Duck Duck Book

60 – forgotten arts & crafts
04.7.2009, 12:02 am
Filed under: art & entertainment

The forgotten arts and crafts / John Seymour.
New York : Dorling Kindersley, 2001.
[MCL call number: 745.5 S519f 2001; five copies, no holds]

One side effect of a curious mind is that it can be difficult to shake off idle questions.  How do you properly thatch a roof?  Were there once different kinds of thimbles for different sewing tasks?  Is there a non-electric ancestor to the vacuum cleaner?  But there is hope if your idly questioning mind inclines this particular way — these and many similar questions can be answered by consulting John Seymour’s The Forgotten Arts and Crafts.

In straightforward prose and clear illustrations, Seymour explains how things used to be made and repaired, who did the work, and a bit about their daily experiences.  The book includes traditional arts, crafts and homemade products primarily from the western Europe and the cultures it has spawned, but this narrow focus allows for greater depth – for example, there are two pages on boot and shoemaking, and an additional two pages on clog making.  And there’s a nice sidebar in the clog section about clogs made entirely of wood (with no leather upper part), and how they were called sabots in France, which gave rise to the word “sabotage,” because a clog is a handy weapon when you’re an oppressed worker.  Well, Seymour doesn’t put it exactly like that, but you see what I mean.

The Forgotten Arts and Crafts is nice to leaf through, but it might also prove useful if you really do have a question like “what sort of tools might one use to make large quantities of butter by hand?”  And there is an index, as well as an detailed table of contents and lots of arresting illustrations, so you should be able to find what you need in short order.

* * *

If you need to know more about the workings of mundane technology, with a more modern bent, you would do well to consult David Macaulay’s The Way Things Work, which explains the how of everything from simple machines to the space shuttle.


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