Joshua Klein’s biography of Jonathan Fisher, “Hands Employed Aright,” needs only a few tweaks today before it goes into production with our prepress agency. With any luck, the finished book should be in our hands in early August.
Even though I’ve edited this book several times, reviewed every photograph and examined every finished page, I am continually struck by how amazing this book is. It is – in short – a window into the daily life of a working hand-tool craftsman on the American frontier in the 19th century.
In many ways, this book answers the question a lot of us ask ourselves: What was it like to run a pre-industrial furniture shop? But instead of answering that question with conjecture or breadcrumbs of evidence from probate inventories and price guides for piecework, Klein answers the question with an absolute fire hose of original material that has been under wraps for almost 200 years.
Jonathan Fisher (1768-1847) documented every aspect of his life in daily diaries written in a code he made up. Many of his tools and finished pieces of work have survived. And once his secret code was broken, the diaries and the archaeological evidence could be put together to paint an incredibly detailed portrait of Fisher and his daily life in the shop.
While that’s interesting, Klein didn’t stop there. He examined Fisher’s tools and furniture in remarkable detail to figure out his working methods. Then he put those methods to use in his shop, reproducing several pieces to determine if his theories were correct.
While this book won’t teach you how to cut dovetails or plane boards, it will definitely make you reconsider your own methods and your view of what craftsmanship really is.
In addition to all this, Fisher provides us with a photographic inventory of Fisher’s tools and finished pieces, much like Charles Hummel’s classic “With Hammer in Hand.”
It has taken five years of hard work by people all over the country to put together “Hands Employed Aright,” and I think you will be pleased with both the content and the way we are making this book. Designer Linda Watts took immense care with the layout and was slowed down by the fact that she kept reading and re-reading the book herself.
We will open up pre-publication ordering in the next couple days. “Hands Employed Aright” will be 288 pages, hardbound, in full color and printed on heavy coated paper. The price will be $57, which will include domestic shipping.
— Christopher Schwarz