The World’s Worship in Stone; Temple, Cathedral, and Mosque; One hundred and fifty engravings from the best artists

Author M. M. Ripley
Author Name Variants M. M. Ripley
Publication Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1883.
Link to Text
Genres History, Reference, Textbook
Keywords Fine Arts, Philosophy & Religion, Architecture, Education
Contributing State Massachusetts
Research Notes  
Digital Source Notes  

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David Preda

Tulane University, December 2015

            The World’s Worship in Stone: Temple, Cathedral, and Mosque presents an overview of the architectural styles found in places of worship over the course of history. The book emphasizes illustration over text: of its 176 pages 150 are devoted to engravings, and while some reviews described it as “an interesting volume” (Stevens 166), others focused on the beauty of the book itself and its appeal as a gift (“New Gift Books”). Either way, The World’s Worship in Stone seems to have sold well. The December 1879 issue of The American Bookseller describes it as “in constant demand” (Correspondence 6) and art museums including the Cleveland Museum of Art acquired it for their collections (“Accessions”).
            The World’s Worship in Stone appears intended for a general audience. Its text provides little in the way of historical context or architectural theory, focusing instead on describing design elements illustrated by the engravings and explaining the function of each building. Ripley’s prose is both eloquent and conversational, if limited in scope. True to the book’s title, its engravings present views of buildings from around the world. Yet its content is rather Eurocentric, focusing mainly on Christian churches and Western architectural traditions. The title page assures readers that its engravings were created by “the best artists,” but fails to credit any by name.
            As for M. M. Ripley, little information about her has survived in the historical record. It seems that The World’s Worship in Stone was her only original work in a career that focused on translating works (primarily non-fiction history) from French to English for the publishing houses Estes & Lauriat and Henry Holt & Company. Census records and city directories reveal that a “Mrs. M. Ripley” resided in Boston around 1880, giving no first name and only revealing that she was widowed (United States). It is possible that this M. Ripley is the woman who authored The World’s Worship in Stone, since a widow may have needed the income that translating texts and writing books marketed as gifts would provide. The Women’s Department at the 1884 New Orleans World’s Fair – at which M.M. Ripley’s work was on display – was dedicated to publicizing women’s achievements and contributions. Unfortunately, it appears that both Ripley and The World’s Worship in Stone fell into obscurity in the decades following the Exposition.

Works Cited

“Accessions.”The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, vol. 4, no. 2, 1917, pp.26–37.

“Books in Preparation.” The American Art Review,vol. 1, no. 3, 1880, pp.126–127.

“Correspondence.” The American Bookseller: A Semi-monthly Journal Devoted to the Interests of the Book, Stationery, News, and Music Trades, vol. 9, no. 1, 1880, p. 6.

“New Gift Books.” The Homiletic Review, vol.14,no. 6, 1887, p.147.

Stevens, Lorenzo Gorham. A Review of the First Half Century of St. Luke’s Church, Portland, St. John, edited by L.G. Stevens. J. & A. McMillan,1889, p.166.

United States. Census Bureau. “Tenth Census of the United States, 1880.” Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts. Washington: National Archives and Records Administration, 1850.