documenting the
historic architecture
of New Jersey

about the Wooden Nail Press                       



events & links

how to order



print on demand



a little history
The inception of the Press goes back at least a dozen years to a time when I was writing educational and technical books on learning theory and instructional design. The market was too small to interest traditional publishers, so I was helping Kinko's remain profitable by reproducing manuals and workbooks for seminars. I was not a novice, as I had written several books and spent many years in book publishing—with Van Nostrand, Aretê and Ridge Press, and was familiar with the editorial, marketing and financial aspects, but there was always staff to carry out the little stuff—arranging for ISBN numbers, establishing arrangements with Bowker, Ingram, Barnes & Noble and the copyright office. I benefitted enormously over the years by having excellent people in copy editing, graphics and book production reporting to me. But now I'm having to learn the business from the ground up.

the deciding factor
In 1997 I began to photograph the old churches of Hunterdon County with little thought about a book, just a minor project to mark time until I could get out to the Four Corners again and my real passion in photography. Well, one thing led to another and soon I was lecturing on the religious architecture of the county, then traveling to other counties to create materials for a book on the old churches, meetinghouses and synagogues of the state for Rutgers University Press. That was my 11th or 12 book, but the first one by a real established publisher. If I had any doubts about the size of the market for a book on the religious architecture in New Jersey, the modest sales of that book (The New Jersey Churchscape) soon disabused me. But I couldn't stop photographing the old churches, and then researching them and lecturing about what I had learned and seen.

Pagemaker made it easy
Lecture notes turned into booklets and then, via the magic of Pagemaker into a real honest-to-goodness book. Cheaply printed, yes, but the Acrobat version distributed as a CD looked great, and I could send copies to friends and local historical societies who pretended they were interested. My website (, after a couple favorable mentions by Yahoo and others was soon attracting upwards of 20,000 visitors a day. Yikes! Some readers suggested churches I needed to include, others provided additional information on the ones I had. A couple ridiculed me for placing a church in the wrong township, but many more thanked me for making the information available. Several dozen asked permission to reprint articles or use my photographs in their own publications or websites. Maybe there was more latent interest in the topic than I assumed.

a wild hair
At some point I decided that a complete inventory of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century religious architecture of the state needed doing. Apparently no state has such a thing, although a few people have created books on selected churches of a particular city, county or state—but nothing anywhere near comprehensive, and generally not even analytical or interpretive. So I had a project: twenty-one counties, certainly more than a thousand old buildings, many of which had been designed by fine architects for affluent congregations. A most worthy project, although I am a howling atheist and haven't been inside a church, except for weddings and funerals, for more than 50 years. Oh, the abuse I've taken from friends over that!

I've been at it 11 years now, shot some 12,000 negatives of more than 1,300 old churches, and am well-along on eleven books on as many counties. I spend more time in libraries than in the darkroom or with my camera in the field, and indeed, have amassed quite a library on architecture and even on religion (dare I admit it). Given the fact that many counties (Warren, Sussex, Cumberland, for example) have only two or three bookstores, the prospect of selling more than 100 copies of some titles seemed dim. If the books were ever to be published, it would be possible only by means of a grant or subsidy, an el cheapo printing job by Kinko's or Staples. . . or the emerging print-on-demand technology. Guess which I opted for.

a word about our name
I have a vague recollection of my father telling me a bit of family history—two items that I don't believe he ever connected: the name "Greenagel" meant wooden nail in German, and that a family tradition had it that our ancestors were shipbuilders from Koblenz, on the Rhine. That satisfied my curiosity . . . until I was in the British Museum years later when there was an exhibit of Viking artifacts, mostly from Sutton Hoo, as I recall. A small, much eroded peg was part of that exhibit and there was a label in three languages, one of which was German. The peg, it seemed, had been used in constructing the Viking longboats and was called, in old low German, a "grünnagel"—a wooden nail. It's an interesting connection, and may even be true. But no matter . . . I had a name for my publishing house.

where do I go from here?
My intention at this time is to use the imprint only for my own books on the religious architecture of the state, but maybe for an occasional photographic book on other subjects—most likely the 1750s Georgian manor I'm helping to restore in Phillipsburg. In April 2012 I will publish Historic Architecture of Phillipsburg, New Jersey—a reflection on the 200+ years of architecture in this area. It has been enlightening to work on domestic and industrial buildings for a change. No poetry, no novels, no polemics. Don't e-mail me with a proposal for your tome on the Pine Barrens or postcards of scenes at the shore from the 40s. At least not for a year or two until I see how long I can afford to keep The Wooden Nail Press going. I do appreciate your interest, and hope you will find something here to engage you.

Frank L. Greenagel