The Woodbook: A Must-Have Reference

By Bill Esler | Posted: 11/14/2013 10:23PM


 An illustrated encyclopedia of wood species, The Woodbook was originally published as American Woods, a 14-volume reference culled and assembled by Romeyn Beck Hough between 1888 and 1913.

Produced in what was certainly a stunning endeavor, American Woods featured actual wood specimens mounted on card stock — described as a work of "beauty that has set the standard for the study of trees and wood."

Publisher Taschen reproduced the book photographically in Woodbook, which includes all of the specimen pages from the original volumes. A new printing of the book has just been issued by Taschen. 

"For this purpose we have obtained the use of an extremely rare original set of volumes in very good condition, with minimal damage to the wood cuts," says the publisher. This latest version (hardcover, 6.6 x 9.6 in., 768 pages, $29.99) was edited by the late Klaus Leistikow. It has all trees arranged in alphabetical order, with three different cross-section cuts of wood represented (radial, horizontal, and vertical) - photographed from the original opus.

These slices show the particular characteristics of the grain and the wealth of colors and textures to be found among the many different wood species. Also included in this special edition are lithographs by Charles Sprague Sargent of the leaves and nuts of most trees, as well as texts describing the trees’ geographical origins and physical characteristics. The reproduction includes trees that are now very rare or completely extinct. 

Klaus Ulrich Leistikow (1929-2002) studied natural science and philosophy at the universities of Cologne, Tübingen and Glasgow, and then taught biology at the university of Frankfurt. From 1986 to 1989 he was Director of the Botanical Institute and the Botanical Gardens in Frankfurt-am-Main. 


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About the Author

Bill Esler, Woodworking Network, WMS

Bill Esler

Bill Esler, Editorial Director, Woodworking Network Bill is responsible for overall content at Woodworking Network magazine, and related newsletters. Bill also manages event programs for Woodworking Network Live conferences at the Woodworking Machinery & Supplies Expo in Toronto and Cabinets & Closets Expo. He developing audience engagement programs using custom digital printing, live lead-generating events, custom websites, and custom digital and print content. Read Bill Esler's woodworking blogs. He can be reached at or follow him on Google+.

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