American architect ASHER BENJAMIN (1773-1845) brought the influence of classical design to New England, and is hugely responsible for what we today consider the architectural charm of the region. In the early 1800s, he published books for local carpenters to use as guides to imbue their own construction with a new elegance-part architectural primer, part do-it-yourself manual, these works were, as the evidence of New England's continuing allure itself demonstrates, wildly popular.
The Country Builder's Assistant, originally published in 1797, is an early version of those later manuals, and was Benjamin's first book. The simplicity of its presentation belies the sophistication of its lessons: here are unfussy directions, complete with full illustrations, for building all manner of classical columns, creating beautiful cornices, even constructing staircases that are as pleasing to the eye as they are safe and sturdy.
Less complete than Benjamin's later manuals, this was nevertheless hugely significant in spreading neoclassical design throughout New England, and it remains an essential resource for anyone interested in American architecture.