The Woodbook


Guide to timber

The American Woods is the life work of R.B. Hough, who assembled an astounding collection of more than 350 species and varieties of trees beginning in 1888. This updated edition emphasizes the scope and beauty of his work with two pages per tree: on the right, a gorgeous photo of three paper-thin slices taken from various points on the tree (radial, cross and tangential); on the left, a portrait of the tree’s uses (i.e. tools, food, shelter), habitat, availability and a physical description in English, French and German. The subtle and striking range of colors, grains and patterns found in the same tree, let alone the same family, is truly remarkable. This is not a front to back read, but one that encourages haphazard flipping over time. Best to start with the introduction, though, which touches upon deforestation, colonialization, immigration, and the logging that decimated the seemingly inexhaustible American woods quite noticeably by the latter 1800s. With context, the book becomes a thick, visually-arresting reminder that consumption and conservation should go hand in hand.

11/9/07 -- Steven Leckart