The story of returning John Brown’s “Welsh Stick Chairs” into print is a twisty one. And, despite my enormous enthusiasm for the project, my thickheadedness only slowed the process.
Here’s the quick version, for those who like to read about my missteps.
“Welsh Stick Chairs” has been out of print for some time. There are U.K. versions out there from the publisher Albercastle and Stobart Davies Ltd. Plus U.S. versions from Linden Publications and Lyons & Burford Publishers. (There might be other versions I am unaware of.)
Last year, John Brown’s family approached Lost Art Press about publishing a new version of the book that captured the charm of the first edition, which was published under the Albercastle imprint. Kara Gebhart and I dove in with gusto and started researching who held the rights to the book, plus looking for any original photographs.
We came up with nothing. (Personal note: This is typical and frustrating for authors. Buy me a beer if you want to know the whole story.)
And when we heard back from the U.K. publisher Stobart Davies Ltd., we got a piece of bad news. That company owned the rights and planned to reprint the book. So obviously, we couldn’t print it.
I put the brakes on our effort. That’s where I was badly mistaken.
What I didn’t comprehend was that Stobart Davies owned the U.K. and European rights, not the North American rights. I had scuttled the project because my neurons had failed to connect.
Luckily, one of John Brown’s sons, Matty Sears, kept pushing forward. He started researching what it would take to put out an edition himself. He figured out the rights situation where I, a publishing professional, could not.
After an enormous amount of work, Matty contacted me and set me straight: The North American rights were available, and would we be willing to take on the book?
We said yes. And for most of this year, I have been working with Matty and our prepress agency to get the book ready for press. We had to jump through a lot of technical hurdles with this project – it wasn’t a simple reprint. We had to rebuild the book from the ground up due to missing electronic files, missing photos and mystery fonts.
But we did it. And most of the credit belongs to Matty.
It is my hope that “Welsh Stick Chairs” will be in print for many years to come. It has been one of the most influential woodworking books in my life – much like the books of James Krenov, Sam Maloof and Jennie Alexander transformed the lives of other woodworkers. And I feel certain there are future generations (now lying in cradles or sitting before an XBox) who will take to the wisdom of this remarkable man.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. You can order a pre-publication copy of the book here. The book will ship in June 2018.