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Builder's Dictionary

Books of practical application are scattered throughout the Jefferson’s section on Architecture. Amongst the classical and theoretical works is The Builder’s Dictionary, a two-volume handbook that covers all aspects of building design, construction, and finishes. In its time, the Dictionary was considered the most complete summary available for use by English architects and members of the construction trades. Jefferson is thought to have consulted this work as early as 1779.

The Builder’s Dictionary: or, Gentleman and Architect’s Companion. . . . 2 vols. London, 1734. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (S. 4187)

Title Page

Opposite Title

To Face the Title.

I. Devoto inv. Toms Sculpt

To build, to plant whatever you intend
To rear the Column or ye Arch to bend
To Swell the Tarras or to Sink ye Grot
In all, let Nature never be forgot.

Title Page

Builder’s Dictionary:
Gentleman and Architect’s
Explaining not only the
In all the several
But also containing the
Of the
Various BRANCHES thereof, requisite to be known by


Also Necessary Problems in

Together with
The Quantities, Proportions, and Prices of all Kinds of MATERIALS used in BUILDING; with DIRECTIONS for Chusing, Preparing, and Using them: The several Proportions of the FIVE ORDERS of ARCHITECTURE, and all their Members, according to VITRUVIUS, PALLADIO, SCAMOZZI, VIGNOLA, M. LE CLERC, &c.

With RULES for the Valuation of HOUSES, and the EXPENCE calculated of Erecting any FABRICK, Great or Small.

The Whole Illustrated with more than TWO Hundred FIGURES, many of them curiously Engraven on COPPER-PLATES: Being a Work of great Use, not only to ARTIFICERS, but likewise to GENTLEMEN, and others, concerned in BUILDING, &c.

Faithfully Digested from the most Approved Writers on these Subjects.


Printed for A. BETTESWORTH and C. HITCH, at the Red-Lion in Pater-noster-Row; and S. AUSTEN, at the Angel and Bible in St. Paul’s Church-Yard.


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Upon the Whole, nothing but Nature, and a long Study of the antient and modern Structures, will enrich the Mind sufficiently to excel in this noble Art; and this Dictionary will be found a proper Key to explain their Beauties, as well as a needful Caution to avoid their Defects.

To conclude; We have nothing more to add, but our grateful Acknowledgments to those Gentlemen and Artists, who have favoured us with their Assistance in this useful Undertaking; and that we hope our Labours will lie secure from Censure at least, if they may not be judg’d altogether worthy of Applause.

Directions to the Binder, for placing the PLATES.

Plate I. II. at the End of Sheet K, facing it.
III. in Sheet P, facing CHISSEL.
IV. in Sheet Y, facing DOORS.
V. in Sheet Z, facing E A.
VI. in Sheet Aa, facing FLUIDS.
VII. in Sheet Bb, facing Vulgar FRACTIONS.
VIII. in Sheet Ee, facing GRATICULATION.
IX. in Sheet Ee, facing GRAVITY.
X. in Sheet Ff, facing GROIN.
XI. in Sheet Gg facing HIP-ROOF
XII. in Sheet Gg, following Plate XI.
XIII. in Sheet Ii, at the End.
XIV. in Sheet Ii, at the End.
XV. in Sheet Ii, at the End.

Vol. II.
XVI. in Sheet H, facing ORLE.
XVII. in Sheet I, facing PARABOLICK.
XVIII. in Sheet K, facing PERSIAN ORDER.
XIX. in Sheet M, facing POINT.
XX. in Sheet N, facing PUMP.
XXI. in Sheet N, fac. QUADRANT.
XXII. in Sheet O, facing RIDES.
XXVII. in Sheet S, facing STEPS.
XXVIII. in Sheet Y, facing TRIGLYPHS.
XXIX. in Sheet Bb, facing VAGINA.
XXX. in Sh. CC, fac. WAINSCOT.
XXXI. in Sheet Dd, fac. WATER.
XXXII. in Sheet Gg, fac. WEDGE.
XXXIII. in Sheet Gg, f. WINDMIL.
*Plate facing TRIANGLE.                THE


THE NEW BUILDER’S Dictionary: OR, Gentleman’s and Architect’s COMPANION.


Abacus [is Latin of Άβαξ, Gr. Which signifies several Things; as a square Trencher, and sometimes a Cup-board, &c.] But in Architecture, Abacus is the upper Member of the Capital of a Column, serving as a kind of Crowning, both to the Capital and the whole Column.

Others define it to be a square Table, List, or Plinth, in the upper Part of the Chapiters of the Columns, especially of those of the Corinthian Order, serving instead of a Drip or Corona to the Capital, supporting the nether Face of the Architrave and whole Trabeation.

In Columns of the Corinthian Order, it represents a kind of square Tile covering a Basket,

Vol. 1.


suppos’d to be encompass’d with Leaves.

In the Tuscan, Doric, and antient Ionic, it is a flat square Member, well enough resembling the original Title; whence it is called by the French Tailloir, i.e. a Trencher, and by the Italians Credenza.

