The Lost Art Press Libreria


Though we are screwing down endless underlayment at the Lost Art Press building, my mind is hard at work designing the space for what we do: building, research and writing. At the heart of this is our library, which now spills into four rooms of my current house (plus the boxes in the basement).

It’s my hope to make this library available for other nutjobs who are willing to dig into old paper. But we have to have some way to organize everything.

When I think of this, my eyes turn to the 27’-long wall in our new shop with its 11’ ceilings. Could we build one massive unit for our reference library? My first urge is to build a poncy shelving unit with brass bars, library steps and the smell of pipe smoke (calm yourself, Megan).

That’s not me.


So I’ve been gazing at one of Enzo Mari’s designs for library shelves that are built from common materials but are superbly braced. They are clever. These can be strung across the entire wall without it looking like I belong to a country club and have friends with names from the Benedict Cumberbatch name generator.

Check out the images. If you save them to your drive you’ll see they are in high-resolution. Don’t worry. Mari offers them free to anyone who isn’t selling them.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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43 Responses to The Lost Art Press Libreria

  1. fitz says:

    Library steps? Bah. I want a spiral staircase to the second level. Or at the very least, a library ladder.

  2. seawolfe2013 says:

    I built a very similar designed bookshelf 45 years ago and used them for many years. Pluses- Easy to build, inexpensive, sturdy, takes no real skill in woodworking and few tools.. Minuses- tacky, cheep looking, and takes no real skill in woodworking and few tools. If you must go cheap, ok. But …..

  3. TrevorML says:

    gotta love a wall-to-wall-to-ceiling library shelf

    pretty much identical (without the diagonal bracing due to a lower height) to what I built for the shelving in my cellar to hold all of our crap

    🙂 not sure about the image being high resolution tho’ (640 × 631)

  4. Dude, you are livin’ the frickin’ dream.

  5. The Mari shelving is a great idea. Please build it.
    Maybe you’ll make friends with names from the Achille Castiglioni name generator.

  6. prlund123 says:

    No. A ladder on rails!

  7. Aaron Linn says:

    Donald Judd designed some really simple library shelves for his library in Marfa, TX. It looks so simple that it reminds me of the simplicity of a Roubo bench.
    Love watching the progress on the headquarters !

  8. I was wandering through a library recently and thinking about how I might design stacks—I never would have come up with Mari’s design, though. Now I think I know what I’m going to do about our constant need for more bookshelves, though.

  9. tpobrienjr says:

    How about a layer of mattresses at the bottom?

  10. pommedownunder says:

    Thanks for the post. I have been looking for a simple sturdy easy to construct shelving system for my darkroom paraphernalia and book collection. This fits the bill exactly and best of all I can source most the the wood from recycling sources here in Sydney. Keep up the good work.

  11. Perhaps you should follow Samuel Pepys and build glass fronted cabinet but brought up to date. Certainly old valuable books deserve this.

  12. ant11sam says:

    I think… that Lost Art Press HQ deserves something like this… just my 2 cents if I’m may say so 😉

    or this…


  13. azezo1 says:

    Maybe you should ask your wife’s opinion, you know, the woman who says you dress like a foreign exchange student. It’s just that these shelves look like they’ve been made out of pallets. I imagine you’re thinking strictly utilitarian but is it possible that that can be taken a bit too far?

  14. Sadly it seems too far a stretch for many to appreciate both Baroque excess and late twentieth century modern.

  15. richardmertens says:

    The simplicity of Mari’s design is appealing, but what keeps the shelves from sagging? In my experience, it’s a big help when the shelf is attached to some kind of backing.

  16. shopsweeper says:

    Hey! Not everyone with a pompous name is a pompous person. Just because I might be…

  17. Andrew John says:

    I googled “Baroque library” and wow. Incredible would be an understatement regarding the pictures that pop up.

  18. Farmer Greg says:

    Cool! It’s like a lumber rack, but for books. It does look a little pallet-ish, though, so I’m interested to see your take on its design and construction. But with 11′ ceilings, you’re probably going to need some sort of ladder.

  19. Nice design, but so many fasteners!

    It’s screaming for half-lap joints to me. Sure, they’re more labor intensive and challenging, but it’d be a lasting testament to your skill. And lasting is a great thing!

    Personally, I’d probably use half-laps for the sides and back and floating tenons (courtesy of Festool) for the diagonal braces just to preserve sanity.


    • Farmer Greg says:

      Yeah, it’s a lot of fasteners, but don’t you want to see him time all those screws?
      I was thinking chamfers on the end of the shelf supports could help refine the piece. But I’m addicted to chamfers.

  20. tsstahl says:

    My first reaction was great scaffolding to address that dark black ceiling!

    However, after studying the graphic for a while, I’m being won over. The 42 inch-ish width is a tad worrisome where shelf sagging is concerned. Mid-span supports on E could address the issue, or simply make the width closer to 36″; maybe a 4/4 hardwood shelf would handle the projected weight with ease and I’m an idiot.

    The plan is just a skeleton leaving the implementer a lot of room for beautification. A beaded or fluted face frame over B with a simple top molding would spruce this up easily.

    My tastes tend toward the overbuilt-gilded-borkim-riff-cherry-smelling-leather-seating-with-wrought-iron-accents, but I could live happily with this.

  21. rgrsf says:

    Architecturally ugly….


  22. skilledno says:

    The face frame idea is spot on, otherwise it will just look like pallets. Glue and screw is the way for the frames, I think Chris has enough work already without overdoing the shelving.

  23. Note: I should have been more clear. I am not building these shelves. They sparked some ideas about bracing. So y’all can climb down off your high design horsies.

  24. calebjamesplanemaker says:

    /Users/calebjames/Dropbox/Display Photos/Leaning Shelf full size/Leaning Shelf Full Size Selection/il_fullxfull.101602609.jpg

  25. calebjamesplanemaker says:

    Oops that was supposed to be a picture. Never mind.

  26. Blimey , my Dad build shelves just like that 50 years ago , because he has not wood working skills and you only need one size of timber they were still going 30 years later when they moved . ! And I am sure he would have never heard of your bloke.

  27. Dan Grenier says:

    Chris , check out Franco Albini his designs for shelving are really cool. We built some at the shop I work. They use little material ,are very clever , and attractive. May not be your thing but I think you will appreciate them.

  28. jenohdit says:

    There are so many modern European designers that American woodworkers need more exposure to.

    Carlo Mollino is one of my favorites. In this set of bookcases, he takes roughly the same structural approach as Mari, but fancies it up a bit and reduces the span of the shelves. That will make it read more vertical when the shelves are full. The modular nature of the parts makes it easy to produce and to adapt to a range of spaces.

    Mollino wasn’t a woodworker so he wasn’t really caught up in tradition in any way even though his furniture was rooted in it. Much if that furniture would likely appeal to Warton Esherick fans if any linger here.

    I think this chair is staked construction but in a very different way.
    There are some Swiss plank bottom chairs with carved backs that probably inspired those but he did his own thing.

    The structure in these chairs is obviously aircraft inspired. The bolted metal plate joinery is a thing Italians seem to have been into in their 40s – 50s furniture. It’s highly adaptable for today.

    Warning! If you search for images related to Mollino, you will immediately run into pictures of knekkid ladies. If that bothers you be careful. He was an amateur photographer and took a lot of polaroids of the ladies of Turin circa 1970s.

    • tsstahl says:

      ” you will immediately run into pictures of knekkid ladies”

      I figured, eh, 40 year old Polaroids can’t be that plentiful. Bzzzt. Dead wrong. Be prepared for way more bush than case.

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