The Books of David Macaulay

August - December 2011

From The New Way Things Work ©1998 David Macaulay

"…I use pictures and words to emphasize the common sense behind the design of any object, in an attempt to demystify an increasingly complex and detached world of skyscrapers and light switches and four-stroke engines and compact-disc players…" - David Macaulay, Caldecott Medal Award acceptance speech

In July 2011, the Foosaner Art Museum debuted "Building Books: The Art of David Macaulay", a traveling Norman Rockwell Museum exhibit. The exhibit contains many original drawings, paintings, and fragile sculptures created by the author/illustrator in developing each of his books.

To complement this exhibit, the Evans Library has gathered together a colorful array of his books and placed them on display for patrons to study and enjoy. Each title is accompanied by a short description of the book. Wooly mammoths, an exquisitely detailed ship model, a faltering Eiffel Tower, and other model representations of each book add to the whimsical nature of both the artist and his stories.

Image Image


Image David Macaulay was born in 1946 in England and moved to the United States with his family at the age of six. He studied at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), receiving a bachelor's degree in architecture. He never pursued this profession however, instead opting for short careers in interior design, as a junior high school teacher, and finally as an instructor at his alma mater (RISD). Always having had a love for drawing, he published his first book, Cathedral, in 1973. Following the success of that book, he soon followed with others: City, Castle, Pyramid, and Underground. His books follow a story line of how something is or was built or incorporates a "cause and effect" concept. When creating his richly detailed, oft-times colored illustrations, Macaulay relies on his architectural and design background to focus on the intricate details that make up a structure whether it be an entire city or a simple can opener.

In all, Macaulay has written over twenty books spanning the years 1973 through 2010, each volume a huge success with loyal fans of all ages worldwide. His book Black and White received the coveted Caldecott Medal. Two other books received the Caldecott Honor citation: Cathedral and Castle.


Macaulay's illustrations are intricate, whimsical, and ofttimes uniquely angled for an unusual perspective. Some samples include:

Image Majestic caravels sail the ocean blue while mysteries await below the surface.
From Ship
Image Crowds and pandemonium everywhere!
From Shortcut
Image Stone by stone, layer by layer, year after year of building!
From Cathedral
Image A whimsical wooly mammoth appears to dance.
From The New Way Things Work
Image Truly the L' Arc de Defeat!
From Great Moments in Architecture


David Macaulay discusses the research behind the creation of his book, Rome Antics on TED.

PBS (Public Broadcasting System) did a five-part television series on David Macaulay called Building Big, after his book of the same title. To learn more about this series or to purchase a video/DVD on this series or other David Macaulay videos, go to http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/buildingbig/.

Other web-based content on David Macaulay can be found on:

The Library display also contains a video of David Macaulay entitled, "Building Books: The Art of David Macaulay," created by Jeremy Clowe for the Norman Rockwell Museum. In this video, Macaulay discusses the background for a few of his books like Ship and The Way We Work, a book about the "building of the human body."

"I make drawings to help people understand things - things that I want them to believe that I understand and that's what I do as an illustrator…" - David Macaulay on TED video "David Macaulay's Rome Antics"

