Swan's Collection of Designs is the second architectural book to be
printed in the Colonies, and by far the rarest of the handful printed before
1800 in what came to be the United States of America. It appears that only two
other copies exist, at the New York Public Library and Winterthur in Delaware.
The printer Robert Bell and engraver John Norman had announced their
intention to publish A Collection of Designs, in twelve monthly numbers,
in their publication of Swan's British Architect (1775), the first book
on architecture printed in the Colonies. Perhaps because of the political
situation, only this, the first number, ever appeared. The book was dedicated to
John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress. Its dedication leaf
features an emblem engraved by Norman, symbolizing the unity of the thirteen colonies.
The Avery copy was purchased by Richard Smith (1735-1803), a delegate to
the Continental Congress, while on recess in Philadelphia. His inscription on
the title-page, "Richd. Smith Novr. 15. 1775," gives a terminus ante quem
for publication; the fascicule with its ten leaves of plates may have been
available some months earlier. In the twentieth century, the book was owned by a
Pennsylvania senator's nephew and namesake, Boies Penrose II (1902-1976), who
affixed his ex-libris to the title-page's verso.