Tuesday, February 24, 2009
My Top Ten (or Five, actually, or maybe Six...): Eric Sloane
I have this fantasy in which I'm a fly on the wall at a meeting between Stephen Shepherd and Eric Sloane. Together, you would have the sum of all knowledge about early American woodwork.
In A Reverence for Wood, Sloane appreciates both the practical details and the philosophy behind the design. Opening the book at random, here he is talking about doors: "In the pioneer days, doors were often symbols. Just as girls filled hope chests, young men planned doors for the houses they would someday build. A house might be built of local pine and chestnut, but the door was considered something special and the wood was often sassafras panels, apple or cherry, or even mahogany brought from the West Indies or Central America. A godly man might prefer a Christian door with stiles and rails that formed a Christian cross. A superstitious person might put a Maltese cross in the lower section and thereby make a 'witch door' to keep out the evil spirits, or frame the door with ash to make the spell more potent. (The ash tree was thought to have special magic to ward off sickness and evil spirits. No snake would cross a barrier of ash leaves.)"
Then, being a marvelous artist, he gives you this illustration:
I bought this book at a garage sale over 30 years ago, and I still learn new things when I go back to it. Let's put it this way: If Eric Sloane were alive today, we'd all be reading his blog. Imagine daily updates with this kind of detail: