Obituary: Kevin Lippert, 1959–2022

by Katharine Q. Seelye | Apr 19, 2022

Published in The New York Times

When Kevin Lippert was a graduate student in architecture at Princeton in 1981, he and his fellow students were encouraged to study historical texts. But these books were old, fragile, oversized and cumbersome, and access to them was limited.

It occurred to him that if they could be reprinted in smaller formats and made available at a reasonable price, students would happily pay for them.

And so he gave his idea a whirl. He persuaded the school’s librarians to let him take out rare books and copy them; if students had their own copies, he argued, they would not be damaging the originals.

In a pilot project, he experimented first with “Recueil et Parallèle des Edifices de Tout Genre” (“Survey and Comparison of Buildings of All Types”), a book published in 1800 by the French architect Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand. He made elaborate copies in large sheets measuring 20 by 26 inches and placed them in wooden boxes, the better to preserve them. At $300 apiece, they were beautiful but not very practical.

To broaden the appeal, he decided that his next book should be smaller, and that it should be bound. He selected a classic text: “Edifices de Rome Moderne” (1840), Paul Letarouilly’s three-volume masterpiece, sometimes called the most beautiful book on Renaissance architecture ever published. He found a printer who condensed the work into one volume, which measured an easy-to-handle 9 by 12 inches.

Mr. Lippert printed 1,000 copies and hawked them to students for $55 apiece out of the trunk of his car. They sold out immediately.

Thus was born Princeton Architectural Press, of which he was founder and publisher. It eventually branched out beyond its classic reprint series to produce high-quality books on architecture, design and visual culture — and, later, books on hobbies and crafts, children’s books and note cards.

The publishing venture was an early example of the entrepreneurial spirit that animated the multifaceted Mr. Lippert, who died on March 29 at his home in Ghent, N.Y., southeast of Albany. He was 63.

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Founded in 1940, the Society of Architectural Historians is an international nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation and conservation of architecture, design, landscapes and urbanism worldwide. SAH serves a network of local, national and international institutions and individuals who, by profession or interest, focus on the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life. SAH promotes meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through advocacy efforts, print and online publications, and local, national and international programs.

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