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The Forgotten Art of Building a Good Fireplace by Vrest Orton, Austin Stevens (Illustrator) The Forgotten Art of Building a Good Fireplace
by Vrest Orton, Austin Stevens (Illustrator)

Paperback: 64 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.21 x 9.02 x 6.01
Publisher: Alan C Hood & Co; (May 2000)
ISBN: 0911469176

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From the Publisher: Vrest Orton loved the five fireplaces in his 1828 Federal brick house in Weston, Vermont because of their architectural beauty and because of the enormous amount of heat they produced without letting smoke into the rooms. In his quest to understand why his old fireplaces worked so much better than most "modern" versions, Orton discovered the work of Count Rumford, the eighteenth-century genius who brought fireplace design to an unprecedented level of efficiency.

Born Benjamin Thompson in Woburn, Massachusetts in 1753, Rumford was a Tory during the American Revolution, and he emigrated to Britain. While in Britain, he applied himself to the study and improvement of smoky fireplaces, and had so much success that his fame spread to Europe. In Bavaria, his contributions to society were so appreciated that he was ennobled as "Count of the Holy Roman Empire" by the Elector of Bavaria. He took the name "Rumford" from the old name for Concord, New Hampshire.

In this book, Vrest Orton recounts the fascinating story of Count Rumford. He then goes on to spell out Rumford's basic principals of fireplace design with the help of drawings by Austin Stevens. Since its original publication in 1969, this book has gone through numerous printings and has brought about a revival of the Rumford fireplace.

Vrest Orton served in France during World War I, had a distinguished career in book and magazine publishing for twenty years, and then moved back to Vermont after Pentagon service following World War II to found the Vermont Country Store, which issues one of America's most trusted and popular mail-order catalogs.

This new edition included some notes and clarification by Wally Leeds, a mason in Tunbridge, Vermont who had built many Rumford fireplaces. In addition, there is a preface by Lyman Orton, son of Vrest Orton.

Customer Reviews
Leeds' Contribution Significant, January 1, 2002
Reviewer: Lucas Rozsa from Yerevan, Armenia
Having seen and admired Leeds' work over the course of two decades, I consider him a master among master masons. I have also enjoyed his wit and wisdom as an author.

Orton was wise to include Leeds in this book.

Useful, But Only if Your Architect or Builder Reads It, Too, November 17, 2001
Reviewer: imperialtopaz from Marrakech, Morocco
I am an American, living overseas, in Africa, and am in the process of designing my own home. The building standards here are far lower than the standards in America, and I'm looking to educate myself before hiring an architect.

This book is the product of an interested layman's research, based on his own interest in finding out why some older, very unusual-looking fireplaces (by modern standards) seem to produce better, non-smoky fires than the modern fireplaces built in this century. The author researched the historical documents and designs left by the famous early-American fireplace builder Count Rumford. He shows us through explanations and diagrams the principles of Count Rumford's designs, and he does explain these principles clearly.

I have two criticisms of the book. The first is that he spent the first 35 pages talking about Count Rumford and his life (obviously of great personal interest to the author, and of less interest to me). He spent only the last 20 or so pages specifically on the principles of fireplace design. Secondly, as a layperson, he has had to include in the book a disclaimer for the information. Therefore, this book is useful, but your architect or builder would have to read through it (it's short, and could be done) and pass his judgement upon the principles. Therefore, I don't know if the book will be that useful to me here in Africa, as I am in a French-speaking country. The book could have been greatly improved just by the addition of some comments by various architects added to it, in a separate section.

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