During the last year, Jeff Burks, Suzanne Ellison and I have been investigating the history of the holdfast. We’ve found some clues that this essential bench accessory is older than we first suspected.
It’s a long story that involves decaying frescoes, letters sent overseas, e-mails to Yale and lots of dead ends.
As we move forward in our research, we have a question for our multi-lingual readers: How do you say “holdfast?”
In French, we know it is “les valets.” But as we search databases around the planet, it would be good to have a more complete list of this common trade word in a bunch of languages, such as French, German, Dutch, Swedish and the like.
In English, we know the word goes back a bit. In 1575, G. Gascoigne in “Noble Arte Venerie lxxii” states: “You may take them out aliue with your holdfasts or clampes.” That’s the earliest reference in the Oxford English Dictionary.
But we think the tool is older than that.
Let us know. We thank you.
— Christopher Schwarz