THE WOOD BOOK


In the years from 1888 through 1913 (this end date is also variously reported as 1910 and 1928), Romeyn B. Hough published a 14-volumn set of books "The American Woods" , each volumn of which contained 3 separate thin sheets of wood for each of around 25 species, in addition to descriptive text. Each wood had a transverse section (end grain, or "cross section"), a radial section ("quartersawn") and a tangential section ("flat cut"). The total set had 354 species, all of woods that grow in the USA.

This was a massive and spectacular achievement in the world of publishing and for the world of wood lovers.

In 2002 a "reprint" was produced, called "The Wood Book", which reproduced the very unfortunate "artsy" printing style of the original, in which the words are printed in gold on pages that are black, thus making the book physically very difficult to read. The color plates were produced by photographing the sample sheets from a rare complete copy of the original.

In 2007 a newer version was issued without the gold on black; I haven't see a copy of that version yet but I have to believe that it is MUCH easier on the eyes than the 2002 edition.

I have written an extensive review of this book but it is not quite ready to post, so for now I present only this brief introduction.

The North Carolina State University system's "History of Forestry" web page presents a DIFFERENT set of images of the 354x3 color plates than the 2002 reprint, presumably from a different copy of the original book. When I contacted NCSU some years ago, I was told that these images are in the public domain, and they are the images you will find on my site. The original NCSU site pages start at: wood book

NOTE: the sets of 3 pics of any one species are NOT all from the same piece, so it is not unusual to see color variations that seem wrong if you assume that they ARE from the same piece. Also, because the pics were taken from an old set of the thin wood slices used in the original book, some of them show splits/cracks and also patina or color darkening due to oxidization. Additionally, the photography seems to have added a bit of a purple tint to many of the woods and an orange tint to others, depending I think on the original color. I have these pics here mostly to show the GRAIN, not the color.

Many of the woods in the Wood Book are ones that, at least by the primary name used, are totally unfamiliar to me even though they are American domestic woods. Partly this is because it is so EXTENSIVE in covering domestic woods and includes many varieties that are not likely to show up in a lumber mill and partly because some of the species, I have read in reviews of this book, are ones that are no longer available in any quantity, if at all.