American Furniture 2013, edited by Luke Beckerdite, Chipstone Foundation, University Press of New England, 2013. Hardcover with dust jacket, 352 pages, color photos. List price: $65.
When it comes to research about American furniture, this is the book.
First published in 1993 and written by the foremost scholars in the field, this annual compilation of articles provides a comprehensive forum on furniture history, technology, connoisseurship and conservation. That sounds intimidating if not a bit egg-headed, but it’s not meant as such. American Furniture 2013, the latest edition of this laudable project, is likely to be appreciated by anyone seriously interested in the genre.
As the publisher noted, “American Furniture is an interdisciplinary journal dedicated to advancing knowledge of furniture made or used in the Americas from the seventeenth century to the present.”
Considered the publication of record in its field, American Furniture presents new research on furniture design, use, production and appreciation. The papers are research-driven, detail-oriented and heavily illustrated, with 384 images used in the latest edition.
Six articles, ranging from about 20 to 70 pages each, are presented in American Furniture 2013. They are:
* “The Early Work of John Townsend in the Christopher Townsend Shop Tradition” by Erik Gronning and Amy Coes
* “New Insights on the Virginia Royal Governor’s Chair” by Leroy Graves
* “Scientific Imaging Techniques and New Insights on the WH Cabinetmaker: A Southern Mystery Continues” by F. Carey Howlett and Kathy Z. Gillis
* “The Missing Chapter in the Life of Thomas Day” by Patricia Dane Rogers and Laurel Crone Sneed
* “‘A Shadow of a Magnitude’: The Furniture of Thomas Cook and Richard Parkin” by Carswell Rush Berlin
* “Philadelphia, Furniture, and the Pennsylvania Germans: A Reevaluation” by Lisa Minardi
American Furniture 2013 also includes reviews of five books of note, offering readers additional material worth investigating. Covered are:
* Mahogany: The Costs of Luxury in Early America by Jennifer L. Anderson, reviewed by Allan Breed
* Stretch: America’s First Family of Clockmakers by Donald L. Fennimore and Frank L. Hohmann III, reviewed by Dennis Carr
* The Art of Thomas Nisbet, Master Cabinetmaker by David Nasby, reviewed by Laura Fecych Sprague
* Texas Furniture: The Cabinetmakers and Their Work, 1840-1880, Vol. I (revised edition) and Vol. 2 by Lonn Taylor and David B. Warren, reviewed by Gerald W.R. Ward
* Woods in British Furniture-Making, 1400-1900: An Illustrated Historical Dictionary by Adam Bowett, reviewed by Alan Miller
The work concludes with a bibliography of recent writings on American furniture, compiled by Gerald W.R. Ward. The list primarily includes works published from 2012 through October 2013.
This reference book belongs on the shelf of any collector or dealer who has a serious interest in American furniture. Both informational and intriguing, it’s well worth the price.