Posts Tagged ‘economic history’

Pins and needles

November 9th, 2010 by Anna Towlson, Assistant Archivist

My latest serendipitous find in our rare book collections – discovered while looking for volumes for possible inclusion in an exhibition on food – is the series Illustrations from the useful arts, by the Victorian scientist and teacher, Charles Tomlinson.

'Illustrations of the useful arts: manufacture of a needle', detail from cover

Illustrations of the useful arts: manufacture of a needle, detail from cover

Illustrations of the useful arts dates from the late 1860s, and was presumably intended as a follow-up to Tomlinson’s popular Cyclopaedia of useful arts, published in 1852 in the wake of the Great Exhibition, at a time of rapid industrial development and when public interest in technology was high. We have the first two in the series, Manufacture of a needle and Manufacture of a pin, and what caught my eye were the specimen sheets at the back of each pamphlet, with examples of the ‘manufactured article in its various progressive states’.

Specimen sheet from 'Manufacture of a needle'. Tomlinson tells us that the grinding involved in the pointing process (stage 3) produced dust of minute grit and steel particles, causing ‘grinder’s asthma’, a severe lung disease which killed many pointers before the age of 30. By the 1860s, new ventilating apparatus  was available that would keep rooms free from this kind of dust, but installation of such equipment was down to individual mill-owners, it was not required by law.

Specimen sheet from Manufacture of a needle. Tomlinson tells us that the grinding involved in the pointing process (stage 3) produced dust of minute grit and steel particles, causing ‘grinder’s asthma’, a severe lung disease which killed many pointers before the age of 30. By the 1860s, new ventilating apparatus was available that would keep rooms free from this kind of dust, but installation of such equipment was down to individual mill-owners, it was not required by law.

Specimen sheet from 'Manufacture of a pin'. Stage 7 shows a finished pin, the yellow brass of the previous stage whitened with a layer of tin and the whole then polished with warm bran to give a good shine. Stage 8 shows a traditional mourning pin, coated with black varnish instead of tin, stage 9 a new model of mourning pin, made of steel tempered to a deep purple, and stronger, neater and sharper than a blacked brass pin.

Specimen sheet from Manufacture of a pin. Stage 7 shows a finished pin, the yellow brass of the previous stage whitened with a layer of tin and the whole then polished with warm bran to give a good shine. Stage 8 shows a traditional mourning pin, coated with black varnish instead of tin, stage 9 a new model of mourning pin, made of steel tempered to a deep purple, and stronger, neater and sharper than a blacked brass pin.


google