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 rudemechanicalspress.com. 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.