its valuable collection of works from the sixteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. To develop and facilitate these plans, the Albrecht Graduate Research Associateship (GRA) position was created this year, through funding from the foundation that endows the Albrecht Library. Working with faculty from the Knowlton School and Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, two Albrecht GRAs will develop unique scholarship to highlight and disseminate materials from the library. 

Students reviewing book from the Albrecht Library
Herman J. Albrecht Library of Historical Architecture, 2018

Under the direction of Associate Professor of Architecture Karen Lewis, Albrecht GRAs will develop three projects to bolster the Albrecht Library's outreach and engagement. The first project will be a visual campaign that features the collection over various Ohio State media outlets. An exhibition of selected materials that demonstrates the unique attributes of the Albrecht Library will follow. Finally, an independent scholarly research project based on Albrecht materials, developed in conjunction with Ohio State faculty, will be shared with an academic audience.  

Founded in 2006, the Herman J. Albrecht Library of Historical Architecture is a Special Collection that was established and is endowed by the family of the respected Ohio architect Herman J. Albrecht (BSArch 1908). The library houses Albrecht’s personal collection of extremely rare and valuable architectural materials that were stored in his office. Through an annual fund, the goal of the foundation is to aggressively acquire more rare books on architecture each year, with an emphasis on books published between 1485 to 1950. In addition to books, the Albrecht Library includes architectural sketches, renderings, drawings, and photographs of Herman Albrecht's work.

Students reviewing book from the Albrecht Library
Herman J. Albrecht Library of Historical Architecture, 2018

"It's an extraordinary resource for the academic community to engage closely and directly with significant resources that have shaped–and continue to shape–scholarship. And, since our proximity to the collection is so much a part of our creative studio culture, we can access the collection as designers, not just historians," commented Lewis. "We can use the collection as a resource for our creative work, making the Albrecht an exciting source of production, not just preservation." 

The goal of the foundation to increase this benefit of the library for scholars, architects, and architecture students will rely on the work of the Albrecht GRAs. With so many unique works in the library, their initial efforts have been simply to review and research the catalog of over 200 titles. In addition to the Alberti, recent acquisitions include Francesco Colonna’s Hyperotomachia Poliphili (1499) and Claude Nicolas Ledoux’s L’architecture considérée sous le rapport de l’art, des moeurs, et de la legislation (1804).

Other highlights in the library are volumes that range from Andrea Palladio’s I Quattro Libri Dell’Architecttura (1581); to Gustave Eiffel’s large folio, full-color exposition of the construction of the Eiffel Tower, La Tour de Trois Cents Métres (1890); to the Wasmuth portfolio (1910) of drawings of Frank Lloyd Wright’s earliest private and commercial buildings; to Emanuel  La Roche’s Indische Baukunst (1921-22), a documentation of a wide range of historic buildings in India; to Russian Iakov Georgievich Chernikhov’s futuristic designs from the 1920s and 1930s; and works on Japanese architecture in the early twentieth century.

Architecture Section Head Todd Gannon describes the resource as invaluable: "The Albrecht Library makes available for study by our students and faculty an extremely impressive collection of rare architecture books, and as it builds, aims to make Albrecht a destination for researchers in architecture and related fields."