Architects’ tools from the Architecture Archive

Scale rules, W. Littlejohn & Son

Scale rules, W. Littlejohn & Son

What do French curves, scale, slide and rolling rules, T-squares, pantographs and stencils have in common? If you guessed that they are all architects’ drawing tools you are correct. These examples and others from the Architecture Archive’s collections are currently on display in the Architecture and Planning Library.

Items date from the early 1900s to the 1970s and have been acquired from various donors, usually in conjunction with a donation of architectural drawings and associated documentation.

One of the oldest items on display is the set of scale rules. The name stamp shows that they would have originally been acquired from Wellington retailers and manufacturers W. Littlejohn & Son.

The 1897 Cyclopedia of New Zealand shows the company was located at 85 Lambton Quay in a “splendid establishment” of over 2500 square feet. They specialised in the manufacture of jewellery, chronometers, clocks, watches, instruments and optical goods and were also importers from British and Continental markets of the items they did not manufacture on the premises.1

Faber Castell plastic lettering stencils

Faber Castell plastic lettering stencils

Some of the more recent items on display are the clearly well used Faber Castell plastic lettering stencils. These were donated to the Architecture Archive as part of the David Allison Collection. Some of his drawings show clear evidence of these stencils being used.

If this has whet your appetite to see more examples from our collection, come and view the display (on until the end of October). Also worth checking out is the Catalogue of the Andrew Alpern collection of drawing instruments at the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library Columbia University in the City of New York which profiles the vast collection amassed by Andrew Alpern over a 40 year period.2

References
1 The cyclopedia of New Zealand industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations vol. 1. Wellington: The Cyclopedia Company Limited, 1897. nzetc.victoria.ac.nz//tm/scholarly/tei-Cyc01Cycl-t1-body-d4-d60-d9.html

2 Alpern, Andrew, James O’Gorman, and Carole Ann Fabian. Catalogue of the Andrew Alpern collection of drawing instruments at the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library Columbia University in the City of New York. New York: Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York, 2010.

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