In Plain Sight

GBP £45.00



ISBN: 978-1-907804-33-5

284 Pages

302 x 251 mm (9 ⅞ x 11 ⅞ in)

165 colour illustrations

In association with the association with the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem

October 2014


The recent chance discovery of Nathaniel Gould’s detailed account ledgers and daybooks by historians Kemble Widmer and Joyce King, not only brings to light his career, but also gives a remarkable insight into the makers and consumers of 18th-century American design

“An invaluable resource”—Barrymore Laurence Scherer, Wall Street Journal

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Once an obscure figure in American furniture history, Nathaniel Gould is now recognised as colonial America’s premier 18th-century cabinetmaker. In Plain Sight: Discovering the Furniture of Nathaniel Gould presents new, unpublished scholarship, as well as archival materials and twenty distinguished examples of furniture, either newly attributed to Gould or linked to his workshop.

Gould’s ledgers are probably unique in covering the full career of one of the most skilled craftsmen of his time, and so their discovery is of great significance for the study of both 18th-century cabinetmaking and of contemporary economic and social life. These meticulous records include detailed appendices copied directly from the ledgers, outlining Gould’s client list, his output and his employees, his involvement in export trade with orders to specific voyages, and orders for specials events such as weddings and births.

Based on in-depth analysis from multiple vantage points, In Plain Sight lays the groundwork for a broader understanding of the cabinetmaker’s work; moreover the ledgers provide an opportunity for ongoing research, and significantly enhance our understanding of business practices and social customs in New England during the period of transition from a British colony to an independent nation.

About the Authors

Kemble Widmer has applied his training and career as an industrial engineer to his examination of early furniture in Boston and Essex County, Massachusetts, in order to determine places of origin and even individual craftsmen.

Joyce King, an eleventh generation inhabitant of Salem, Massachusetts, is an expert in genealogical research.

Contributing Authors

Glenn Adamson, formerly Head of Research, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, is The Nanette L. Laitman Director of the Museum of Arts and Design, New York.

Daniel Finamore is The Russell W. Knight Curator of Maritime Art and History at the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts. Dean Lahikainen is The Carolyn and Peter Lynch Curator of American Decorative Art at the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts. Elisabeth Garrett Widmer, formerly director of Sotheby’s American Arts course and a Senior Vice President at Christie’s, New York, and director of Classes in Connoisseurship, is an authority on American eighteenth- and nineteenth-century decorative arts and social history.

Table of Contents

  1. Foreword by Dan L. Monroe and Lynda Roscoe Hartigan
  2. Acknowledgments by Kemble Widmer and Joyce King
  3. Note to the Reader
  4. Essays
    In Plain Sight by Kemble Widmer and Joyce King
    Behind the Curve: Putting Nathaniel Gould in Perspective by Glenn Adamson
    Grand Houses and Rural Retreats by Dean Thomas Lahikainen
    Brides, Housewives, and Hostesses: Acquiring, Using, Caring for and Enjoying Mr. Gould’s Furniture by Elisabeth Garrett Widmer
    “Desks took on bord” in Nathaniel Gould’s Caribbean Furniture Trade by Daniel Finamore
    The Business of Cabinetmaking by Kemble Widmer
  5. Catalogue of Nathaniel Gould’s Furniture Forms by Kemble Widmer and Joyce King
    Case Furniture Construction
    Chests of Drawers (Bureau Tables)
    Cases of Drawers
    Desks and Desk-and-Bookcases
    Seating Furniture
  6. Appendices
    Introduction to Gould’s Client List and the Appendices
    Client List
    Appendix A: Furniture Orders by Form
    Appendix B: Journeymen and Apprentices
    Appendix C: Furniture Orders Associated with Export
    Appendix D: Furniture Orders Associated with Weddings
    Appendix E: Furniture Orders Associated with Children and Childbirth
  7. Bibliography
  8. Index
  9. Image Credits