In 1786, extraordinary limewood carvings at Hampton Court near London by the seventeenth-century master Grinling Gibbons were destroyed by fire. A recent book by the American carver David Esterly, The Lost Carving: A journey to the heart of making (2012), describes his own commissioned efforts to replicate and replace those carvings. It is a thoroughly enjoyable book. To read it is to sense the pungent majesty of wood and the strange connection between timber and humanity. During carving, by Esterly’s account, the wood under his hand seemed to wrestle, even interweave itself, with the muscles and brain of the carver.
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