In the richer Orders, it loses its native Form, the four Sides or Faces of it being arch’d or cut inwards with some Ornament, as a Rose, or other Flower, a Fish’s Tail, &c. in the Middle of each Arch. Others say, that in the Corinthian and Composite, it is composed of an Uvolo, a Fillet, and a Cavetto.

But some Architects take other Liberties, both as to the Name, Place, and Office of the Abacus.

B Thus

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Draw-Bridge, is one that may be drawn or taken up by Means of a Sweep, or Counterpoise, and which shuts up against a Gate. There are others with Pitfals and Beams, sustained by two large Stakes fifteen Foot high; one Part of which lowers as the other rises.

TO BRING UP, a Term used among Workmen, especially among Carpenters, when they are talking with Bricklayers: Thus they say, Bring up the Foundation so high; Bring up such a Wall; Bring up the Chimneys, &c. which is as much as to say, Build the Foundation so high, Build the Wall; Build the Chimneys, &c.

Broad Stone, is the same with Freestone; only this is so called, because raised broad and thin out of the Quarries, viz. not more than two or three Inches thick.

As to its Use: The Use of this Sort of Freestones, which are called Broad-Stones, is for paving Court-Yards and Passages, and before Shop-Doors, as in Walks or Paths in the City of London, to separate them from the Highway.

As to their Price: If the Breadths and Lengths are promiscuous, then the common Price for fitting and laying the Stone in Mortar, from 6d. to 8d. per Foot square, or from 4s. to 6s. per superficial Yard.

But some of these Stones are cut into perfect Squares, like Paving-Tiles, but much larger, as eighteen, twenty, or twenty-four Inches square or more; but as these are neater, so they are dearer; some Pavements of these


being worth 18d. per Foot; and if the Stones are good, and well polish’d, as they ought to be for Kitchens, Diary-Houses, Brew-Houses, &c. they will be worth 15, or 16d. per Foot.

SPANISH BROWN is a dark dull Red, of a Horse-Flesh Colour. It is an Earth that is dug out of the Ground: But there is some of it pleasant enough to the Eye, considering the Deepness of it.

It is of great Use among Painters; being generally used as a first and priming Colour, which they lay on upon any kind of Timber-Work, being cheap and plentiful, and a Colour that works well, if it be ground fine; which may be done with less Labour, than some better Colours do require. That which is of the deepest Colour, and the freest from Stones, is the best.

The other Sorts are not so good to give a Colour to the Eye, but yet they serve as well as any other for the Priming Colours, to season the Wood to lay other Colours upon.

BUFFET, BUFET,} a little Apartment, separated from the rest of the Room, by slender Wooden Columns for placing China, Glass-Ware, &c. Called also a Cabinet.

The Buffet, among the Italians, called Credenza, is inclos’d within a Balustrade, Elbow-high.

BUILDING, is used to signify both the Constructing and Raising of an Edifice; in which Sense, it comprehends as well the Expences, as the Invention and Execution of the Design.



In Building there are three Things to be considered; viz. First, Commodity, or Conveniency. Secondly, Firmness. Thirdly, Delight.

To accomplish which Ends, Sir Henry Wotton considers the whole Subject under two Heads, viz. the Seat or Situation, and the Work.

1. As for the Seat: Either that of the Whole is to be considered, or that of its Parts.

2. As to the Situation, Regard is to be had to the Quality, Temperature, and Salubrity or Healthfulness of the Air; that it be a good healthy Air, not subject to foggy Noisomeness from adjacent Fens or Marshes; also free from noxious Mineral Exhalations: Nor should the Place want the sweet Influence of the Sun-Beams; nor be wholly destitute of the Breezes of Wind, which will fan and purge the Air; the Want of which would render it like a stagnated Pool, or standing Lake of Air, and would be very unhealthy.

Pliny advises not to build a Country-House too near a Fen or Standing-Water; nor yet over-against the Stream and Course of a River; because the Fogs and Mists which arise from a large River, early in a Morning, before Day-Light, cannot chuse but be very unwholesome.

Dr. Fuller advises chiefly to chuse a wholesome Air: because, says he, the Air is a Dish one feeds on every Minute; and therefore it had need to be salubrious.

Cato advises, that a Country-House have a good Air, and not to lie open to Tempests, seated


in a good Soil, and let it exceed therein, if you can; and let in stand under a Hill, and behold the South, in a healthy Place.

As to Commodiousness, or Conveniency, Sir Henry Wotton advises, that the House or Seat have the Conveniency of Water, Fuel, Carriage, &c. that the Way to it be not too steep, and of an incommodious Access, which will be troublesome both to the Family, and Visitants. And as for the Conveniency of being supply’d with Necessaries, it should not be seated too far from some Navigable River, or Arm of the Sea.

Wood and Water, says Dr. Fuller, are two Staple Commodities.

As for Water; the Want of it is a very great Inconveniency, the Detriment of many Houses to which Servants must bring the Well upon their Shoulders.

And as to Wood; where a Place is bald of Wood, no Art can make it a Perriwig in Haste.

