Carpenter Rule Book Resources
Annotated Bibliography of Builders Rule Books Published in America
The research for this bibliography was undertaken by Elizabeth Temkin during a National Park Service internship under the direction of NPS architect Lee Nelson in the 1970s. Orville W. Carroll and Patterson Tiller of the NPS also participated in the project.
The bibliography includes more than seventy known carpenter price and rule books published in North America between the 1750s and the 1870s. The known location of these publications at the time of the bibliography's production is provided, along with other relevant notes.
The version of the bibliography that can be downloaded below incorporates some preliminary edits to update information for the archives involved and the location of some of the rule books. HPEF intends to continue to update the information contained in the bibliography over time. If you have corrections or information to add to the bibliography, please contact: info(at)hpef.us.
Carpenter Rule Books available Online
There is only one known example of an American carpenter rule book being available to the public for download or viewing online (The Richmond and Alexandria Builders' Price Book).
- The Richmond and Alexandria Builders' Price Book: Containing the House Carpenters' and Joiner's Book of Prices, and Rules for Measuring and Valuing, All Their Different Kinds of Work, &c. To which is Added, the Ship Joiners', Stone Masons', and Plaisterers' Prices, and Customary Way of Measuring Their Work, &c. This publication has been converted to an html (text) version, not scanned. As such it provides the various products and costs, but little of the rule book’s character. It is available here.
- The Builder’s Price Book; containing A Correct List of the Prices Allowed by the Most Eminent Surveyors in London, to the Several Artificers concerned in Building. Including the Journeymen’s Prices. (1804). Though it was published in London and, thus reflects the prices and practices current there at the time, The Builder’s Price Book illustrates how price books were generally organized and the information they contained. Google has digitized and indexed a copy of this publication. It is available here.
Available Online Through University and Institutional Libraries
A number of carpenter rule books have been scanned and digitized. The majority are from Boston and date between the 1774 and 1800. They are available for viewing online only accessible through university and archival library portals. Because these are scanned they include marks by previous owners, annotations, etc. Two examples include:
- The Carpenters rules of work, in the town of Boston. (Boston: Printed by Mills and Hicks, in School-Street, 1774) PDF online - Early American Imprints, Series 1: Evans, 1639–1800 no. 42561.
- The Rules of work, of the carpenters, in the town of Boston. Formed, and most accurately corrected, by a large number of the first workmen of the town. [Charlestown, Mass.] : Printed [by Samuel Etheridge], for the proprietors, 1800. PDF online - Gale Cengage - Eighteenth Century Collections Online
Reprint Books Generally Available
Online booksellers including Amazon, ABE Books, and Alibris have numerous copies of carpenter rule and price books available for sale. The majority are reprints done by small publishers. Prices range from $5 to $50. The most widely available is the 1786 Rules of Work of the Carpenters' Company of the City and County of Philadelphia, reprinted in 1971 by Pyne Press with an introduction by Charles E. Peterson.