BY SHAKER HANDS by June Sprigg


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While presented as a gift book in the increasingly common demitasse coffee-table format (i.e., 9 x 12), the virtue of June Sprigg's story of the Shakers--that idiosyncratic special world of spiritual practicality--is information rather than decorativeness (although there will be 200 line drawings of true Shakerian severity and functional simplicity by the author). What a remarkable, isolated phenomenon this was--the nineteen communities which eventually evolved after Mother Ann and her eight followers left England in 1774. At one time there were 6000 members--today only twelve Sisters (no Brothers) are left. Sprigg's research is based partly on the two years she spent in Canterbury, N.H., at one of the two still extant villages. She illustrates the quiet, steady qualities these people possessed--common sense, thrift, self-sufficiency, punctuality (aided by the highly developed timepieces they made), precision, cleanliness (those old brooms swept dean), equality between the men and women who had no sexual contacts--but were not childless since they adopted the poor and the homeless. All is described, from the Meetinghouses to the Dwellinghouses to the workshops to the kitchens where each pursued his dedicated appointed rounds, with work and worship always interchangeable and never joyless, even if Dickens found it ""grim."" Indeed as they said, ""Heaven and earth are threads of one loom"" and they achieved an extraordinary texture of life at its most orderly and serene.

Pub Date: Nov. 19th, 1975
ISBN: 0874515424
Publisher: Knopf