At the end of August we learned about the auction of the manuscript of John Widdifield (1673-1720) an early joiner in Philadelphia. The manuscript includes measurements and prices for furniture, sketches for a spice box (above), a writing desk and a chest-on frame. There are also instructions for sharpening tools and recipes and tips for staining and varnishing. Some of Widdifield’s descendants added to the manuscripts.
The sales estimate for the September 17 auction was $15,000-$25,000 and after very brisk bidding sold for $75,000, including the buyer’s premium. The Philadelphia Museum of Art and Winterthur Museum partnered in bidding in an effort to keep the manuscript in the Philadelphia area, but they were outbid by a private collector.
The good news: Widdifield’s manucript will be published in the Chipstone Foundation journal American Furniture and will also be posted online. Chipstone will work with the digital content group at the University of Wisconsin in Madison to put the entire manuscript online, searchable by keyword and available to researchers at no cost.
As Chris has written several times in this blog these kinds of manuscripts are rare. It is even rarer to have this type of document published in a relatively short period of time after acquisition.
So, a great big thank you to the private collector who chose to share this important document. I could kiss you!
– Suzanne Ellison