While I’m enjoying the food and culture of London and Paris this week with my wife and girls, I have squeezed in some serious work for Lost Art Press. In London, Maddy and I turned up two antique English woodworking books (one from 1875) that I have never seen in the United States.
One is quite promising and features plans for a treadle table saw and an absolutely ingenious freestanding leg vise. The writing is also delightful — the author mentions that he has used the leg vise for chaining up a monkey and a trained squirrel. No lie.
I also spent an afternoon in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, which I have been writing about all week and inspired several forthcoming entries about the English Arts & Crafts movement.
In Paris, Lucy and I spent today soaking in some impressionist paintings (for her) and stunning Art Deco and Art Nouveau furniture and housewares at the Musée d’Orsay. Sadly, I couldn’t take photos at the M.O., as the locals call it, because American woodworkers need an education in Deco and Nouveau.
But the highlight of the trip was a brief visit to the Librarie du Camée at 70 rue Saint-André-des-Arts. This bookstore is surrounded by art galleries and other bookstores and feels so much more like the Paris of your imagination than the Paris surrounding the monuments (I wanted to put a gun in my mouth at Versailles).
The store is about the size of a half-decent American closet, but is absolutely crammed with books dealing with traditional crafts, including housewares, tools, horology, textiles and even making perfume. And, of course, there is a large section devoted to woodworking.
I spent about an hour going over all the shelves. I could have dropped about 1,000 Euros without regret, but I restrained myself (for now). Instead I picked up some more modern books so I can get my rusty French skills back on track.
Two volumes were a reprint of “Menuisier En Baitiments,” an 1882 book describing the craft in great detail, including many plates I’ve never seen. I also bought a new book, “Les Rabots: Histoire, Technique, Typologie, Collection” by Pierre Bouillot and Xavier Chatellard, which is an enormous and comprehensive book on Continental handplanes of all types. And I bought a third book — not a reprint — describing machine and hand woodworking operations circa 1965.
Also hanging out in the closet was a husband and wife team from Washington, D.C., who tipped me off to a tool museum and library that I’ll have to visit during my next visit to Europe in September.
Then it was off to get some iced coffee and start devouring the books. Right now, it’s a bit like reading “Riddley Walker,” but I’ll get my French back up to speed.
— Christopher Schwarz