Internet search digs up antique book with ties to old Annapolis house

18th-century work donated to foundation

November 22, 1999|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

The most modern of conveniences -- the Internet -- played a role in the purchase of a 1767 reference book by a generous donor for the Historic Annapolis Foundation.

William N. Turpin, a retired educator who is an archaeology volunteer for the foundation, was inspired to purchase the book, Isaac Ware's "A Complete Body of Architecture," after hearing a lecture at Brice House given by Edward C. Papenfuse, the state archivist.

Local history

The book was particularly relevant to Brice House because a copy of it had been ordered from England by James Brice before he began building his home on East Street.

Brice lent the book to cabinetmaker John Shaw, receiving in return a receipt that survives in the state archives. During his talk, Papenfuse showed a slide of the receipt, and another of a Web site with a copy of the book for sale.

Although that copy was sold, Turpin acquired another through the Internet from a rare-book dealer in London, a move the foundation said was "an exciting example of using modern technology to access the benefits of past culture."

Turnpin said the book was in such "beautiful condition" he "didn't want to handle it." The volume will become part of the foundation's collection at the state archives, available for display at William Paca House and for scholarly research, the foundation said. Turpin made the donation in memory of his first wife, Adriana deHeus Turpin, who died in 1969.

A retired Foreign Service officer and economics professor who also taught Latin and Greek, Turpin described the book as "a useful research source, the kind of thing one likes to have around -- or at least I do. I hope it would be the beginning of a collection of books like that, from which 18th-century artisans worked."

`A gift to Annapolis'

Jean Russo, the foundation's director of research, said Ware's book, influenced Brice House's interior decorative work.

"Because the builders of Annapolis' great houses relied on books like Ware's for guidance, this generous donation truly is a gift to Annapolis as well as to [the foundation]," she said.

Turpin said he preferred not to discuss the book's cost, but that it was "more than twelve hundred quid," or about $2,000.

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