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On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures
by Charles Babbage
The present volume may be considered as one of the
consequences that have resulted from the calculating engine, the
construction of which I have been so long superintending. Having
been induced, during the last ten years, to visit a considerable
number of workshops and factories, both in England and on the
Continent, for the purpose of endeavouring to make myself
acquainted with the various resources of mechanical art, I was
insensibly led to apply to them those principles of
generalization to which my other pursuits had naturally given
rise. The increased number of curious processes and interesting
facts which thus came under my attention, as well as of the
reflections which they suggested, induced me to believe that the
publication of some of them might be of use to persons who
propose to bestow their attention on those enquiries which I have
only incidentally considered. With this view it was my intention
to have delivered the present work in the form of a course of
lectures at Cambridge; an intention which I was subsequently
induced to alter. The substance of a considerable portion of it
has, however, appeared among the preliminary chapters of the
mechanical part of the Encyclopedia Metropolitana.
I have not attempted to offer a complete enumeration of all
the mechanical principles which regulate the application of
machinery to arts and manufactures, but I have endeavoured to
present to the reader those which struck me as the most
important, either for understanding the actions of machines, or
for enabling the memory to classify and arrange the facts
connected with their employment. Still less have I attempted to
examine all the difficult questions of political economy which
are intimately connected with such enquiries. It was impossible
not to trace or to imagine, among the wide variety of facts
presented to me, some principles which seemed to pervade many
establishments; and having formed such conjectures, the desire to
refute or to verify them, gave an additional interest to the
pursuit. Several of the principles which I have proposed, appear
to me to have been unnoticed before. This was particularly the
case with respect to the explanation I have given of the division
of labour; but further enquiry satisfied me that I had been
anticipated by M. Gioja, and it is probable that additional
research would enable me to trace most of the other principles,
which I had thought original, to previous writers, to whose merit
I may perhaps be unjust, from my want of acquaintance with the
historical branch of the subject.
The truth however of the principles I have stated, is of much
more importance than their origin; and the utility of an enquiry
into them, and of establishing others more correct, if these
should be erroneous, can scarcely admit of a doubt.
The difficulty of understanding the processes of manufactures
has unfortunately been greatly overrated. To examine them with
the eye of a manufacturer, so as to be able to direct others to
repeat them, does undoubtedly require much skill and previous
acquaintance with the subject; but merely to apprehend their
general principles and mutual relations, is within the power of
almost every person possessing a tolerable education.
Those who possess rank in a manufacturing country, can
scarcely be excused if they are entirely ignorant of principles,
whose development has produced its greatness. The possessors of
wealth can scarcely be indifferent to processes which, nearly or
remotely have been the fertile source of their possessions. Those
who enjoy leisure can scarcely find a more interesting and
instructive pursuit than the examination of the workshops of
their own country, which contain within them a rich mine of
knowledge, too generally neglected by the wealthier classes.
It has been my endeavour, as much as possible, to avoid all
technical terms, and to describe, in concise language, the arts I
have had occasion to discuss. In touching on the more abstract
principles of political economy, after shortly stating the
reasons on which they are founded, I have endeavoured to support
them by facts and anecdotes; so that whilst young persons might
be amused and instructed by the illustrations, those of more
advanced judgement may find subject for meditation in the general
conclusions to which they point. I was anxious to support the
principles which I have advocated by the observations of others,
and in this respect I found myself peculiarly fortunate. The
reports of committees of the House of Commons, upon various
branches of commerce and manufactures, and the evidence which
they have at different periods published on those subjects, teem
with information of the most important kind, rendered doubly
valuable by the circumstances under which it has been collected.
From these sources I have freely taken, and I have derived some
additional confidence from the support they have afforded to my
views. *
Charles Babbage
Dorset Street
Manchester Square
8 June, 1832
[*Footnote: I am happy to avail myself of this occasion of expressing
my obligations to the Right Hon. Manners Sutton, the Speaker of the
House of Commons, to whom I am indebted for copies of a considerable
collection of those reports.]
