A Vintage Manual on Trees, Made From Wood Slices


Rarely does a book contain physical samples of its subject. The American Woods, an impressive set of books by a turn-of-the-century arborist that were recently highlighted by The Public Domain Review, contains pieces of every tree it highlights. 

Over the course of a quarter century, Hough published 13 volumes on the vast variety of North American tree species, covering 25 different trees per book for a total of 325 species. Every page contains three thin slices of real wood from each tree pasted on cardstock. The slices show off variation in the trees through different wood cuts—one from the center of the tree outward (radial), one cut across the log lopping off a half-cylinder (tangential), and one slice from cutting straight through the log, as while chopping down a tree (transverse). The slice in the header image above comes from a lemon tree. 

The slices show off the grain and colors of the wood and transform this at-home guide to forestry into a hands-on lesson. Some of the trees featured in the books are now extinct, making Hough’s comprehensive tomes a vital resource.

Though he planned to complete 15 books, he died in 1923, a decade after the publication of the 13th book. His daughter assembled a 14th volume from his samples and field notes and published it five years after his death in 1928.

If the digital version is not enough, a first-edition collection of volumes I to III will run you $4800, or you can snag a 2013 re-release (sans real tree samples) for $24. 

[h/t The Public Domain Review]

All images from The American Woods via the NCSU Libraries.