In the Works: Nicholson’s ‘The Mechanic’s Companion’


In about three weeks, I’ll be sending to press the first Rude Mechanicals Press (RMP) book – a high-quality reprint of Peter Nicholson’s 1845 edition of “The Mechanic’s Companion.”

As soon as it goes to the printer, I’ll be taking pre-publication orders at When the books arrive, I’ll be offloading them from pallets dropped at the end of my driveway and moving them into the dining room RMP Shipping Department (it will almost certainly be raining that day). The RMP packaging team (me, JJ and Viola) will then wrap, box and label each package, and send them out via USPS (just as soon as the RMP transport team [me] hauls them to the post office).

My modest goal with RMP is to bring back into print a handful of important woodworking books – at the moment no more than one or two per year – in hardcover editions that will last for generations. Most of these will be books you can find in either poorly scanned web editions and/or with glued bindings on cheap paper from print-on-demand publishers. (Or if you can find them and have deep pockets, you can buy the valuable and/or rare period originals.) I’ve scanned and painstakingly cleaned up every page of this book, removing heavy foxing, dirt and, when necessary (as when the type in the original was broken), replacing words and letters, so that it’s easy to read.

But why am I doing this if the information is already out there? Well, I like good books, and good books should be made to last. Every book RMP publishes will be on acid-free paper with sewn bindings, and for now, all will be hardbound with cloth covers (though it’s possible a special project down the line might demand a different – but still top-quality – cover choice). All will be produced and printed in the United States, available direct from me and, I hope, select sellers at a firm and fair price.

Why start with Nicholson? He is, after all, the third (that we know of) English woodworking writer: Randle Holme gave us a glimpse at woodworking tools in 1688 in his “Academy of Armory,” and Joseph Moxon’s seminal “Mechanick Exercises” was published circa 1683. So why skip the first two? Well, Holme is an easy “no” (for now!). It’s almost impossible to find, hugely expensive…and very little of it is about woodworking tools. (But you can see a lot of what is about woodworking at the Lost Art Press blog – search on that title. I checked out the 1972 reprint years ago from the University of Cincinnati library, and Christopher Schwarz offered snippets therefrom on his blog.) And Moxon, well, he although his is the first English-language book on woodworking, he borrowed from the French (André Félebien), plus his instruction is sometimes lacking in specificity. (Moxon, unlike Nicholfon, ufes the medial “s,” which is one reafon “Mechanick Exercifes” can be a bit troublefome for the modern reader to underftand.)

And Nicholson, unlike Holme and Moxon, was an actual practitioner – at least for a while. He was the son of a mason, apprenticed as a cabinetmaker and was a journeyman in the trade before becoming a writer and architect. (I’ll write more about him soon.) So he offers the authority of experience (and the clarity of a good writer) on woodworking and carpentry (the two longest chapters), and includes shorter chapters on stone masonry, bricklaying, slating, plastering, painting, smithing and turning, for which he clearly must have relied on competent craftsmen.

I’ll be writing more about this book in the weeks to come (including the trim size, cover color, page count, price, etc.), but for now, I hope you’re as excited as am I to look forward to an excellent edition of “The Mechanic’s Companion.”

And in closing, know that I could not – or in any case would not – do this without the invaluable help and blessing of Christopher Schwarz and John Hoffman at Lost Art Press (for whom I hope to edit until my eyes or fingers or both give out). This very small publishing effort from me is simply an adjunct to what they do, and is in addition to my teaching and other editing work.

About fitz

Woodworker, writer, editor, teacher, ailurophile, Shakespearean. Will write for air-dried walnut.
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39 Responses to In the Works: Nicholson’s ‘The Mechanic’s Companion’

  1. hgordon4 says:

    I look forward to ordering it and reading it, Ms. Fitzpatrick!
    Enjoyed meeting you and talking with you last weekend at Brendan’s class.

  2. This excites me a great deal, both in tend of the books and also the opportunity you’ve developed – I’m looking forward to watching where this takes you! Will definitely be ordering this when you open the list.

    Best, K

  3. bookmarklex51 says:

    Good for you! Good for us! I will be ordering this and looking forward to future publications. The Fitzpatrick edition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream?


    • fitz says:

      As much as I love MSND, I think the world has enough editions…unless I build the bower to go with, or something. (Thank you!)

  4. Excellent. This is exactly what I was hoping when I saw your announcement. Count me in.

  5. Excellent. And congratulations. It’s a book that deserves this treatment.

  6. johncashman73 says:

    I’m in!

  7. As someone who references and quotes Nicholson often, I am very excited to get my hands on a quality hard copy. Huzzah!

  8. Jim Ferrell says:

    Can’t Wait get my copy. Good luck on this new enterprise

  9. Congrats, can’t wait to get myself a copy!!

  10. rons54 says:

    I never thought that I would find myself with such an excess of interesting books available that I have to ration myself. I want to buy this one from you in person in Covington.

  11. neitsdelf says:

    You’re binding this in 3/4 leather, right? I’m in too.

  12. Max Steenbock says:

    Very much looking forward it.

  13. Peter says:

    Totally in! Looking forward to throwing money and pastrami at your feet.

  14. inthewoodshedblog says:

    Don’t know when or if I’ll get to buy it, but I thank you for making it available.

  15. In Absentia says:

    “But why am I doing this if the information is already out there?” Let’s be honest here. You’re not doing this because you love good books. You’re doing this primarily because it is another venue by which you to earn a living, nothing wrong with that. Why go through all of the other nonsense?

    • fitz says:

      Nope. I really do love good books – I’ve wanted to collect incunabula since I was a kid and camethisclose to studying book history and restoration, before choosing the oh-so-much-more-practicle path of English literature. Were money the driving force, publishing would not be the answer.

  16. Drew Lawson says:

    I am always thrilled to hear of another entity ready to tempt away my hardly earned pay in exchange for a book, well constructed in materials and in content (insert Samuel T. Cogley quote here).

    I would be eager to read another blog post expanding on the wherefor and why that this is not a Lost Art project. Really. I am a publishing voyeur, and love information on what is viable and what isn’t.

  17. Mike Mavodones says:

    A great choice for a first release. I look forward to owning a copy.

  18. Paul Zelesnikar says:

    Sounds great.

  19. justiain says:

    Looking forward to it!

  20. A. C. says:

    I look forward to it coming out. But have you thought about publishing this in electronic form, as PDF, epub and or Kindle? I keep a number of books from Project Gutenberg on my tablet; not merely general fiction but a couple of books on woodworking and on tools.

    • fitz says:

      There’s already digital versions available – search and ye shall find! (mine will be cleaner, though, so I might – depends on the final file size, given that it’s a 350+ page image file!)

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