Ants Viires, the pioneering Estonian ethnographer and author of “Woodworking in Estonia,” died on March 18, according to friends and family.
At the time of his death, Lost Art Press was actively preparing an all-new translation of the landmark “Woodworking in Estonia,” which Roy Underhill listed in 2011 as one of his three favorite woodworking books. The surviving family fully supports our translation effort, and we expect to release the book by the end of 2015.
“Woodworking in Estonia” is one of the most detailed studies ever written about an active hand-tool culture. It really is like stepping back into the 17th or 18th century. Viires dedicated his life to recording this vanishing Baltic culture and recording their tools, processes and products.=
Oddly, “Woodworking in Estonia” was first translated into English in the 1960s by the Israel Program for Scientific Translations and – even odder – was published by the U.S. Science Foundation as a typewritten text with low-quality images.
Viires disavowed this edition, saying it was unauthorized.
Nevertheless, this weird little book is how most of us encountered “Woodworking in Estonia” and became fans of it. About two years ago, we encountered an Estonian woodworking in Toronto who put us in touch with the Viires family and we all agreed to embark on a completely new translation.
Since that first 1960s edition, Viires had updated the text in “Woodworking in Estonia.” And the Estonian publisher, Kirjastus Ilo, reissued the book with gorgeous and crisp drawings and photos.
We hired a translator who was familiar with Viires’s work to handle the new edition, and he turned in his final translation about the same day that Viires died. The book is now in the hands of Peter Follansbee, who will comb through the text to ensure it is technically correct. And then we will design it to look very much like Viires’s 2006 edition of the book, with all the sharp drawings and photos – and with the full support of the Viires family and the Estonian publisher.
In other words, this will be the first authorized English translation of this book, its sales will support the Viires family and English-speaking woodworkers will finally be able to fully experience this amazing woodworking book.
— Christopher Schwarz