Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Arthur Romney Green on wood, Foundry Meadow, 1907

When I was looking through the National Art Library's special collection on Arthur Romney Green, I came across this letter written on his headed note paper from 1907.

Arthur Romney Green Letterhead, Foundry Meadow, Haslemere,
24 July 1907
I have struggled to read it word for word, I believe it says:

"Dear Sir

Would you kindly supply me as soon as possible with lantern slides prepared from the negatives whose numbers on your catalogues I give below.  These slides you prepared a few months ago to illustrate a lecture given by me to the Society of Arts.  These numbers are:

18261 - XVI ? Oak Door
19305 XVII  -   -     Door
22041 XVIII   -  -    -
15949 an Oak Pulpit
19593  -     -    Cupboard
15503  a vestibule
13795  Carved Cupboard
26488  Carved Chair
23713   Norwegian Chair
32350  Cabinet & chair from Paris Exhibition  PTO

Door ....
? ?
? Chair

Arthur Romney Green letter 1907

Within the same folder is a copy of Journal of the Society of Arts (No. 2844, Vol 55, May 24 1907) which sets out a paper presented by Arthur Romney Green to the Society recorded under the section 'Proceedings of the Society' Applied Art Section - Mr A. Romney Green, "Joinery and Furniture-making".   It is interesting that the slides A.R. Green used included a Norwegian chair, an interest that would have overlapped with Joseph King.

The paper appears to be a quite dense piece on the subject, it begins:

Journal of the Society of Arts, No. 2844, Vol. 55, 24 May 1907
Applied Art Section: Arthur Romney Green 

"Joinery is one of those crafts which have to do with the building or fitting, the decoration or furnishing of fixed and permanent structures.  In this architectural process, it is found that certain materials are better adapted than others to certain purposes.  The upright walls of the structure, for instance, can be built of almost anything; but stone or brick are generally used because they are better adapted for the purpose, and much more abundant than any other material, and, by reason of their weights and fragility, are useless for non-architectural purposes.  But to use stone or brick for the roof, the upper floors of a building, is a more questionable and difficult matter.  The difficulty consists in carrying the heavy and brittle material under the downward action of the force of gravity, from any one point to another which is not vertically above it.  With stone or brick this can only be done, if the two points are any considerable distance apart, by the use of the arch or vault; and this is always an expensive process, whilst in the case of floors it involves a great waste of space and material between the floor and the vaulted ceiling.

But there is another material, wood - light and fibrous, and strong in the direction of its grain, which can be easily carried in a straight line, and therefore with the least possible waste of space or material, from one point to another at some distance off in a horizontal or an oblique direction; and, since this material is also fairly abundant and quite easy to work, it is generally the best material to  use for the roof and floors. .......But the art of using wood thus for structural purposes is the art of the carpenter; not that of the joiner, with which I am dealing to-night.  The work of the joiner only begins when the shell of the building is finished; it consist in providing doors, windows frames and sashes, handrails, and other permanent fittings.  And though in roofing a building we may sometimes hesitate between the stone vault and the timber gable, there is no doubt whatever that for doors and handrails, as also for such portable furniture as chairs and tables, wood, by reason of its strength, lightness and beauty, and of its pleasantness to the touch as compared with stone or metal, is very much the best material.

from Proceedings of the Society,
Journal of the Society of Arts, 24 May 1907
Arthur Romney Green lecture

Now the nature of each of the building crafts is of course very largely determined by that of the materials used; and wood has several peculiar properties in addition to those which I have already described.  One of the chief requirements of a door, which has exactly to fill a given aperture, is that it should reman constant both in size and shape.  And one of the most characteristic properties of wood, the material which in other respects it is most convenient to use, is its natural disinclination to constancy either of shape or size.  Wood is a fibrous material any prism of which cut with its axis parallel to the grain will be usually of constant length but of variable cross section.  The area of its cross-section, that is to say, will continually decrease as the wood dries, and even after the wood is dry it is sensitive to changes of atmospheric condition, swelling or shrinking as the moisture of the atmosphere becomes more or less.  And not only is the cross-section of such a prism variable in area, but also in shape..."

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