The author of this compendium explains his philosophy of domestic life in a fairly substantial introduction, offering the contents to a public he considers too much influenced by external pressures of fleeting fashion, in the hope that he may persuade them to take a simpler, humbler, and more satisfying path to domestic happiness. The format of the book is correspondingly simple and straightforward, approaching each area of the house separately (but not, interestingly to our modern food-obsessed view, the kitchen - since that would have been the servants' area), and considering many simple ways of enhancing the environment without too much effort or expense - but without any prescriptive tone to alienate the reader. A kind of early American 'House and Home', if you will.. There is more than a hint of admiration for the domestic atmosphere portrayed so effectively in 'Little Women' and its sequels.
Clarence Chatham Cook (1828–1900) was an American author and art critic, who discovered the works of John Ruskin in the mid-1850s and became associated with a group of American artists, writers, and architects who followed Ruskin's ideas. Through this group he became aware of the British Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and in 1863, with Clarence King and John William Hill, helped to found the Society for the Advancement of Truth in Art, an American group similar to the Pre-Raphaelites.
Our copy is in generally good condition considering its age, bound in decorated brown cloth with black and gilt panels and designs on the front and spine, that of the front imprinted into the cloth on the back. There is a fair amount of wear externally, with fading at edges and spine angles, and some dulling of the gilt; corners are bumped with some damage, and the top of the spine is rather more worn than the bottom, with a definite crack between the spine and front cover, measuring about 5 cm. Inside, the webbing is clearly visible at both spine angles, and slightly so between the title page and the contents page. Otherwise, however, the binding is firm and there are no loose pages. There is a stain at the top of almost all the pages in the book - presumably of some liquid spilt at some time - and the earlier and latter pages are somewhat browned and generally marked with brown stains which do not appear to be foxing. The more central pages, however, are generally clean and bright. The copious B/W illustrations/engravings are by a wide selection of contemporary artists, who are either credited individually in the list of illustrations, or 'en masse' in a note at the foot of this list. No doubt many of these would have also been members of the Society for the Advancement of Truth in Art. The charming coloured frontispiece (by Walter Crane, a noted illustrator then at the start of his career) retains its tissue guard, and has left a shadow on this and on the preceding page. The book was re-published in 2013 as a volume of 'historical importance' - but this is an original copy.