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L'Art du Menuisier - The Book of Plates , by André-Jacob Roubo

by J. Norman Reid
Delaplane, VA

Once again, Lost Art Press has come out with an exceptional offering, this time a complete compilation of the plates that illustrate Roubo's massive 18th century undertaking, L'Art du Menuisier . Translated, the title means the Art of the Cabinetmaker. The plates themselves display furniture, of course, but they go far beyond that in scope and include much more than what modern woodworkers would consider cabinetmaking. But beyond the contents themselves, this large volume is simply a pleasure to hold and a treasure to own.

Weighing in at, well, I don't know how many pounds, The Book of Plates contains 382 highly detailed plates, some of which are double spreads. Each is a full-size reproduction of Roubo's original drawing and was expertly photographed so that little of the detail in the originals is lost. The book is beautifully presented with an understated black cover and gilt lettering and is printed on heavy archival stock with a sewn binding. It is designed to be an heirloom that will last for generations to come.

Aside from introductory sections, the book contains no text. It is, purely and simply, a presentation of Roubo's finely-executed drawings. The plates' titles and descriptions are in French and while those who lack a working knowledge of 18th century French woodworking terminology (and who doesn't?) may lose a little, the meaning of each plate is quite clear on its own face.

The scope of the plates is immense. They display the tools and working methods of cabinetmakers, of course, but extend far beyond into such fields as architecture, carriage-making and marquetry. The plates illustrate a wide range of designs of mouldings and types of joinery as well.

Among the many subjects illustrated by the plates are rooms and alcoves, organs, church choirs and other features of churches, architectural details, staircases, carriages, chairs, bathtubs and toilets, beds, tables, desks, armoires, boxes, clocks, columns and veneering and marquetry. The details in each plate are exceptional and clearly rendered. In many instances, the geometric bases for the plans are shown, which will assist the reader in replicating them.

As I perused the plates in this volume, I found myself fascinated with things about which I had never given much thought. The time I spent with these plates was time that excited my imagination. It is a book to drool and linger over. It is a book to return to again and again. Students of historical woodworking methods, architecture and furniture-making will each find much to enjoy in this special volume.

CLICK HERE to order your copy of L'Art du Menuisier - The Book of Plates

The author is a woodworker, writer, and woodworking instructor living in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his wife, a woodshop full of power and hand tools and four cats who think they are cabinetmaker's assistants. He is the author of the forthcoming book Choosing and Using Handplanes . He can be reached by email at nreid@fcc.net .

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