A Remembrance of Mark Rees
Wing, Don, Wing, Anne, The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association, Inc.
The reaction of one American after meeting Jane and Mark Rees was, "I wish I'd been able to know them sooner," and probably all of us who have known them feel the same way. Almost always together, they worked closely miri many areas, beginning with their careers in architecture, specializing in the restoration and renovation of historic buildings. This led to dealing in antique tools, tireless participation in both the Tool and Trades History Society in England (TATHS) and the Early American Industries Association in the USA, and of course their noted research and publications. Sadly, Mark Rees passed away in December.
The Rees' many trips to meetings of the EAIA and Mid-West Tool Collectors Association produced many enduring transatlantic friendships, and their 1994 visit to and lecture at Colonial Williamsburg's symposium on eighteenth-century tools gave more Americans a chance to get to know this remarkable couple. Mark's quick wit and good humor made him a fine companion, and in talking with him one could always learn something.
Mark's volunteer efforts added strength to both TATHS and the EAIA. Being both a scholar and a dealer, he was able to bridge the gap between the two that occasionally occurs in specialist groups such as these. Whether he realized it or not, he has a stabilizing influence on each organization with his imaginative ideas and his practical application of them. He served as editor of both the TATHS newsletter and its journal and contributed several excellent articles to them and to the EAIA's Chronicle. He tried to combine English and American interests by suggesting projects like a traveling exhibit on transatlantic trade, showing how the two countries have relied on each other for imports/exports and for sharing ideas over the centuries. An unfinished project with the EAIA involved research and collaboration on
reprinting a series of early nineteenth-century English pattern books found in America, with provenance.
As a director of the EAIA, he wanted to encourage tool trading at meetings. He suggested the idea of allowing buyers in the trading room as the dealers are setting up and also began a creative system for members' consignments, following through with actions. He and Jane made the effort to attend every EAIA meeting, traveling thousands of miles to do so.
Being guests in the Rees' home in Bath made one realize, more than quick visits at meetings or auctions could, the variety of their interests, from remodeling their home, with its spectacular garden and lovely sweeping views of the countryside to the south, to their impressive collection of treenware and Mark's cacti. Evidence of their love of antiques, tools included, is everywhere throughout the house. Walking from the kitchen (after a super meal!) through the library, with its comprehensive selection of both modern and antique reference books, to the guestroom with its view was a treat these Americans will not soon forget.
The Rees' Christmas cards manifested Mark's seemingly endless talents and interests. Using antique tools for inspiration, he created wonderful drawings. It must have taken hours to create the sketches for his cards. The results reflect the many aspects of his personality-artistic talent, knowledge of tools, a sense of humor, attention to detail. One can almost hear him chuckling delightedly as he filled in spaces with unexpected minutiae like a spider sitting on a wooden plane.
Mark's voice was distinctive booming and confident. David Stanley's well attended and successful auction of November 3, 2001, was unusually quiet without hearing Mark in the back of the hall having a discussion with fellow attendees (yet keeping an eye on the auctioneer and not missing any interesting lots). His confident voice reflected his wellrespected knowledge in many areas. As a direct result of his intellectual curiosity, Mark was an avid and skilled trader of tools, using trading as an aid to locate rare and early examples for study. Not content just to purchase a "whatsit" and turn it over for a profit, he had to identify it and determine its exact use. He and Jane have always offered fascinating objects for both display and sale, with informed descriptions of how they were used.
Any Rees presentation, whether a group of tools for sale, an informative display at a tool collectors' meeting, or a major lecture, was sure to be well presented and thoroughly prepared. Mark could be counted on to give lectures that were both enlightening and entertaining and kindly consented to present several at both TATHS and EAIA meetings. He was a relaxed speaker, injecting humor and always keeping his audience awake while imparting a good deal of knowledge - much of it from original research.
