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JOEL Joel's Blog

L'Art du Menuisier ( The Art of the Carpenter) by Andre Roubo

06/07/2008

Every once in a while something happens that has a monumental effect. A bunch of years ago, 2005, I think, or it might have been 2004, Chris Schwarz of Popular Woodworking fame dropped by my house to say hello. We got some good food, I told him where to get what is arguably the best bagel in the US, and we played with some tools. He also he poked his head in some of the books I have in my library. One of these books - a huge tome - was L'Art du Menuisier (The Art of the Carpenter) by Andre Roubo, printed in 1774. I had a really nice facsimile. Both Chris and I knew it to be one of the most important books on woodworking ever, certainly the most important book of the pre-industrial age. I told Chris I learned a lot by studying the pictures, but since the book was in French, which I can't read, the text was lost to me. Chris said he knew a little French. We both thought it was amazing that the book was never translated to English, and I said while it would be a great project, it would be a monumental undertaking. Chris said nothing.
This was a bunch of years ago, as I said, and in the intervening time I designed a few tools, sold a few tools and books and generally went about my daily life. Chris, on the other hand wrote an article on the cabinetmaker's workbench described in Roubo; wrote a book on workbenches; and, of course kept up two magazines, did a bunch of DVD's, and maintained three blogs.
Recently one of my book wholesalers asked if I would be interested in stocking Roubo. I mentioned that it was in French and I didn't know if anyone would buy it. I emailed Chris and asked if there was a market. He said sure, and oh, BTW I've started translating the book.

Huh?

This is really something. Chis, under the auspices of the Lost Art Press, along with a fellow woodworker, Bjenk Ellefsen, has started a labor of love - translating Roubo into English. I can't tell you how important a project this is. What's even more important is that he solved all the economic problems of how to fund the translation by doing this for FREE.
Update: Since this blog was written Lost Art Press has translated and published two volumes of Roubo. We stock them both. The book on marquetry is here. And the book on furniture and cabinetmaking is here.


Join the conversation
06/07/2008 Michael Rogen
Joel,

Thank you for making this work available to all who are interested. You have done a service that needs to be applauded and congratulated.

Thank you,
Michael

PS-Is the world's best bagel still at H&H?
Michael,
I don't get the credit. Any of it. I'm just a collector who likes showing off my collection. Chris and Co get all the credit. I was just here at the start but I had nothing to do with all the hard work.

Some folks uptown like H&H bagels. We prefer Essa-Bagel on 1st ave and 21st - larger, less fluffy, chewier, and better tasting. Worth the trip BTW. Order whatever is hot at the moment.
06/09/2008 Paul Chapman
That's some task that Chris and Bjenk have taken on, but it will be much appreciated.

Paul Chapman
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