Preface to the Second Edition
In two months from the publication of the first edition of
this volume, three thousand copies were in the hands of the
public. Very little was spent in advertisements; the booksellers,
instead of aiding, impeded its sale; * it formed no part of any
popular series and yet the public, in a few weeks, purchased the
whole edition. Some small part of this success, perhaps, was due
to the popular exposition of those curious processes which are
carried on in our workshops, and to the endeavour to take a short
view of the general principles which direct the manufactories of
the country. But the chief reason was the commanding attraction
of the subject, and the increasing desire to become acquainted
with the pursuits and interests of that portion of the people
which has recently acquired so large an accession of political
[*Footnote: I had good evidence of this fact from various quarters;
and being desirous of verifying it, I myself applied for a copy at
the shop of a bookseller of respectability, who is probably not aware
that he refused to procure one even for its author.]
A greater degree of attention than I had expected has been
excited by what I have stated in the first edition, respecting
the 'Book-trade'. Until I had commenced the chapter, 'On the
separate cost of each process of a manufacture', I had no
intention of alluding to that subject: but the reader will
perceive that I have throughout this volume, wherever I could,
employed as illustrations, objects of easy access to the reader;
and, in accordance with that principle, I selected the volume
itself. When I arrived at the chapter, 'On combinations of
masters against the public', I was induced, for the same reason,
to expose a combination connected with literature, which, in my
opinion, is both morally and politically wrong. I entered upon
this enquiry without the slightest feeling of hostility to that
trade, nor have I any wish unfavourable to it; but I think a
complete reform in its system would add to its usefulness and
respectability. As the subject of that chapter has been much
discussed, I have thought it right to take a view of the various
arguments which have been advanced, and to offer my own opinion
respecting their validity--and there I should have left the
subject, content to allow my general character to plead for me
against insinuations respecting my motives--but as the remarks
of some of my critics affect the character of another person, I
think it but just to state circumstances which will clearly
disprove them.
Mr Fellowes, of Ludgate Street, who had previously been the
publisher of some other volumes for me, had undertaken the
publication of the first edition of the present work. A short
time previous to its completion, I thought it right to call his
attention to the chapter in which the book-trade is discussed;
with the view both of making him acquainted with what I had
stated, and also of availing myself of his knowledge in
correcting any accidental error as to the facts. Mr Fellowes,
'differing from me entirely respecting the conclusions I had
arrived at', then declined the publication of the volume. If I
had then chosen to apply to some of those other booksellers,
whose names appear in the Committee of 'The Trade', it is
probable that they also would have declined the office of
publishing for me; and, had my object been to make a case against
the trade, such a course would have assisted me. But I had no
such feeling; and having procured a complete copy of the whole
work, I called with it on Mr Knight, of Pall Mall East, whom
until that day I had never seen, and with whom I had never
previously had the slightest communication. I left the book in Mr
Knight's hands, with a request that, when he had read it, I might
be informed whether he would undertake the publication of it; and
this he consented to do. Mr Knight, therefore, is so far from
being responsible for a single opinion in the present volume,
that he saw it only, for a short time, a few days previous to its
It has been objected to me, that I have exposed too freely
the secrets of trade. The only real secrets of trade are
industry, integrity, and knowledge: to the possessors of these no
exposure can be injurious; and they never fail to produce respect
and wealth.
The alterations in the present edition are so frequent, that
I found it impossible to comprise them in a supplement. But the
three new chapters, 'On money as a medium of exchange'; 'On a new
system of manufacturing'; and 'On the effect of machinery in
reducing the demand for labour'; will shortly be printed
separately, for the use of the purchasers of the first edition.
I am inclined to attach some importance to the new system of
manufacturing; and venture to throw it out with the hope of its
receiving a full discussion among those who are most interested
in the subject. I believe that some such system of conducting
manufactories would greatly increase the productive powers of any
country adopting it; and that our own possesses much greater
facilities for its application than other countries, in the
greater intelligence and superior education of the working
classes. The system would naturally commence in some large town,
by the union of some of the most prudent and active workmen; and
their example, if successful, would be followed by others. The
small capitalist would next join them, and such factories would
go on increasing until competition compelled the large capitalist
to adopt the same system; and, ultimately, the whole faculties of
every man engaged in manufacture would be concentrated upon one
object--the art of producing a good article at the lowest
possible cost--whilst the moral effect on that class of the
population would be useful in the highest degree, since it would
render character of far greater value to the workman than it is
at present.
