Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Shuttle-Craft Book of American Hand-Weaving

By Leigh

Now here is a very odd thing.

Hardbound copy of 1944 reprint.A couple of years ago I purchased a hardbound copy of The Shuttle-Craft Book of American Hand-Weaving by Mary Meigs Atwater at a silent auction fund raiser. I refer to this book frequently, so I am familiar with it's text, drafts, and photographs.

At my guild meeting last weekend, there were some used books for sale, among them a paperback copy of The Shuttle-Craft Book of American Hand-Weaving. Being a wordy title with a different cover, I had to stop and think if this was the same book by Mary Meigs Atwater that I already had, or if it was another. I flipped through the pages, but it didn't look familiar, so I bought it.
Paperback copy of 1951 reprint.
When I got home, I went to my bookshelves to see what my other Atwater book was. I was surprised to see that it had the exact same title. A quick look at the title page revealed that both were published by The Macmillian Company and both carried an 1928 copyright date. However, they were reprintings from different years.

Feeling quite silly for purchasing a second copy of the same book, I was nonetheless puzzled as to why I hadn't recognized this. I started to compare them chapter by chapter. The two books were organized differently, but the first couple of chapters were identical. However, after that, they are not the same book!

My hardcover 1944 version, contains such chapters as:

  • "The Practice of Hand-Weaving - Spinning"
  • "Dyeing"
  • "Dressing the Loom"
  • "Rug Weaving"
  • "The Weaving of a Coverlet"
  • "Finishing Hand-Woven Fabrics"
  • "The Linen Weaves"
  • "Counterpanes"
The paperback 1951 version has none of those, but does have chapters such as:

  • "Beginner's Problems"
  • "Design of the Fabric"
  • "Choice of Pattern and Color"
  • "Setting up the Loom"
  • "Adjustments, Knots, the Tie-Up"
As well as a more chapters on individual weaves:

  • "The Plain Weave"
  • "The Twill Weave"
  • "The Four Harness Overshot Weave"
  • "Leno"
  • "Pick-Up Weaving"
Even chapters with the same title such as, "The Summer and Winter Weave" do not have identical content! Most of the photos are the same, but the newer version has a few more drafts.

The moral of the story? Don't judge a book by it's cover, or rather by it's title. I realize that newer editions of books are often updated, but this re-write seems to be more extensive than just an update.

So, I didn't exactly purchase a duplicate after all. As Ma Ingalls would say, "All's well that ends well." And I have a brand new book!

Posted 21 Feb. 2009 at

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New Loom = New Books. Right?


Lynnette said...

Wow, good to know, I'll look very closely at books before I don't buy them in the future.

MiniKat said...

It sounds more like you have two volumes in a series. A very handy series to own in the realm of fiber work. Lucky you!

Meg said...

Fascinating. MMA revised it herself, I take it? Very interesting.

bspinner said...

Interesting and informative. I'll have to look closer at the used books I've passed up because I already have them.

Bonnie said...

I have a 7th printing (1966) and it is a little different yet. But even more interesting is how your post links up with my post today. MMA is in the air.

Leigh said...

Well, I never would have guessed it if it hadn't happened to me. Bonnie, that's very interesting about the later edition! Now I have to look for that one too.

Jackie said...

Very interesting! I'll have to be watchful for similar happy accidents.

Anonymous said...

I had heard that there were major differences in the various reprints of this book. Interesting. I'll have to go look more closely at mine.

Dorothy said...

How fascinating! Glad it turned out well. I've got a 1937 copy, same as your 1944.

The most disappointing purchase I've made was a book that turned out to have been re-bound with 60 pages missed out of the middle - and it was an interesting chapter on colour and weave. I'd not have noticed if I hadn't wanted to read that chapter! I got a part refund from the seller, and eventually found another copy.

Julie said...

Sounds like a great book to have.

Ma Ingalls is a good one to quote!

Janet said...

Thanks for this comparison. Do you keep track of the provenance of the books you buy?

JoOwl said...

There is also considerable variety in the various editions of Mary Black's Key to Weaving and New Key to Weaving. The latter, especially, lacks a great deal of material present in several earlier and later editions. AFAIK, the 2nd revised edition, published in 1979 or 1980, has the most information.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting about this. I have an old one I love, but I've never seen the new.

Anonymous said...

I used this book in college years ago and wanted to obtain my own copy. I am confused as to which version to purchase...any advice.

Leigh said...

Anonymous, that's a good question. I've tried to find out when MMA published her last revised edition but am not sure. A lot of re-sellers don't even list the publication date, and I believe someone just published a reprint last year.

Of my two editions, the second contains all of the same drafts and photos with some additional ones too. The information is different though, so personally, I will probably try to collect all the editions I can get my
hands on!