Want to see a Fancy Bookstand?


The folding bookstand in A.-J. Roubo’s “l’Art du menuisier” is nice, but not nearly as fancy as the one I unearthed today while reorganizing my office.

This bookstand is shown in “L’Enseignement Professionnel du Menuisier” (book 1) by Léon Jamin. Jamin is listed at an “ancien collaborateur au Roubo,” but I don’t know enough about Jamin to say what that really means.

I purchased an original copy of the plates from this 19th-century book for professional woodworkers, and it is a delight to page through. One of the owners of the book performed all the recommended exercises on the backs of the plates, which are almost as fascinating as the plates themselves.

In this plate, No. 32, the author is illustrating how to draw the bookstand in perspective. The three images here are joined to one another at the edges, making for a complete exploration of all the details of the bookstand.

I don’t own a copystand (yet) for my camera, so I have included three high-resolution scans here for you to play with. Feel free to stitch the images together.

— Christopher Schwarz

bookstand2 bookstand3

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17 Responses to Want to see a Fancy Bookstand?

  1. Michael B says:

    Roy Underhill built this on the Woodwright’s Shop, yes?

    • lostartpress says:

      One like it. We also published it in PW (written by Roy). And I was barbecued for it on the interwebs. It’s still one of my favorite articles we published in my 15 years there.

      • tsstahl says:

        Liked that article also; really put your spatial mind muscle to work. I don’t mean to talk down to folks ‘cuz I suck at woodworking, but pillorying somebody because Kreg or the like do not make a jig for the tricky part is very unfair.

  2. gburbank says:

    I love this drawing! Ok, maybe stylistically, I’m thinking “meh, too frou-frou for my taste”. But the DRAWING, showing layout lines, vanishing points, transfer lines and the whole shebang is fantastic. Often, the designer would do a layout sheet and then an overlay, eliminating much of the layout lines for the final drawing. When I was taught furniture design, CAD was in it’s infancy, so I was taught this traditional method, which I continue to use today. I admit to being one of those odd quacks that believes if you draw it, physically by hand, you have built the whole thing once in your head, and therefore you make fewer mistakes than with a CAD program.

    • I am a fellow odd quack. I always draw things out first. By hand, of course.

    • I think the most interesting thing about the perspective image is just how out of whack it is. It has many of the layout right but it goes really weird in the perspective view. The scrolls on the top ends of both leaves are totally wrong for that view as is the bottom edge of of the foot to the far right. That line should point to the vanishing point. The big roughly elliptical downward curve on the face of the back is not even close to right, the column like thing on the far side of the back should be narrower than the one on the close side, etc.

      Whoever made it was either oddly lacking in technical skill despite the era and his obvious knowledge of other technical aspects of his trade (the French knew this stuff very well, see Niceron, Monge, etc), or chose to draw it really oddly for some reason.

      The more I look at it, I can’t figure out what that reason might have been. I’ve seen a lot of old design drawings that are not technically correct but more useful because of that since they twist a view to show some detail in a way that is easier to scale from. That makes no sense here since views 1 and 2 show right sized views.

      One obvious thing that led to at least a few of the many oddities is that the vertical line that goes from the ghosted top view (still in figure 5) should have been extended to line YZ, but instead stopped at the other line. That’s an understandable mistake given the complexity of the whole, but since this is an engraving it had at least a few preliminary drawings. Either the person who made the drawing screwed that up and it wasn’t caught by the blind drunkard who engraved it, or the engraver, being as we’ve already determined, a blind drunkard screwed it up on his own and no else caught it. When I do things like that at work, I get a beating and am made to do it over, drunk or not.

      • gburbank says:

        Hmm, duly noted. Perhaps I should have put down the bottle and viewed it more closely. It seems I may have been a bit of a blind drunkard myself.

  3. wb8nbs says:

    Somebody pointed out to me, that bookstand form is much older than Roubo. It is common in Muslim countries, traditionally used to prop up a copy of the Qu’ran. See http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/search-the-collections/446151?img=4 for one dated 1360 with absolutely incredible carving. Then go google “Koran stand” and look at the images link.

  4. Fantastic! I love this stuff. Thanks for posting….damn that drawing is nice.

  5. The book is here : http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k6566068h.r=léon+jamin.langFR, pp. 461-464

    As for the “collaborateur au Roubo” mention, it refers to the 1876 re-edition of l’Art du Menuisier, on which he was a collaborator. Also available here : http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k6555542d.r=roubo.langFR

  6. Léon Jamin wrote the last great woodworking encyclopedy that was published in 1897 and is still printed by Editions Vial “http://www.editionsvial.com/fiche-produit.php?id_domaine=12&id_livre=8”, this is definitely the next book you will have to translate when you’ll have recovered from the Roubo adventure!

    • James Daily says:

      Oh those are very nice. I especially like the lectern. The comb is curious. Other than pure novelty I’m not sure what the advantage is, since it looks like about the same number of tines (?) were used throughout.

  7. Interesting the different methods of using the stand between east and west. The middle eastern illustrations have the book lying with its binding along the knuckle joint, the covers supported by the two wings. The western version has one short and one long wing, so the book must stand upright, with the binding and covers against one wing, the bottom of the book supported by the short wing.

    • Chairs are not really traditional furniture in much of the Middle East. There are plenty of old Chinese chairs and I’ve seen loads of them. You cant miss those or Western Chairs if you look at almost any half-way decent furniture collection. By comparison, I have seen a huge amount of Central Asian, Ottoman, North African, Arabian, and Persian art and with the exception of the odd throne here and there I have rarely if ever seen any chairs from those areas. Nomads didn’t carry them around and urban dwellings generally had built in seating. A lot of other links to the Met so far in this discussion. Their Damascus Room is another thing worth taking a look at while we’re in the area so to speak. http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/search-the-collections/452102 Note the seating around the edge of the room. Pillows and mats on the floor were the portable alternative. The Eastern form of the stand works well in that Context.

      The Western bookstands are likely either lecterns or derived from them. Stands like that were often used to support books (The Bible) which were being read to an audience. That may derive from the Jewish tradition of reading from Torah scrolls supported on special stands. By contrast, there is and has long been a tradition of oral recitation of the Koran from memory. Might be done standing or sitting, but no book needed. In the West, if a bookstand was used for study and not as a lectern then still much more likely used by a scholar on a chair or stool.

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