To one criticism which has been made, this volume is
perfectly open. I have dismissed the important subject of the
patent-laws in a few lines. The subject presents, in my opinion,
great difficulties, and I have been unwilling to write upon it,
because I do not see my way. I will only here advert to one
difficulty. What constitutes an invention? Few simple mechanical
contrivances are new; and most combinations may be viewed as
species, and classed under genera of more or less generality; and
may, in consequence, be pronounced old or new, according to the
mechanical knowledge of the person who gives his opinion.
Some of my critics have amused their readers with the
wildness of the schemes I have occasionally thrown out; and I
myself have sometimes smiled along with them. Perhaps it were
wiser for present reputation to offer nothing but profoundly
meditated plans, but I do not think knowledge will be most
advanced by that course; such sparks may kindle the energies of
other minds more favourably circumstanced for pursuing the
enquiries. Thus I have now ventured to give some speculations on
the mode of blowing furnaces for smelting iron; and even
supposing them to be visionary, it is of some importance thus to
call the attention of a large population, engaged in one of our
most extensive manufactures, to the singular fact, that
four-fifths of the steam power used to blow their furnaces
actually cools them.
I have collected, with some pains, the criticisms* on the
first edition of this work, and have availed myself of much
information which has been communicated to me by my friends, for
the improvement of the present volume. If I have succeeded in
expressing that I had to explain with perspicuity, I am aware
that much of this clearness is due to my friend, Dr Fitton, to
whom both the present and the former edition are indebted for
such an examination and correction, as an author himself has very
rarely the power to bestow.
[*Footnote: Several of these have probably escaped me, and I shall
feel indebted to any one who will inform my publisher of any future
22 November, 1832.
Section I.
The object of the present volume is to point out the effects
and the advantages which arise from the use of tools and
machines;--to endeavour to classify their modes of action;--and to
trace both the causes and the consequences of applying machinery
to supersede the skill and power of the human arm.
A view of the mechanical part of the subject will, in the
first instance, occupy our attention, and to this the first
section of the work will be devoted. The first chapter of the
section will contain some remarks on the general sources from
whence the advantages of machinery are derived, and the
succeeding nine chapters will contain a detailed examination of
principles of a less general character. The eleventh chapter
contains numerous subdivisions, and is important from the
extensive classification it affords of the arts in which copying
is so largely employed. The twelfth chapter, which completes the
first section, contains a few suggestions for the assistance of
those who propose visiting manufactories.
The second section, after an introductory chapter on the
difference between making and manufacturing, will contain, in the
succeeding chapters, a discussion of many of the questions which
relate to the political economy of the subject. It was found that
the domestic arrangement, or interior economy of factories, was
so interwoven with the more general questions, that it was deemed
unadvisable to separate the two subjects. The concluding chapter
of this section, and of the work itself, relates to the future
prospects of manufactures, as arising from the application of
Chapter 1
Sources of the Advantages arising from Machinery and Manufactures
1. There exists, perhaps, no single circumstance which
distinguishes our country more remarkably from all others, than
the vast extent and perfection to which we have carried the
contrivance of tools and machines for forming those conveniences
of which so large a quantity is consumed by almost every class of
the community. The amount of patient thought, of repeated
experiment, of happy exertion of genius, by which our
manufactures have been created and carried to their present
excellence, is scarcely to be imagined. If we look around the
rooms we inhabit, or through those storehouses of every
convenience, of every luxury that man can desire, which deck the
crowded streets of our larger cities, we shall find in the
history of each article, of every fabric, a series of failures
which have gradually led the way to excellence; and we shall
notice, in the art of making even the most insignificant of them,
processes calculated to excite our admiration by their
simplicity, or to rivet our attention by their unlooked-for
2. The accumulation of skill and science which has been
directed to diminish the difficulty of producing manufactured
goods, has not been beneficial to that country alone in which it
is concentrated; distant kingdoms have participated in its
advantages. The luxurious natives of the East,(1*) and the ruder
inhabitants of the African desert are alike indebted to our
looms. The produce of our factories has preceded even our most
enterprising travellers.(2*) The cotton of India is conveyed by
British ships round half our planet, to be woven by British skill
in the factories of Lancashire: it is again set in motion by
British capital; and, transported to the very plains whereon it
grew, is repurchased by the lords of the soil which gave it
birth, at a cheaper price than that at which their coarser
machinery enables them to manufacture it themselves.(3*)
3. The large proportion of the population of this country,
who are engaged in manufactures, appears from the following table
deduced from a statement in an Essay on the Distribution of
Wealth, by the Rev. R. Jones:
For every hundred persons employed in agriculture, there are:
                    Agriculturists Non-agriculturists
 In Bengal          100             25
 In Italy           100             31
 In France          100             50
 In England         100             200
The fact that the proportion of non-agricultural to
agricultural persons is continually increasing, appears both from
the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons upon
Manufacturers' Employment, July, 1830, and from the still later
evidence of the last census; from which document the annexed
table of the increase of population in our great manufacturing
towns, has been deduced.
