Let's talk a moment about books. A topic of discussion I rarely indulge myself in. Despite my heavy focus on the books of the Manual Arts movement, the silver lining can be tarnished at times. While reviewing some titles on my shelves, I picked up "A Boy's Workshop", 1884, by A Boy and His Friends, introduction by Henry Randall Waite (who is, I believe, said 'boy'), Lothrop & Co., Publishers. A nice navy cloth cover with attractive gilt titling in a florid Victorian script. A goodly amount of engravings to compliment the text. But.
"The typical American boy, at some period in his life, has a taste for the mechanic arts. Before he is out of pinafores, he surreptitiously lays hold of edged tools, and with unlimited self-confidence tries to make something. If his success lies chiefly in the direction of making pieces of furniture and bric-a-brac, and the covering of his juvenile apron with gore, followed by a tableau in which a shrieking youngster, an angry sire and a sympathetic mother are about equally prominent, the effect is merely to determine the amount of the boys' grit, and to prepare the way, in the battle of the future, for the survival of the fittest. While a certain number of the pinafored experimenters, pensively regarding healed gashes and flattened thumbs, will ever after sedulously avoid contact with chisels and hammers, the plucky boys, who form the majority, will hardly wait for the shedding of belladonna plasters, and the bleaching of gory aprons, before seizing upon the instruments of their discomfiture, with a firm determination (founded in the boyish belief in the intelligence and moral responsibility of inanimate objects) to let those tools know that they know how to handle them without getting hurt." and so on.
The use of 'sedulously' aside, this book could be boiled down from 220 pages to 10 once the extra words were excised. The writer rambles on with so many tangential musings that the focus of the projects is lost in his after dinner cordial and cigar. I wonder if he ever picked up any sort of tool on his own. He misnames tools and their functions, provides engravings that are woefully weird in perspective and in some cases, downright frightening. I'm still having nightmares.
Still and all, the book is clearly well used and well thumbed through. I can only guess that out there are the remains of Waite's misguided attempts at imparting his wisdom to the boyish masses. Girls need not apply. I also suspect that a student of Waite was responsible for some of the more peculiar design aspects of many Victorian houses.
Till next, Gary