Chapman's American Drawing Book

Chapman's American Drawing Book
John Gadsby Chapman
New York: A.S. Barnes and Co. 1870
Page One

Once upon a time in America, drawing manuals were all the rage. Like keyboard instructionals and sheet music for pianos in the parlor, drawing books provided in-roads for citizens to practice the basics of visual art for pleasure and entertainment at home.

Michael Kimmelman describes this civilizing cultural phenomenon beautifully in his 2006 NYT review of a show at The Grolier Club called "Teaching America to Draw." I urge you to read this article — An Exhibition About Drawing Conjures a Time When Amateurs Roamed the Earth. Reflect upon Kimmelman's thoughtful and succinct appraisal. He expresses my own views on the subject far better than I could.

The Chapman American Drawing Book has been floating about the web as a free download for a couple of years. Take advantage of this offering for fun or study (or both). Try it out on your new iPad or Kindle (though it works fine on any computer).

To download a complete copy, click on this link at the Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture or stream it from Harvard with a variety of download formats.

It's true what Chapman claims at the outset — "Anyone who can learn to write can learn to draw."

Read my related post on Thomas Eakin's Drawing Manual.