Early price sheets, notes on shop practice and shop drawings from the early 18th century are quite rare. So it’s a bit amazing to see that Swann Galleries in New York City will be selling documents from joiner John Widdifield (1673-1720), who was one of the first Philadelphia furniture makers to offer pieces in the William & Mary style.
The documents include stuff we’d all like to see. I mean, good God, man. This is stuff that is only 25 years after Joseph Moxon (the first English-language book on woodworking). Here is a bit from the auction description:
The first 26 pages are devoted to sets of measurements and prices for furniture forms ranging from clock cases to stools, cradles to coffins. He also includes sketches of three pieces: a spice box, a scrutoire (writing desk), and a “chest of wallnutt drawers upon a fraime.”
On the verso of page 2 he records detailed instructions for keeping his tools at optimal sharpness.
And for the finishing nerds:
The second section is titled “The Arte of Coloring, Staining & Varnishing According to My Owne Experience.” It includes recipes for numerous types of varnishes; pages 65 and 72 include directions for the japanned lacquers which were becoming popular in that era. Page 71 gives directions for a finish “to put on maps on fraimes or boards.”
The auction is Sept. 17. Previews of the auction items are listed on Swann’s web site here. The pre-sale estimate is $15,000 to $25,000. No I won’t be there, and no, I won’t be bidding. But if any of you pick this up I know a publishing company that would be happy to consider republishing it.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. Hat tip to Suzanne Ellison for sending me the auction listing.