Increase of population per cent
Names of places
                     1801-11   1811-21   1821-31   Total
Manchester           22        40        47       151
Glasgow              30        46        38       161
Liverpool(4*)        26        31        44       138
Nottingham           19        18        25        75
Birmingham           16        24        33        90
Great Britain        14.2      15.7      15.5      52.5
Thus, in three periods of ten years, during each of which the
general population of the country has increased about 15 per
cent, or about 52 per cent upon the whole period of thirty years,
the population of these towns has, on the average, increased 132
per cent. After this statement, there requires no further
argument to demonstrate the vast importance to the well-being of
this country, of making the interests of its manufacturers well
understood and attended to.
4. The advantages which are derived from machinery and
manufactures seem to arise principally from three sources: The
addition which they make to human power. The economy they produce
of human time. The conversion of substances apparently common and
worthless into valuable products.
5. Of additions to human power. With respect to the first of
these causes, the forces derived from wind, from water, and from
steam, present themselves to the mind of every one; these are, in
fact, additions to human power, and will be considered in a
future page: there are, however, other sources of its increase,
by which the animal force of the individual is itself made to act
with far greater than its unassisted power; and to these we shall
at present confine our observations.
The construction of palaces, of temples, and of tombs, seems
to have occupied the earliest attention of nations just entering
on the career of civilization; and the enormous blocks of stone
moved from their native repositories to minister to the grandeur
or piety of the builders, have remained to excite the
astonishment of their posterity, long after the purposes of many
of these records, as well as the names of their founders, have
been forgotten. The different degrees of force necessary to move
these ponderous masses, will have varied according to the
mechanical knowledge of the people employed in their transport;
and that the extent of power required for this purpose is widely
different under different circumstances, will appear from the
following experiment, which is related by M. Rondelet, Sur L'Art
de Batir. A block of squared stone was taken for the subject of
1. Weight of stone 1080 lbs
2. In order to drag this stone along the floor of the quarry,
roughly chiselled, it required a force equal to 758 lbs
3. The same stone dragged over a floor of planks required 652 lbs
4. The same stone placed on a platform of wood, and dragged over
a floor of planks, required 606 lbs
5. After soaping the two surfaces of wood which slid over each
other, it required 182 lbs
6. The same stone was now placed upon rollers of three inches
diameter, when it required to put it in motion along the floor of
the quarry 34 lbs
7. To drag it by these rollers over a wooden floor 28 lbs
8. When the stone was mounted on a wooden platform, and the same
rollers placed between that and a plank floor, it required 22 lbs
From this experiment it results, that the force necessary to
move a stone along
                                     Part of its weight
The roughly chiselled floor of its quarry is nearly 2/3
Along a wooden floor                                3/5
By wood upon wood                                   5/9
If the wooden surfaces are soaped                   1/6
With rollers on the floor of the quarry             1/32
On rollers on wood                                  1/40
On rollers between wood                             1/50
At each increase of knowledge, as well as on the contrivance
of every new tool, human labour becomes abridged. The man who
contrived rollers, invented a tool by which his power was
quintupled. The workman who first suggested the employment of
soap or grease, was immediately enabled to move, without exerting
a greater effort, more than three times the weight he could
6. The economy of human time is the next advantage of
machinery in manufactures. So extensive and important is this
effect, that we might, if we were inclined to generalize, embrace
almost all the advantages under this single head: but the
elucidation of principles of less extent will contribute more
readily to a knowledge of the subject; and, as numerous examples
will be presented to the reader in the ensuing pages, we shall
restrict our illustrations upon this point.
