All Booked Up

Trust, Taunton Press launch publishing venture

Photo from Where We Lived: Discovering the Places We Once Called Home

Credit: Library of Congress

In 1934 the National Park Service, the Library of Congress, and the American Institute of Architects began recording America's built environment with drawings, photographs, and written histories. Today, this collection, known as the Historic American Buildings Survey, or HABS, contains 350,000 items, documenting more than 35,000 historic structures and sites dating from pre-Columbian times to the 20th century.

From HABS, 400 black-and-white photos were selected to illustrate a book due out in November called Where We Lived: Discovering the Places We Once Called Home. It's the first title in a new line cosponsored by the National Trust and Newtown, Conn.-based Taunton Press, a publisher of home-oriented books and magazines about building, design, gardening, crafts, and renovation.

The five-year partnership is expected to yield 10 titles?Where We Lived this year, another title that is nearly ready for next year, then two or three in each of the agreement's final three years. "We wanted our first book to be more about history than renovation, since there are a lot of the latter already in the marketplace. But books on history tend toward David McCullough types, like 1776," says Miriam Lenett, the Trust's business development director. "You really don't find many that talk about houses and their historical context."

Shot mostly in the 1930s, the photography of Where We Lived looks at American architecture in the republic's early days, from 1790 to 1840. Jack Larkin, chief historian at Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, wrote the accompanying text. "It's a bit of a morality tale of what should have been preserved and how the landscape of America might have been different had it been," says Jim Childs, publisher of Taunton Press' book group. "The combination of Larkin's writing and the photography, which is haunting at times, echoes what life was like in these homes."

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