De Garsault's original eighteenth-century work on shoemaking and shoes found in facsimile here is much enhanced by scholarly notes to the English translation; excerpts on shoes from other historical writings; annotated introductory material on the history of shoemaking; color photographs of tools, materials, and finished shoes with informed annotations to complement the simpler, plainer illustrations of the original work; a glossary of nearly 20 pages; and extensive bibliography and section of suggestions for further reading. One would not know there was so much to shoemaking, as a glance through the glossary with its many technical and some foreign words and terms attests. All of this is in book of the highest production quality with marbled endpages, expert color photographs (as in a museum catalog), and appealing design and format.
The purpose of the 1700's publication of the now-classic work was as a documentation and reference on the art and crafts of shoemaking. As a Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau asks in his "Forward" in the original as a way of stating the purpose, "Can not one expect new levels of perfection in the arts when scholars, practiced in their different branches of the physical sciences, take the trouble to study and elucidate the often ingenious operations that the artisan carries out in his workshop?" De Garsault's "Art of the Shoemaker" was an illustrated text and manual meant to preserve and make widely available skills and techniques for making shoes in the decades preceding the Industrial Age when many of these operations would come to be done by machines. The French Royal Academy of Sciences could not have foreseen this; but they recognized that society and industry were changing to meet a growing demand for everyday consumer goods from an increasingly democratic, bourgeois class able to purchase and appreciate these. As du Monceau elsewhere explains, "The academics should further apply themselves to clarifying practice in order to subject a number of delicate operations, which depend entirely on the accuracy of the eye or hand and the success of which are only too often uncertain, to certain rules." Author De Garsault accomplishes this sparing no detail. The "delicate operations" depending on "the accuracy of the eye or hand" were like instructions for the design of shoemaking machines in the coming Industrial Age. The translator's Introduction notes, "Mechanization of shoemaking began in the United States"; although this was not not completed until late in the nineteenth century.
The text, illustrations, and Saguto's rich annotations, many of which are like short essays, make for fascinating reading by anyone with an interest in social history, the history of crafts, and in clothing and costume. This "Art of the Shoemaker" is a recent addition to Texas Tech University Press's outstanding and growing series of exceptionally well-illustrated works with content that is both engaging and scholarly relating to what is termed "material culture." Other recent books cover sunbonnets and spurs. Readers and students of social history, consumer goods, manufacturing history, historical crafts, and like topics want to be keeping up with what this publisher is putting out in this field.