As an example of the economy of time, the use of gunpowder in
blasting rocks may be noticed. Several pounds of powder may be
purchased for a sum acquired by a few days' labour: yet when this
is employed for the purpose alluded to, effects are frequently
produced which could not, even with the best tools, be
accomplished by other means in less than many months.
The dimensions of one of the blocks of limestone extracted
from the quarries worked for the formation of the breakwater at
Plymouth were 26 1/2 ft long, 13 ft wide, and 16 ft deep. This
mass, containing above 4,800 cubic feet, and weighing about 400
tons, was blasted three times. Two charges of 50 lbs each were
successively exploded in a hole 13 feet deep, the bore being 3
inches at top and 2 1/2 inches at bottom: 100 lbs of powder were
afterwards exploded in the rent formed by those operations. Each
pound of gunpowder separated from the rock two tons of matter, or
nearly 4,500 times its own weight. The expense of the powder was
L 6, or nearly 7 1/2d. per lb: the boring occupied two men during
a day and a half, and cost about 9s.; and the value of the
produce was, at that time, about L 45.
7. The simple contrivance of tin tubes for speaking through,
communicating between different apartments, by which the
directions of the superintendent are instantly conveyed to the
remotest parts of an establishment, produces a considerable
economy of time. It is employed in the shops and manufactories in
London, and might with advantage be used in domestic
establishments, particularly in large houses, in conveying orders
from the nursery to the kitchen, or from the house to the stable.
Its convenience arises not merely from saving the servant or
workman useless journeys to receive directions, but from
relieving the master himself from that indisposition to give
trouble, which frequently induces him to forego a trifling want,
when he knows that his attendant must mount several flights of
stairs to ascertain his wishes, and, after descending, must mount
again to supply them. The distance to which such a mode of
communication can be extended, does not appear to have been
ascertained, and would be an interesting subject for enquiry.
Admitting it to be possible between London and Liverpool, about
seventeen minutes would elapse before the words spoken at one end
would reach the other extremity of the pipe.
8. The art of using the diamond for cutting glass has
undergone, within a few years, a very important improvement. A
glazier's apprentice, when using a diamond set in a conical
ferrule, as was always the practice about twenty years since,
found great difficulty in acquiring the art of using it with
certainty; and, at the end of a seven years' apprenticeship, many
were found but indifferently skilled in its employment. This
arose from the difficulty of finding the precise angle at which
the diamond cuts, and of guiding it along the glass at the proper
inclination when that angle is found. Almost the whole of the
time consumed and of the glass destroyed in acquiring the art of
cutting glass, may now be saved by the use of an improved tool.
The gem is set in a small piece of squared brass with its edges
nearly parallel to one side of the square. A person skilled in
its use now files away the brass on one side until, by trial, he
finds that the diamond will make a clean cut, when guided by
keeping this edge pressed against a ruler. The diamond and its
mounting are now attached to a stick like a pencil, by means of a
swivel allowing a small angular motion. Thus, even the beginner
at once applies the cutting edge at the proper angle, by pressing
the side of the brass against a ruler; and even though the part
he holds in his hand should deviate a little from the required
angle, it communicates no irregularity to the position of the
diamond, which rarely fails to do its office when thus employed.
The relative hardness of the diamond, in different
directions, is a singular fact. An experienced workman, on whose
judgement I can rely, informed me that he has seen a diamond
ground with diamond powder on a cast-iron mill for three hours
without its being at all worn, but that, on changing its
direction with respect to the grinding surface, the same edge was
ground away.
