Andrew Alpern Collection of Drawing Instruments

circa 1700-2004


This collection was gathered over forty years by New York architect, historian, and attorney Andrew Alpern, largely by purchase at auction and from private dealers in the United States and Europe. The collection was a gift from Mr. Alpern to Avery Library in 2006. For further information about the gift and additional images, please see the Columbia Libraries' press release.

The bulk of the collection consists of 177 groups of English, Continental and American drafting sets and individual instruments dating from circa 1700 to 2004. These instruments were used to create technical drawings, typically by architects, draftsmen, engineers, surveyors, and students. Complementing the instruments are a small group of miscellaneous items—including medals, a model, necktie, waistcoat, and charm bracelet—and a large group of published materials, including trade catalogs and other technical, biographical, historical, and scholarly writings about drafting and scientific instruments and related subjects.

Set #23. English, third quarter 19th-century. Elliott Brothers. Set of architect’s instruments in multi-tiered mahogany case. Set #23. English, third quarter 19th-century. Elliott Brothers.<br>Set of architect’s instruments in multi-tiered mahogany case.

The collection is divided into the following groups, according to material type:

Series I: English Sets in Pocket Étuis
Series II: English Sets in Magazine Cases
Series III: 19th-century English Magazine Cases
Series IV: Continental Sets
Series V: American Sets
Series VI: 20th-century Sets
Series VII: Scales and Rules
Series VIII: Protractors
Series IX: Proportional Dividers
Series X: Specialized Sets and Individual Instruments
Series XI: Slide Rules and Other Computational Devices
Series XII: Triangles and French Curves
Series XIII: Miscellaneous Items
Series XIV: Books, Journals and Catalogues

Set #23, detail of proportional divider. Set #23, detail of proportional divider.
Set #23, detail of rolling parallel rule. Set #23, detail of rolling parallel rule.