Macaulay’s talent as artist, architect, draftsman, and interpreter of the built environment is well presented in Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction. The significance of this first book did not go unrecognized; the Caldecott Committee named it an Honor Book. The same honor was bestowed on Macaulay’s Castle (1977). These works and others by the author provide understanding about important construction facts, including terms related to architecture, tools, and building techniques. Of greater importance is the fact that Macaulay is able to create social history through his text and illustrations. With clear statements in a minimum of words, he conveys a clear understanding of the times, the people, and their feelings. The book works on many levels: as art and architecture, as history, as travelogue, as social commentary, and as a pleasant reading experience.
Macaulay chose not to overwhelm the reader with too many complex ideas or too much detail. Yet, he never talks down to the reader. Accurate terminology is used in a meaningful context. Triforium, clerestory, tracery, and vaulting are explained in text and clearly illustrated in diagrams. Locations within the cathedral—such as the apse, transept, choir, and nave—are visually clear when readers are given a bird’s-eye view of the cathedral. Buttresses and flying buttresses, along with keystone, voussoirs, and trusses, are illustrated and explained as to their purpose and...
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David Macaulay has chosen to share his extensive art background in books for young readers and has expanded his audience to include general readers. After Cathedral, which won national and international acclaim, similar titles followed: Pyramid (1975) and Castle also enthralled readers. No one before Macaulay had made knowledge about buildings, especially monumental buildings, intelligible to a younger audience. These books reach beyond an encyclopedia to convey information in an interesting format. His large pen-and-ink sketches, rendered in black and white, are detailed in design and pleasing in arrangement.
Cathedral received the distinguished German Jugendbuchpreis and The New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year and was named an American Library Association Notable Book. Macaulay’s books have been translated into many languages, and he has received many other awards, including a medal from the American Institute of Architects that reads “an outstanding illustrator and recorder of architectural accomplishments.”
In addition to the triad of books on the construction of internationally known edifices, Macaulay has created related books, including Mill (1983), about nineteenth century mills in New England, and Ship (1993), which describes the recovery of artifacts from a ship that sank more than five hundred years ago. The Way Things Work (1988) offers detailed drawings, this time in color, with humorous analogies. This offbeat sense of humor is also evident in Why the Chicken Crossed the Road (1987), Black and White (1990), and Shortcut (1995). These three books are more appropriate for a younger audience, although they are intended for all ages. It is with humor, extensive knowledge, and masterful artistic talent that David Macaulay enriches his readers.