Romeyn Beck Hough (1857-1924)
The American Woods, exhibited by actual specimens and with copious explanatory text. Lowville, N.Y.: by the author, 1888-1913. 14 volumes, 8° (232 x 160mm). Plates and illustrations. 1059 samples of wood, each wafer-thin transverse, radial and tangential sections illustrating 354 species, window-mounted in 354 card mounts, 19 of the samples laminated between mica sheets. (Occasional natural cracking and warping to some samples, library stamp to title of each text volume.) Text in original wrappers, samples on card mounts unbound as issued, each text volume and accompanying samples loose within original green cloth covers, the covers in matching original cloth slipcases, with metal catches and bosses to covers (Vols.I & VIII lacking parts of the clasps, slight surface damage to wrappers of text volumes). Provenance: Rutherford H. Platt, Jr. (gifted to:); Forbes Library, Northampton, Mass. (text volumes with bookplates, stamps on titles and edge of leaves).
A REMARKABLE WORK ON THE WOODS OF AMERICA INCLUDING THE VERY RARE 14TH VOLUME. A CONTEMPORARY REVIEWER CALLED IT "ONE OF THE MOST MARVELLOUS AND INSTRUCTIVE BOOKS EVER MADE" (Art Education). This unusual work was the lifetime achievement of Romeyn B. Hough, who devoted himself to the study of American trees, and is best known for his Handbook of trees of the northern states and Canada, long a standard reference work in American dendrology. The present much larger work provides a unique record of American wood types, arranged geographically. The age of these specimens gives them great importance from an ecological standpoint, as well as their interest to students of American furniture and woodcrafts. It would not be possible to reproduce the same range of woods today. Parts I-IV cover New York and adjacent states, part V covers Florida, parts VI-X describe the Pacific Slope, parts XI-XII cover the Atlantic states, and part XIII covers southern Florida. Part XIV contains a continuation of the work on the trees of Florida with text by Marjorie Hough, using specimens and notes prepared by her father before his death in 1924.
Hough's explained the unique nature of his works: they are "illustrated by actual specimens, and being in this way an exhibition of nature itself it possesses a peculiar and great interest never found in a press-printed book. The specimens are... about 2 x 5 in. in size, and sufficiently thin to admit of examination in transmitted light... Looked at in reflected light they appear as in the board or log... These specimens are mounted in durable frame-like bristol-board pages, with black waterproofed surfaces... and each bears printed in gold-bronze the technical name of the species and its English, German, French and Spanish names. The pages are separable... and are accompanied with a full text... giving information as to the uses and physical properties of the woods, and distributions, habits of growth, botanical characters, habitats, medicinal properties, etc., of the trees... The woods used for the specimens are personally collected by the author... and are sectioned and prepared by a process of his own device". Despite announcing that the work was to be completed in 15 volumes, neither the 14th or 15th volume appeared during Hough's lifetime. The very rare final 14th volume was issued in 1928 by Hough's daughter but is usually missing due to the long delay in its publication: only one complete set is recorded as having sold at auction in the past 25 years.
The volumes were priced at five dollars each, a high price reflecting the work involved in assembling them. Since subscribers came and went over the 25-year period of publication, and many only bought the volumes on the areas that interested them, very few complete sets were assembled. Its rarity can be gauged from the fact that Stafleu and Cowan record the work as being complete in 6 volumes. A second work (including the decription of the plates quoted above) was issued in 1916 in 2 volumes (with 50 card mounts), but was made up from a selection of samples of wood with commercial potential extracted from the larger work. BM (NH) II,p.880 (pts.I-VIII only); cf. Stafleu & Cowan II,p.341. (14)