06 April 2008

Romeyn Beck Hough's The American Woods

Wow. I've been pouring over these beautiful reproductions of Romeyn Beck Hough's The American Woods, courtesy the Special Collections Research Center of the NCSU Libraries.
I've always been in love with wood -- hand-carved wooden utensils, splintered chunks of tree, the velvety piles left by termites. I'm take pictures of tree roots, and buy wooden cups, bowls, knick-knacks. Although not to the point of obsession, my love is odd. The Arnold Arboretum here in Boston has been known to throw me into raptures.

So you can imagine what 600 dpi scans from Hough's masterpiece might do to me. Compiled in fourteen volumes between 1888 and 1913, The American Woods is not just about wood -- it is wood, a book replicating, in a typically categorical fashion, the American forest. Each page contains the traverse, radial and tangential cuttings of a type of tree growing in America, three delicate slats rich with color, pattern and texture. Take a moment and look at them -- betcha won't be able to stop.

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