The throttle on the S.S. Studley Manuscript is as wide open as I can make it, and I am stoking the fire with vigor. Unlike Chris Schwarz, who once told me that a normal day for him includes writing 4,000 words, my full day of working on the “Virtuoso” manuscript for Lost Art Press yields a quarter of that. I am not complaining nor really comparing, just reporting. I am averaging about 3,000 words per week, which means I should have the manuscript roughed out in another two or two-and-a-half months.
It is thrilling to see the book take shape. I do not know how most writers write, I only know how I write. I don’t begin at the beginning and end at the end. Once I create a complete framework, I backfill by writing vignettes as the mood strikes me and then weave them together as I go.
For example, I have finished the Introduction (it describes how the project itself came to be), and the Conclusion (wherein I posit a connection between the ethos of Roubo and the anal-retentive perfectionism of Studley; I know you are shocked by me making that connection!). I have also finished The Catalog of the tool cabinet, well, as finished as I can get it before returning for one last perusal this fall and making one last detailed examination of each tool to make sure I got it all down.
I am working currently on the chapter titled The Saga, which recounts the threads of history binding together the lives of Henry O. Studley, the Hardwick Clan of Quincy, Mass., and the current owner, to whom I have given the pseudonym Mister Stewart. It is a ripping good yarn, but not really a bodice-ripper sorta story… or is it? The way the tool cabinet was transferred down through the stream of time suggests something hinkie was up with somebody. I’m just sayin’. You’ll have to let me know what you think after you read it for yourself.
A couple other sections are well underway, like the one on the tools made or modified by Studley himself, and Spider Johnson’s contribution on the Masonic iconography in the composition and details.
The last big section remaining for me to dive into is the chapter on the phenomenal workbench and vises, but I tell myself I am leaving the best for last.
Add to that the 1,500 pictures Narayan Nayar has processed thus far, and I am facing an embarrassment of riches for building this book. Once he does his extra special magic for the centerfold images, it will be quite a compelling package. For you photo geeks I will try to persuade him to contribute a brief essay on his work for the book.
This is also a big week in the Studley Universe as at 12:01 a.m. June 1, 2014, the tickets go on sale for the exhibit of the tool collection May 15-17, 2015. More information (and the tickets) can be found at http://www.studleytoolchestexhibit.com.
I cannot deny facing the challenge of this exhibit with some trepidation. Have you ever booked a high-value fine-arts shipper for a dedicated run? Try it some time. It will make that new kitchen seem like a bargain.
— Don Williams, www.donsbarn.com