The best woods for hand tool woodworking are those you can get for free. Seriously, most of the old timers worried about what was available, what was trendy, and what wood was most appropriate for a particular application. Past that there was more concern on the characteristics of the particular board. Even pieces from within the same tree had factors such as problematic grain, knots, and reaction wood that would greatly affect the workability and desirability.
All woods have something to offer, a particular look, weight, feel, strength, grain and figure, even smell and the traditional craftsmen and used that information in their decision making process. Air dried woods of a species are preferred by a lot of woodworkers because it is normally lower priced, usually works a little easier, and has some other qualities suitable for specific applications such as tone and bendability. There are some woods that are particularly hard on edged tools but you won’t normally find them as commercially available anyway because people avoid them. Cherry, Walnut, mahogany have traditionally been popular at different times and different places but so was pine, poplar, maple, sassafras, oak, and many other woods for different applications. Difficult woods were used when the qualities they had out weighed the difficulty in working. If all else fails there is always a need for firewood.