Optical Precepts, or Maxims Such I mean, says Sir Henry Wotton, as concern the Properties of a well-chosen Prospect; which may be stiled the Royalty of Sight. For as there is a Lordship (as it were) of the Feet whereon a Man walk’d with much Pleasure about the Limits of his own Possessions, so there is a Lordship likewise of the Eye which being a ranging and imperious (I had almost said) usurping Sense, cannot endure to be circumbscrib’d within a small Space, but must be satisfy’d both with Extent and Variety: Yet on the other Side, I find vast and indefinite Prospects, which drown
L 2 all

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Example 2. If the side of an Octaedron be 20 Inches, what is the solid and superficial Content?

.4714045 the tabular Number.
            8000 the Cube of the Side.
3771.2360000 the solid content.
3.464102 the tabular Number.
            400 the Square of the Side.
1385.640800 the superficial Content.

By Scale and Compasses.

Extend the Compasses from 1 to 20, and that Extent turn’d three Times over from .4714045, will at last fall upon 3771.236, the solid Content.

The same Extent turn’d twice over from 3.464, &c. will at last fall upon 1385.64, the superficial Content.

DOME, in Architecture, a spherical Roof, or a Roof of a spherical Form raised over the Middle of a Building, as a Church, Hall, Pavilion, Vestible, Stair-Case, &c. by way of crowning.

Domes are the same that the Italians call Couppola’s, and we Cupola’s. Vitruvius calls them Tholi.

They are generally made round, or resembling the Bell of a great Clock; but there are some Instances of square ones, as those of the Louvre; and also some of them are in the Form of Polygons, as that of the Jesuit’s Church in the Rue St. Anthoine at Paris.

Domes have commonly ranged around their Columns ranged around their Outsides, both for the sake of Ornament, and Support to the Vault.

DOORS, in Architecture, are Apertures in Walls, to give Entrance and Exit into and out of a Building, or an Apartment of it.

It is laid down as a Rule, that the Doors of a House be as few in Number, and as moderate in Dimensions as possible: For, in a Word, all Openings are Weaknings.

Secondly, That they do not approach too near the Angles of the Walls, it being a very great Solecism to weaken that Part which should strengthen all the rest.

A Precept well recorded, but illy practiced by the Italians, particularly at Venice.

Thirdly, That the Doors, if possible be placed over one another, that Void may be over Void, and Full over Full; which will be a great Strengthening to the whole Fabrick.

Fourthly, That, if possible, they may be opposite to each other, in such manner, that one may see from one End of the House to the other; which will not only be very graceful, but most convenient,

Plate IV

Plate IV.

Toms Sculpt


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second, or as its Square is to the Square of the second: Thus the Ratio of 2 to 8 is Duplicate of that of 2 to 4, or as the Square of 2 to the Square of 4; for which Reason, Duplicate Ratio is the Proportion of Squares, as Triplicate Ratio is of Cubes, &c. And the Ratio of 2 to 8, is said to be compounded of that of 2 to 4, and of 4 to 8.

DUPLICATION, i.e. Doubling, in Arithmetick and Geometry, is the multiplying a Quantity discreet, or continued by two.

The Term is chiefly used of the Cube, as the Duplication of the Cube, which is a famous Proposition that the Geometricians have sought this 2000 Years.

The Duplication of a Cubic, is to find the Side of a Cube that shall be equal in Solidity to a Cube given.

This has been attempted by several geometrically; but it is in vain to pretend to it, for it cannot be done without the Solution of a cubick Equation; and so a Conick Section, or some higher Curve, must be used for determining the Problem.

DYE, in Architecture, is any square Body, as the Trunk or notch’d Part of a Pedestal; or it is the Middle of the Pedestal, or that Part included between the Base and the Cornice; or is called, because it is often made in the Form or a Cube or Dye.

Dye is also used for a Cube of Stone, placed under the Feet of a Statue, and over its Pedestal, to raise it, and shew it the more.

DYPTERE, DIPTERE}in the antient Architecture, was a kind of Temple encompassed with a double Row of Columns; and the Pseudo Dyptere, or False Diptere, was the same, only that this was encompassed with a single Row of Columns, instead of a double Row.



EAGLE, in Architecture, a Figure of that Bird, antiently used as an Attribute or Cognizance of Jupiter in the Capitals and Friezes of the Columns of Temples consecrated to that God.

EAVES, in Architecture, is the Margin or Edge of the Roof of an House; being the lowest Tiles, Slates, or the like, that hang over the Walls, to throw off Water to a Distance from the Wall.

Eaves-Lath, is a thick feather-edg’d Board, generally nailed round the Eaves of an House for the lowermost Tiles, Slates, or Shingles to rest upon.

Eaves-Laths are commonly sold for three Half-pence or Two-pence per Foot, (running Measure,) according as they are in Goodness.

ECCENTRICK, EXCENTRIC} in Geometry, a Term apply’d where two Circles or Spheres, though contained in some Measure within each other, yet have not the same Centre, and of consequence are not parallel in Opposition to Concentrick, were they have one and the same common Centre, and are parallel.


Plate V

Plate V.

Fig. 1.

Fig. 2.
Point of distance
Point of Sight

Fig. 3

Fig. 4


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