Mr. Klint and Mr. Jefferson


Both Kaare Klint, the father of Danish Modern furniture, and Thomas Jefferson, the father of awesomeness, had a similar idea about storing books.

Put them in individual boxes that suit their sizes. Stack the boxes on top of one another.


This was how Jefferson’s entire library (which later became the Library of Congress) was arranged. In fact, the books were transported from Monticello to Washington, D.C., by merely nailing a board on front of each unit and putting it in a carriage.

In Klint’s 1924 design for I.C.T. Levinsen, he stacked up boxes and then clad them in another carcase with tapered sides. The lower units were 19-1/2” tall and they became smaller with each unit above – 17”-7/32”, 15”-1/4”, 13-1/2” and 12” at the top.


As someone who built a recreation of the Monticello bookcases, I can tell you this: It makes for a fantastic bookcase that consumes a lot of material. I can only imagine adding the tapered sides would complicate construction and add material.

Still, they are cool.

— Christopher Schwarz

Images of Klint’s work are from Gorm Harkaer’s excellent monograph on Kaare Klint.

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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7 Responses to Mr. Klint and Mr. Jefferson

  1. Ryan Starkey says:

    The father of awesomeness indeed. Well proportioned bookshelves btw. Is the photo your reproduction of them? I want to say the Monticello website has the dimensions/description, but I have yet to tackle that project.

  2. Farmer Greg says:

    Handsome cases. I’ve wanted to build these ever since I saw them in Underhill’s “Woodwright’s Apprentice” (if memory serves). Did you do a straight reproduction using Jefferson’s dimensions, or did you design your own?

  3. gordonmeffert says:

    Very interesting! Would you share your source of the Klint photo and drawing? Thank you for the enjoyable blog.

  4. paul6000000 says:

    Roy talked about Jefferson’s bookcases (and the slave who built them) on an early episode of his show. I remember my dad calling me in to see this new show, with this guy rushing around a shop, grabbing old tools, knocking stuff over…. He had a bow saw for sawing out the dovetail pin waste that cut corners at sharp 90 degrees. Sharing that look of astonishment with my dad remains one of my best memories. Thanks for reminding me of it.

    (spoiler -the saw had a kink in it)

  5. Chris,
    If you like modular bookcases you might like this by Mogens Koch.
    The video is advertising but is redeemed by lots of close ups of dovetails and hand tool work:


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