David Macaulay's Books

Cover Title About
Book Image Cathedral
Macaulay takes you to Chutreaux, France in 1252 to watch the people of the village design and build a cathedral week after week, year by year.
Book Image City
Witness efficient and rational city planning of Macaulay's imaginary Roman city, "Verbonia."
Book Image Pyramid
Macaulay tells us why the pyramids are shaped like 'pyramids'; who made them, and how they were made.
Book Image Underground
What's under the streets in most cities? Black and white illustrations of systems of water and sewers, storm drains, electricity, steam and gas distribution, telephones, and underground transportation.
Book Image Castle
Macaulay's exquisite pen and ink drawings illustrate the construction of a castle, brick by brick, tool by tool, worker by worker.
Book Image Great Moments in Architecture
Imagine the Eiffel Tower tipped over the Seine, the Arc de Triomphe in 'defeat' mode, and the Tower of Pisa on a skewed drafting table! Macaulay enlists the 'what if' imagination in giving readers a whole new insight - tongue in cheek - of many historical architectural monuments.
Book Image Motel of the Mysteries
In the year 4022, a DO NOT DISTURB sign leads an amateur archeologist to discover what he believes to be precious relics in an archaic burial chamber from the long-dead civilization of Usa.
Book Image Unbuilding
Macaulay de-constructs the Empire State Building, showing the engineering necessary to un-build it safely. Published in 1987, Unbuilding today, is a sad echo of the loss of the Twin Towers on 9/11.
Book Image Mill
The old mills of New England - building them, using them, and the history surrounding them and how they effected American life in the 19th-century. This is a fascinating history lesson on a major part of American history.
Book Image Baaa
"There is no record of when the last person disappeared." Enter a flock of sheep as they take over a town deserted by humans and start to adopt the ways of humans right down to wearing their clothes (wool?) and driving their cars. What happens to these sheep over time can only come from the imagination of David Macaulay.
Book Image Why the Chicken Crossed the Road
When the chicken crosses the road, it leads to multiple absurd adventures and near catastrophes! Readers will encounter cows, the ancient bridge, the passing train and more as Macaulay takes them on a crazy and yet wonderful ride through another cause and effect story.
Book Image The Way Things Work
Large, colorful drawings of machines and apparatus of all kinds, sizes, and functions are sliced in half to reveal the inside 'story' of how they work. Macaulay doesn't leave a screw unturned in his detailed depictions in both words and drawings.
Book Image Black and White
The 1991 Caldecott Medal winner, as close to interactive media in a book as you can get. Four stories (impatient commuter, young boy, delayed train, Holstein cows)? Or one story? Looks like a book for kids but not really.
Book Image Ship
Macaulay presents two intriguing stories involving the fictitious sunken ship, Magdalena. One is a modern day adventure as divers explore the ocean depths around the ship and the other surrounds the finding of the ship owner's diary and its contents. Macaulay details the actual building of the ship plank by plank and the hopes and dreams of the owner.
Book Image Shortcut
The study of cause and effect is brilliantly revealed here where several incidents both stand alone and are intermingled with each other. What one character does or does not do affects another character. A horse with curlers, a professor and a hot-air balloon - stories that seem to end only to emerge later in the book due to the 'cause and effect' syndrome.
Book Image Rome Antics
Macaulay has managed to depict a bird's eye view in Rome Antics. A homing pigeon is released and flies over Rome taking the proverbial scenic route as it travels through archways, doorways, over rooftops and between ancient columns. Its excursion is revealed in the most unlikely (to us humans!) of angles - as only a bird can see.
Book Image Building the Book Cathedral
Twenty-five years after his first book, Cathedral was published, Macaulay presents this latest tome that suggests revisions he'd make to this classic after what he's learned. It's a peek into how the author's creative mind works complete with red edited markings.
Book Image Building Big
Bridges, tunnels, skyscrapers, dams, and domes - how engineers and designers plan and construct these mammoth architectural wonders.
Book Image Angelo
Angelo is an elderly Italian craftsman who restores facades of Roman buildings. Having to constantly clear away twigs and feathers of the 'thoughtless' pigeons, he one day comes across one that isn't looking too good. His kind heart wins over and he takes the bird home to care for it, befriending it and, makes one final touching gesture to her before his death.
Book Image Mosque
For many Westerners, a mosque is a building of mystery and Macaulay attempts to teach the reader about not only design and construction methods of the mosque but about Islam as well with his up-close-and-personal look at the people involved in building this place of worship and its community buildings.
Book Image The Way We Work
Macaulay builds the human body, from cells and DNA to the systems that work together to sustain life, ending with the cells from a man and a woman combining to create new life.
Book Image Built to Last
Revised text and new full-color drawings based on Castle, Cathedral, and Mosque. "Built to Last gave me a chance to use all that I had in my head to improve the books", said Macaulay. "There's something to be said about black-and-white, but life is after all lived in color."

A David Macaulay interactive puzzle!

Word SearchClick here to download and play!




CATHEDRAL: "The final decision to build a new cathedral was made in the year 1252, after lightning struck and severely damaged the old cathedral. The people of Chutreaux wished to build the longest, widest, highest, and most beautiful cathedral in all of France. The new cathedral would be built to the glory of God and it mattered little that it might take more than one hundred years to construct it…"

UNDERGROUND: "Beneath the buildings and streets of a modern city exists the network of walls, columns, cables, pipes and tunnels required to satisfy the basic needs of its inhabitants. The larger the city, the more intricate this network becomes. While the walls and columns support the city's buildings, bridges, and towers, the cables, pipes and tunnels carry life-sustaining elements such as water, electricity, and gas. Larger tunnels burrow through the underground, linking places on the surface more directly. Through them high-speed trains carry the large numbers of people who live and work within the urban community…"

UNBUILDING: "…Starting with the television tower, the newest and highest addition to the building, the structure was to be taken down floor by floor in the reverse order in which it had been built…"

BUILT TO LAST: "The opening at the top of each tower was enclosed by a cone-shaped roof. Its beams or rafters were set into a groove around the inside edge of the tower walk and covered, first with wood then with either sheets of lead or pieces of slate…Heat for each of the upper rooms was provided by a large fireplace, built into the wall during construction. Vertical shafts, called flues, carried the smoke from the fireplaces up to chimneys on the tower walks…"

MOTEL OF THE MYSTERIES: "The ground below his feet suddenly gave way. He was precipitated headlong downward. When the dust had settled and he had recovered his spectacles, he found himself at the bottom of an ancient shaft, facing the entrance of a long-forgotten tomb. The shaft, probably dug by tomb robbers shortly after the tomb was sealed, had been covered initially by the natural vegetation of the surface. More recently, the whole area had been buried under vast quantities of soil from the adjacent excavation…"

THE NEW WAY THINGS WORK: "To any machine, work is a matter of principle, because everything a machine does is in accordance with a set of principles or scientific laws. To see the way a machine works, you can take the covers off and look inside. But to understand what goes on, you need to get to know the principles that govern its actions…"


We hope you have enjoyed visiting this site and learning more about the award-winning author and illustrator, David Macaulay.

Photo Archive


Click above for a PowerPoint slideshow containing additional images and information about David Macaulay.

All illustrations and images presented here, unless otherwise noted, are copyright David Macaulay.
Videos and other media presentations credited at site.

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