LIKE every other object of human inquiry, Architecture may be studied from two distinct points of view. Either it may be regarded statically, and described scientifically as a thing existing, without any reference to the manner in which it was invented; or it may be treated historically, tracing every form from its origin and noting the influence one style has had upon another in the progress of time.
The first of these methods is more technical, and demands on the part of the student very considerable previous knowledge before it can be successfully prosecuted. The other, besides being more popular and easily followed, has the advantage of separating the objects of study into natural groups, and tracing more readily their connection and relation to one another. The great superiority, however, of the historical mode of study arises from the fact that, when so treated, Architecture ceases to be a mere art, interesting only to the artist or his employer, but becomes one of the most important adjuncts of history, filling up many gaps in the written record and giving life and reality to much that without its presence could with difficulty be realized.
A still more important use of architecture, when followed as a history, is found in its ethnographic value. Every different race of men had their own peculiar forms in using the productions of this art, and their own mode of expressing their feelings or aspirations by its means. When properly studied, it consequently affords a means as important as language for discriminating between the different races of mankind,—often more so, and one always more trustworthy and more easily understood.
In consequence of these advantages, the historical mode is that which will be followed in this work. But before entering upon the narrative, it will be well if a correct definition of what Architecture really is can be obtained. Without some clear views on the technical position of the art, much that follows will be unintelligible and the meaning of what is said may be mistaken.