Mechanick Exercises or the Doctrine of Handy-Works
by Joseph Moxon, with an introduction from Christopher Schwarz
Joseph Moxon’s “Mechanick Exercises or the Doctrine of Handy-Works,” is the first English-language book on woodworking (and other trades) – but it was written by a man who wasn’t a woodworker. Instead, Moxon (1627-1691) was a printer, a maker of mathematical instruments and (for a time) hydrographer to King Charles II.
Oh, and the engravings of woodworking tools in his book? Most were stolen from a French woodworking book.
While it doesn’t sound like a reputable project on its face, “Mechanick Exercises” remains one of the most important English-language woodworking books out there, and it is still studied today by historians as well as practical woodworkers, blacksmiths, carpenters, bricklayers and turners.
Moxon was a careful observer, and his clear descriptions of trade work were published at a time when there was keen interest (among the gentry) in recording practical knowledge. This effort was understandably resisted by the people in those trades – for competitive reasons and because of the rules of their trade guilds.
It is our earliest look into how joinery was executed in the 17th century, and Moxon’s descriptions of the work still ring true. He clearly observed joiners at work, asked them questions and recorded their answers. And thanks to Moxon’s clear and concise text, we can still learn the basic strokes of our craft from these voices. And that is no small thing.
We are pleased to bring Joseph Moxon’s “Mechanick Exercises or the Doctrine of Handy-Works” back into print with details that – I hope – would please Moxon, who was an accomplished printer by trade. This new version was produced using a 1703 edition provided by the Early American Industries Association.
This book is printed on acid-free paper that resists yellowing and eventual disintegration. Like Moxon’s original booklets, our version is printed in signatures that are sewn together for durability. This sewn “book block” is then reinforced with fiber tape and covered in thick boards and cotton cloth. Like all Lost Art Press books, this book is produced and printed entirely in the United States.
We could not have produced this book without the assistance of the Early American Industries Association, and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of every book will go to this worthy and important organization.
You can download a free pdf of Moxon's chapters on joinery plus modern commentary via this link.