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. Volumes I-XIII only (of 14), 8 (232 x 160mm). Plates and illustrations. 987 samples of wood, being wafer-thin transverse, radial and tangential sections illustrating 329 species, window-mounted in 329 card mounts (12 samples laminated between mica sheets). (Occasional natural cracking and warping to some samples.) Text in original wrappers, samples on card mounts unbound as issued. Each text volume and accompanying samples loose within original green or brown cloth covers, the covers in matching original cloth slipcases, with metal catches and bosses to covers (vol.VI covers and slipcase affected by damp, vols.XI-XIII with various ex-library marks, annotations and slips.) Provenance: (of vols.I-X) Professor Robert Parr Whitfield (1828-1910, inserted TL from the author, dated 14 December 1891).
A VERY RARE WORK, AND ONE OF A VERY SMALL NUMBER OF NATURAL HISTORY WORKS ILLUSTRATED WITH ACTUAL SAMPLES. A CONTEMPORARY REVIEWER CALLED IT "ONE OF THE MOST MARVELLOUS AND INSTRUCTIVE BOOKS EVER MADE" (Art Education).
R.B.HOUGH. The American Woods illustrated by actual specimens... Commercial woods. Lowville, N. Y.: published and sections prepared by the author, 1916. 2 volumes, 8 (229 x 150mm). Plates, illustrations. 150 samples of wood, being wafer-thin transverse, radial and tangential sections illustrating 50 species, window-mounted in 50 card mounts. (Very occasional natural cracks to a few samples, punched library name to eight text leaves.) The text in original wrappers (lending-library ticket-sleeves pasted on lower covers), the samples in the card mounts unbound as issued. Each text volume and accompanying samples loose within original cloth covers, the covers within original half morocco slipcases, with metal catch and metal bosses to covers (spines of slipcases faded, various ex-library markings). Provenance: Medford Public Library, Medford, Mass.
The following is written in the second work about the first, but is applicable to both: 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" (advertisment at back of vol.II of second work). Despite the note (in the second work) that the first work was to be completed in 15 volumes, neither the 14th or 15th volume appeared during Hough's lifetime. A final 14th volume was issued in 1928 by Hough's daughter but is very often missing due to the long delay in its publication. 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. The second work is made up from a selection of samples of wood with commercial potential extracted from the larger work.
This remarkable 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 dendology. 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. R.B. Hough's father, Franklin Benjamin Hough (1822-1885) was a doctor, forestry expert and a proto-conservationist who was one of the first to recognise the danger of the devastation of forests. Cf. Stafleu & Cowan II,p.341. (15)