HOUGH, Romeyn Beck (1857-1924). The American Woods, exhibited by actual specimens and with copious explanatory text. Lowville, NY: by the author, 1893-1904.
10 volumes, 8o (232 x 160 mm). Plates and illustrations. 762 samples of wood, each wafer-thin transverse, radial and tangential section illustrating various species of wood, window-mounted in 254 card mounts. (Occasional natural cracking and warping to some samples.) Text bound in original blue printed wrappers, samples on card mounts unbound as issued, each text volume and accompanying sample card loose within original green cloth covers, the covers in matching original cloth slipcases, with metal catches and bosses to covers (volume IX slightly rubbed and faded).
A VERY FINE SET OF THIS REMARKABLE WORK ON AMERICAN WOOD: "ONE OF THE MOST MARVELLOUS AND ILLUSTRATIVE BOOKS EVER MADE" (Art Education)
This unusual sample book was the lifetime work of Romeyn B. Hough, whose devotion to the study of American trees resulted in the production of this monumental publication and his best known work, Handbook of Trees of the Northern States and Canada. In the field of American dendrology, this later work became the standard reference, but the lavishly-produced American Woods provided a much larger and more unique record of American wood types. The age of these specimens gives them great importance from an ecological standpoint, but the work also has interest to students of American furniture and woodcrafts. Of equal significance is the fact that it would not be possible to reproduce the same range of woods today.
Hough explained the unique nature of his work: it is "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 inches 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 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 nor the 15th volumes appeared during Hough's lifetime. Complete sets are extremely rare: only one set is recorded as having sold at auction in the past 25 years. Its rarity can be gauged from the fact that Stafleu and Cowan record the work as being complete in 6 volumes. Since subscribers came and went during the 25 year production period, many only bought volumes on areas that were of interest to them. The present set is complete through 1913 and in very fine and fresh condition. BM (NH) II, p.880; cf. Stafleu & Cowan II, p. 341. (10)