9. Employment of materials of little value. The skins used by
the goldbeater are produced from the offal of animals. The hoofs
of horses and cattle, and other horny refuse, are employed in the
production of the prussiate of potash, that beautiful, yellow,
crystallized salt, which is exhibited in the shops of some of our
chemists. The worn-out saucepans and tinware of our kitchens,
when beyond the reach of the tinker's art, are not utterly
worthless. We sometimes meet carts loaded with old tin kettles
and worn-out iron coal-skuttles traversing our streets. These
have not yet completed their useful course; the less corroded
parts are cut into strips, punched with small holes, and
varnished with a coarse black varnish for the use of the
trunk-maker, who protects the edges and angles of his boxes with
them; the remainder are conveyed to the manufacturing chemists in
the outskirts of the town, who employ them in combination with
pyroligneous acid, in making a black die for the use of calico
10. Of tools. The difference between a tool and a machine is
not capable of very precise distinction; nor is it necessary, in
a popular explanation of those terms, to limit very strictly
their acceptation. A tool is usually more simple than a machine;
it is generally used with the hand, whilst a machine is
frequently moved by animal or steam power. The simpler machines
are often merely one or more tools placed in a frame, and acted
on by a moving power. In pointing out the advantages of tools, we
shall commence with some of the simplest.
11. To arrange twenty thousand needles thrown promiscuously
into a box, mixed and entangled in every possible direction, in
such a form that they shall be all parallel to each other, would,
at first sight, appear a most tedious occupation; in fact, if
each needle were to be separated individually, many hours must be
consumed in the process. Yet this is an operation which must be
performed many times in the manufacture of needles; and it is
accomplished in a few minutes by a very simple tool; nothing more
being requisite than a small flat tray of sheet iron, slightly
concave at the bottom. In this the needles are placed, and shaken
in a peculiar manner, by throwing them up a very little, and
giving at the same time a slight longitudinal motion to the tray.
The shape of the needles assists their arrangement; for if two
needles cross each other (unless, which is exceedingly
improbable, they happen to be precisely balanced), they will,
when they fall on the bottom of the tray, tend to place
themselves side by side, and the hollow form of the tray assists
this disposition. As they have no projection in any part to
impede this tendency, or to entangle each other, they are, by
continually shaking, arranged lengthwise, in three or four
minutes. The direction of the shake is now changed, the needles
are but little thrown up, but the tray is shaken endways; the
result of which is, that in a minute or two the needles which
were previously arranged endways become heaped up in a wall, with
their ends against the extremity of the tray. They are then
removed, by hundreds at a time, with a broad iron spatula, on
which they are retained by the forefinger of the left hand. As
this parallel arrangement of the needles must be repeated many
times, if a cheap and expeditious method had not been devised,
the expense of the manufacture would have been considerably
12. Another process in the art of making needles furnishes an
example of one of the simplest contrivances which can come under
the denomination of a tool. After the needles have been arranged
in the manner just described, it is necessary to separate them
into two parcels, in order that their points may be all in one
direction. This is usually done by women and children. The
needles are placed sideways in a heap, on a table, in front of
each operator, just as they are arranged by the process above
described. From five to ten are rolled towards this person with
the forefinger of the left hand; this separates them a very small
space from each other, and each in its turn is pushed lengthwise
to the right or to the left, according to the direction of the
point. This is the usual process, and in it every needle passes
individually under the finger of the operator. A small alteration
expedites the process considerably: the child puts on the
forefinger of its right hand a small cloth cap or fingerstall,
and rolling out of the heap from six to twelve needles, he keeps
them down by the forefinger of the left hand, whilst he presses
the forefinger of the right hand gently against their ends: those
which have the points towards the right hand stick into the
fingerstall; and the child, removing the finger of the left hand,
slightly raises the needles sticking into the cloth, and then
pushes them towards the left side. Those needles which had their
eyes on the right hand do not stick into the finger cover, and
are pushed to the heap on the right side before the repetition of
this process. By means of this simple contrivance each movement
of the finger, from one side to the other, carries five or six
needles to their proper heap; whereas, in the former method,
frequently only one was moved, and rarely more than two or three
were transported at one movement to their place.
