some reference material for seventeenth-century furniture studies

Folks who attended some of my carving demonstrations at the Woodworking in American conference this past weekend asked about reference materials, most were interested in images of carvings, etc.  They are quite scattered, but here’s a bunch. Most are out of print, some are on the web, but I can’t stand looking at books that way…

 Overall, my favorite book on joined furniture of the period is :

  •  Victor Chinnery, Oak Furniture: The British Tradition, (Suffolk, Eng.: the Antique Collector’s Club, 1979)
half-a-pile of books
half-a-pile of books


 Next up would probably be New England Begins, but it’s got more than just furniture in it.

  • Jonathan L. Fairbanks and Robert F. Trent, eds., New England Begins: The Seventeenth-Century 3 vols. (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1982)

 A first-rate new book on early N.E. furniture is the catalog of the collection at the Met. This is a really good one.

  •  Frances Gruber Safford.  American Furniture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Vol.1. Early Colonial Period:  The Seventeenth-Century and William and Mary Styles.  (New York:  Metropolitan Museum of Art; New Haven and London:  Yale University Press, 2007)  
  • another favorite is an auction catalog from Sotheby’s in London: the Clive Sherwood Collection, Olympia, London: 22 May 2002. All color, almost 300 pages.

 A bunch of oldies. The starting point in many cases. Libraries might still have them, but some of my copies are library castoffs…


another half-a-pile of books
another half-a-pile of books
  • Luke Vincent Lockwood, Colonial Furniture in America (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1901)
  • Luke Vincent Lockwood, Colonial Furniture in America, 3rd edition (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1926)
  • Clair Franklin Luther, The Hadley Chest (Hartford, Connecticut: The Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company, 1935) 
  •  Irving Whitall Lyon, The Colonial Furniture of New England (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1891)
  • Irving P. Lyon, series of six articles, “The Oak Furniture of Ipswich, Massachusetts” that originally appeared in Antiques in 1937-38. These are all collected in Robert F. Trent, ed., Pilgrim Century Furniture: An Historical Survey (New York: Main Street/Universe Books, 1976) pp. 55-78. 
  • Wallace Nutting, Furniture of the Pilgrim Century (Boston: Marshall Jones, 1921) 
  • Wallace Nutting, Furniture Treasury (Framingham, Massachusetts: Old America Company, 1928) 2 vols. 
  • Margaret Jourdain,  English Decoration and Furniture, of the Early Renaissance, 1500-1650,  (London: BT Batsford LTD, Scribners, NY, 1924)
  • John Weymouth Hurrell, Measured Drawings of Old English Oak Furniture (New York: Dover Publications, 1983) reprint of a 1902 book originally published by B. T. Batsford in London.

 Some of the rest of the modern stuff is well worth having. Some are books, some are articles.

  •  Gerald W. R. Ward, American Case Furniture in the Mabel Brady Garvan and Other Collections at Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Art Gallery, 1988)
  •  Patricia E. Kane, Furniture of the New Haven Colony: The Seventeenth-Century Style (New Haven, Connecticut: New Haven Historical Society, 1993)
  • Joshua W. Lane and Donald P. White III, The Woodworkers of Windsor: A Connecticut Community of Craftsmen and Their World, 1635-1715 (Deerfield, MA: Historic Deerfield, Inc., 2003)
  • Joshua W. Lane and Donald P. White III, “Fashioning Furniture and Framing Community: Woodworkers and the Rise of a Connecticut River Valley Town” in American Furniture, ed., Luke Beckerdite, (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England for the Chipstone Foundation, 2005) pp. 146-238
  •  Robert Blair St. George, “Style and Structure in the Joinery of Dedham and Medfield, Massachusetts, 1635-1685” in Ian M. G. Quimby, editor, American Furniture and Its Makers  (Chicago: University of Chicago Press for the Winterthur Museum, 1979) pp. 1-46
  • Robert Blair St. George, The Wrought Covenant: Source Material for the Study of Craftsmen and Community in Southeastern New England 1620-1700, (Brockton, Massachusetts: Fuller Art Museum, 1979)
  • Many of the volumes of Chipstone Foundation’s American Furniture edited by Luke Beckerdite (1993-present) have articles about 17th-c stuff. Many are online, but there are photos not shown on the web versions. Better to buy the issues you want. Check for the indices on  Off the top of my head, 1996, 97, 98, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2005. There might be more.  I think if someone is interested in furniture, it would be better to just have them all…
  • Likewise, join the Regional Furniture Society (  ) and then buy their back issues going back to 1987….

I know there’s more in the closet, but the kids are asleep, so I am not going to root around in there…

4 thoughts on “some reference material for seventeenth-century furniture studies

  1. Peter: Good to see that you’re back. I suggest that you toot your own horn and list your many articles on 17th Century woodworking. I believe that folks will find them helpful. I also suggest that anyone interested get a chunk of green oak from the firewood pile and rough out a small board. I did and never went back to the lumberyard!

  2. Peter,

    Thanks for the book list, this was one of my questions in your class. I also want to add some encouragement for you to finish your joint authoring effort with John Alexander. I will be first in line to buy that book.

  3. Yeah, i just got Frances Gruber Safford’s American Furniture In The Met, gorgeous photography. The front jacket has a pic of a Pope type cabinet, very impressive book.

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