The Complete Cabinet Maker And Upholsterer's Guide
by J. Stokes



The Complete Cabinet Maker And Upholsterer's Guide, by J. Stokes, 1829, was in continuous publication from the first London edition of 1829 through to the final Philadelphia edition of 1904. This, the exceedingly rare 1829 edition, is the only one to have the eleven hand colored plates of furniture of the period.

As a testimony to it's importance and relevance to the furniture making trades of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the text of The Complete Cabinet Maker And Upholsterer's Guide, later retitled for the American market by the famous American publisher of technical books, Henry Carey Baird, asThe Complete Cabinet Maker And Upholsterer's Companion remained largely untouched for 75 years.

The Toolemera Press reprint edition has been reproduced in full color, page by page, in order to provide the reader with the experience of reading a rare and valuable book.

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: The Toolemera Press (July 6, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780983150046
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5 inches

Who was J. Stokes and how did The Complete Cabinet Maker And Upholsterer’s Guide become the standard reference for nearly a century?

As of the publishing of the Toolemera edition, there has been no new evidence as to who J. Stokes was, what his or her first name was or from whence Stokes came. The name J. Stokes appears on the first and fourth editions, 1829 and 1841, respectively, both published by Dean & Munday, Threadneedle Street, London. Beginning in 1850, Henry Carey Baird & Co. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America, began publication once again under the authorship of J. Stokes and continued to publish with this name through to their final edition of 1904.

How Stokes came to traverse the Atlantic Ocean requires an association between an early British publisher and a famous early American publishing empire.

The story begins with The Minerva Printing Press, founded in the late eighteenth century by Mr. Lane of Cree Church Lane, Leadenhall Street, London. Mr. Lane subsequently formed a partnership with Mr. A. K. Newman, another British publisher of the period. Minerva Press specialized in light novels of a gothic nature, which titles today we term Romance Novels and latter in children’s literature.

In the introduction to Dame Wiggins Of Lee And Her Seven Wonderful Cats by Mrs. Richard Scranton Sharpe Pearson, published by Dean & Son in 1860 and

re-published in 1887 by Field & Tuer, Tuer notes that Newman “... occasionally re-published an American book, Carey and Lee (sic), of Philadelphia, usually acting as his agents.” Therein lies the connection between the London editions of Stokes and the Philadelphia editions.

The Carey publishing family tree included M. Carey & Sons, Carey & Lea, Lea & Blanchard, Carey & Hart and eventually, Henry Carey Baird & Co., all of Philadelphia. Henry Carey Baird & Co., organized in 1849, was the first American publisher to specialize in books of a technical and industrial nature. Thus we have the connection between London and Philadelphia for Stokes.

Although it remains a mystery as to why Dean & Munday initially chose to publish a technical title amidst their book list of novels and children’s offerings, the clear success of Stokes through four editions speaks for their maintaining it in their catalog. The literary friendship between Newman and the Carey publishing family must have been close enough for Baird to purchase the rights to publish Stokes in America.

In considering the London market, the popularity and familiarity of the Minerva Press / Dean & Munday / A. K. Newman publishing imprints must have served to provide a stepping stone for a possibly unknown author. Publishers were often printers as well as book sellers, thus on display in their windows and on their shelfs could be found a wide variety of titles in both bound and unbound forms. The buyer usually had the option of choosing the type of binding according to the depth of their pocket. On record for Stokes is a paper on card covered edition featuring a blue paper printed with most of the original title page. From this I would surmise a ready-for-sale edition to be displayed in a sales window or on a shelf. I have also seen period full leather bound and period quarter leather with marbled paper bound editions which appear to have been ordered by the buyer.

The Painter, Gilder, And Varnisher’s Companion, also published by H. C. Baird & Co., in 1850, and The Complete Cabinet Maker And Upholsterer’s Guide, retitled The Complete Cabinet Maker And Upholsterer’s Companion for the American market, were both deemed of sufficient importance by Baird & Co. to be offered in their inaugural book list. Each book was in continuous publication from 1850 through the early part of the 20th century

The Painter, Gilder, And Varnisher’s Companion, 1850, edited by Henry Carey Baird, is offered by Toolemera as part of it’s classic reprint series.

There were, at the very least, two books of the period with similar titles: Hepplewhite’s The Cabinet-Maker And Upholsterer’s Guide, 1788 and George Smith’s Cabinet-Maker & Upholsterer’s Guide, 1826. Both are primarily pattern books, a form of book that offered furniture designs and often instructions in geometry, perspective, and ornamental drawing as well as various finishing receipts (compilations of materials, instructions, ‘secret’ formula, etc.). Pattern books were frequently used as marketing tools by the craftsman during discussions with a customer over a proposed project.

In comparing pattern books of the period to Stokes, the differences are evident. Stokes provides introductions to geometry and perspective by way of glossaries and brief explanations of processes. Design and fashion are addressed minimally and, notably, unchanged in description from the first edition of 1829 through to the last of 1904. The only substantive changes in Stokes are the addition of an appendix on French Polishing in 1880 and the exclusion of the eleven hand colored plates of furniture designs after the 1829 edition.

The bulk of Stokes contains receipts for the compounding and application of finishing materials, descriptions of various forms of cabinetwork and upholstery, how to clean and maintain both shop tools and completed furniture, &c., &c.. Stokes was therefore, a reference book for the daily operations of a workshop rather than a pattern book to be used in the preparation of an order from a prospective customer.

The question of plagiarism is often raised when discussing early books. The modern views and legal terms of copyright did not exist at the time of Stokes. It was common practice for authors of pattern books, as well as books of receipts, to liberally borrow from both current and past writings. While there was some small recourse if an author wished to pursue a case of plagiarism in civil court, very few did so.