05 July 2008

For historic bridge fans ...

Traditionally, researching bridge history has involved travel to the various venerable institutions who hold rare copies of particular manuscripts, making it a hobby basically for the retired engineer or historian with time to spare. For example, Tom Peters' excellent "Transitions in Engineering: Guillaume Henri Dufour and the Early 19th Century Cable Suspension Bridges" [Amazon.co.uk] features an exhaustive bibliography based on painstaking personal research.

Of course, the internet is beginning to diminish these difficulties. I've been aware for a while that Google Books contains scanned versions of several key books of interest, which can be read online or downloaded as PDFs. These include:

There are dozens of others, many of them great early documents of the pioneering 19th century.

I was unaware until very recently that bibliophiles can get much of the same material in print, thanks to Kessinger Publishing and the University of Michigan's Scholarly Publishing Office. In addition to some of the titles mentioned above, you can find otherwise long out-of-print books by David Steinman, John Roebling, Squire Whipple and many others. Several are unavailable through Google. They can be ordered either through the publishers or through Amazon.

Great for the happy pontist's bridges bookshelf; very, very bad for his wallet.


Xosé Manuel Carreira said...

Let me add:
- Bridges and its builders. David Steinmann. A biographical overview of the construction of the American suspension bridges in the dawning of the 20th century.
- The tower and the bridge. Billington. A nice book about he history of aesthetics in structures (and specially bridges).

The Happy Pontist said...

I think at some point I might consider doing a post on "ten essential books" for the bridge engineer or bridge enthusiast!

David Billington has done some great writing particularly drawing attention to the best structural engineers (Maillart, Candela, Menn etc). But I don't entirely disagree with some of his ideas about "structural art", or his puritan belief that economy and aesthetics go hand-in-hand - I think there has to be room for eccentricity and flamboyance occasionally. Again, something for a more detailed post at some point!

Xosé Manuel Carreira said...

I agree on your main point about Billington's style. But the same could be said about Calatrava. Both Calatrava and Billington are pretencious, baroque and controversial in their conception of structures but they both know how to market their ideas successfully. Not in vane Calatrava is civil engineer and architect and Billington is professor of a degree in architecture at Princeton :-)