Probably the greatest contribution that Mark made to the world of antique tools is co-publishing with Jane their wonderful research, much of it original and some of it ably compiling others! A huge amount of work went into their third edition of W.L. Goodman's British Planemakers from 1700, from organizing reports by other collectors to visiting record offices to check material first-hand. The introductory chapters present an excellent overview of the history of planemaking in England. Tools: A Guide for Collectors, already in its second edition, has been a useful reference for both beginning and "advanced" collectors. The Rees were major contributors to the TATHS' publication The Tool Chest of Benjamin Seaton. That and their book Christopher Gabriel and the Tool Trade in eighteenth-Century London are filled with their thorough original research, resulting in new information on English tool makers. As with everything produced by them, the books are welldesigned, well organized, and well-written.
The EAIA's presentation of the Hatch award for excellence in scholarly writing in 2001 reflects the appreciation of the tool collecting world for the contributions they have made. The Rees have been often consulted in the preparation of others' authoritative works, including Tools: Working Wood in Eighteenth- Century America by Jay Gaynor and Nancy Hagedorn of Colonial Williamsburg in 1993, Windows, a booklet published by the Building of Bath Museum in 1994, and Building the Georgian City by James Ayres in 1998. They have always been enthusiastic about sharing their vast knowledge.
At the time of his illness, Mark and Jane were working on a much anticipated book on rules, emphasizing the different scales and types of rules used in various trades. We hope and expect that Jane will carry on the completion of this work, as well as the EAIA pattern book project, with the support of their tool collecting colleagues.
We have lost too soon a real scholar and leader of the tool world, and a good friend.
It was an honor to be asked to write a remembrance of Mark Rees from the American perspective. Because Mark's contacts and friendships in the United States were so widespread and with the extensive work he and Jane have done with Colonial Williamsburg,. we have asked Jay Gaynor, curator of mechanical arts, to add his thoughts:
"When I first began to write about Mark Rees, I had decided that I wanted to focus rather objectively on his contributions to our knowledge of early tools and the many things he did to foster an interest in tool study and collecting. I found I couldn't do just that. First of all, I can't think about, let alone write about, Mark without Jane by his side. They were always a team. Furthermore, although both Mark and Jane shared so much of their enthusiasm and knowledge and questions and theories about tools with me, they always couched them in the context of caring and generous friends. It is impossible for me to be a purely objective commentator.
"I first met Mark and Jane through the Early American Industries Association during the late 1980's. By the time I began working seriously on Colonial Williamsburg's woodworking tool exhibit, we had gotten to know each other well enough to realize that we shared a mutual interest in early tools. When I found that I was going to be traveling to England on research projects, I contacted Mark and Jane, and it was really from that time that they took me under their wings and began sharing their vast and passionate knowledge of tools with me. Over the next decade, we exchanged letters constantly. They helped guide the exhibit research. They loaned tools for the show. They gave a presentation at the accompanying conference. They welcomed me into their home. They introduced me to the City of Bath through the eyes of architects, historians, and minute observers of detail. They hauled me about the countryside. They even gave me a bit of nursing when I was stricken with, as Mark described it, `an excessive partaking of Indian curries.'
"Their books and the TATHS publications they edited are constant wellsprings of information and insight. The clutter of Mark's workshop brought forth curious artifacts to discuss. Tools they brought to EAIA and other meetings found their way into the Colonial Williamsburg collection. But, most of all, Mark and Jane were always there, a constant in nearly everything I did related to tools and England. They helped and guided and inspired me-just as they did for the hundreds, maybe thousands, of other people they touched personally through their writing, or by their volunteer work with projects like the Building of Bath Museum.
"Mark's passing has left my world and the world of old tools an emptier place. Many will miss him and the things he left undone. But for his legacy and for Jane who carries on the work and the enthusiasm and the friendship, I am deeply grateful."
Jane and Mark Rees copublished many valuable works for collectors of antique tools.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: A Remembrance of Mark Rees. Contributors: Wing, Don - Author, Wing, Anne - Author. Journal title: The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association, Inc.. Issue: 165 Publication date: March/April 2002. Page number: 9+. © Early American Industries Association Nov/Dec 2008. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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