This study traces in detail the English origins of an important American cabinetmaker. Drawing on eight years of study in English and American archives, Robert Mussey presents a detailed biography of John Seymour and his son Thomas, makers of some of the finest Federal-period furniture in Boston.
Most significant American Furniture Book in Recent Years
By Stephen Sacks on Jan 25, 2004
This is far more than your coffee table antiques book. The author provides a facinating social history wrapped around John seymour's early life in England and the move to Maine and Boston. Through the window of the ups and downs of furniture making we can get an understanding of the times. This aspect reminds this reviewer of Morison's Pulitzer Prize winning book, John Paul Jones, A Sailor's Biography, which addressed the same time period and began with Jones early life in Scotland. But the book is really about the furniture, some of the finest and most significant to have been made during the Federal period. To understand the Seymour's work Mussey devoted ten years and didn't look at just a few exampls-he looked at and studied just about every suggested example. From this he developed a construction and aesthetic dictionary that allowed him with some confidence to identify pieces that are really made by Seymours, father and son. In chapter 5 he lays out these criteria. My only very slight quibble with the book is that I would like to have seen a page of say lunette-inlays and say a page showing many examples of Seymour dovetail joints. This would better allow the reader to come to his own conclusions. The remainder of the book, basically the last two thirds, is a catalogue of the furniture. The photographs are beautiful and the descriptions are far more interesting and informative than the norn for this type section. The book qualifies as a coffee table book because it is a big, has significant weight and is beautiful. But this is not the reason that it should be in the library of those who appreciate American furniture. Rather it is because this is in this reviewer's opinion the most significant American furniture book to have been written in recent years.