13. Various operations occur in the arts in which the
assistance of an additional hand would be a great convenience to
the workman, and in these cases tools or machines of the simplest
structure come to our aid: vices of different forms, in which the
material to be wrought is firmly grasped by screws, are of this
kind, and are used in almost every workshop; but a more striking
example may be found in the trade of the nail-maker.
Some kinds of nails, such as those used for defending the
soles of coarse shoes, called hobnails, require a particular form
of the head, which is made by the stroke of a die. The workman
holds one end of the rod of iron out of which he forms the nails
in his left hand; with his right hand he hammers the red-hot end
of it into a point, and cutting the proper length almost off,
bends it nearly at a right angle. He puts this into a hole in a
small stake-iron immediately under a hammer which is connected
with a treadle, and has a die sunk in its surface corresponding
to the intended form of the head; and having given one part of
the form to the head with the small hammer in his hand, he moves
the treadle with his foot, disengages the other hammer, and
completes the figure of the head; the returning stroke produced
by the movement of the treadle striking the finished nail out of
the hole in which it was retained. Without this substitution of
his foot for another hand, the workman would, probably, be
obliged to heat the nails twice over.
14. Another, though fortunately a less general substitution
of tools for human hands, is used to assist the labour of those
who are deprived by nature, or by accident, of some of their
limbs. Those who have had an opportunity of examining the
beautiful contrivances for the manufacture of shoes by machinery,
which we owe to the fertile invention of Mr Brunel, must have
noticed many instances in which the workmen were enabled to
execute their task with precision, although labouring under the
disadvantages of the loss of an arm or leg. A similar instance
occurs at Liverpool, in the Institution for the Blind, where a
machine is used by those afflicted with blindness, for weaving
sash-lines; it is said to have been the invention of a person
suffering under that calamity. Other examples might be mentioned
of contrivances for the use, the amusement, or the instruction of
the wealthier classes, who labour under the same natural
disadvantages. These triumphs of skill and ingenuity deserve a
double portion of our admiration when applied to mitigate the
severity of natural or accidental misfortune; when they supply
the rich with occupation and knowledge; when they relieve the
poor from the additional evils of poverty and want.
15. Division of the objects of machinery. There exists a
natural, although, in point of number, a very unequal division
amongst machines: they may be classed as; first, those which are
employed to produce power, and as, secondly, those which are
intended merely to transmit force and execute work. The first of
these divisions is of great importance, and is very limited in
the variety of its species, although some of those species
consist of numerous individuals.
Of that class of mechanical agents by which motion is
transmitted--the lever, the pulley, the wedge, and many others--
it has been demonstrated, that no power is gained by their use,
however combined. Whatever force is applied at one point can only
be exerted at some other, diminished by friction and other
incidental causes; and it has been further proved, that whatever
is gained in the rapidity of execution is compensated by the
necessity of exerting additional force. These two principles,
long since placed beyond the reach of doubt, cannot be too
constantly borne in mind. But in limiting our attempts to things
which are possible, we are still, as we hope to shew, possessed
of a field of inexhaustible research, and of advantages derived
from mechanical skill, which have but just begun to exercise
their influence on our arts, and may be pursued without limit
contributing to the improvement, the wealth, and the happiness of
our race.
16. Of those machines by which we produce power, it may be
observed, that although they are to us immense acquisitions, yet
in regard to two of the sources of this power--the force of wind
and of water--we merely make use of bodies in a state of motion
by nature; we change the directions of their movement in order to
render them subservient to our purposes, but we neither add to
nor diminish the quantity of motion in existence. When we expose
the sails of a windmill obliquely to the gale, we check the
velocity of a small portion of the atmosphere, and convert its
own rectilinear motion into one of rotation in the sails; we thus
change the direction of force, but we create no power. The same
may be observed with regard to the sails of a vessel; the
quantity of motion given by them is precisely the same as that
which is destroyed in the atmosphere. If we avail ourselves of a
descending stream to turn a water-wheel, we are appropriating a
power which nature may appear, at first sight, to be uselessly
and irrecoverably wasting, but which, upon due examination, we
shall find she is ever regaining by other processes. The fluid
which is falling from a higher to a lower level, carries with it
the velocity due to its revolution with the earth at a greater
distance from its centre. It will therefore accelerate, although
to an almost infinitesimal extent, the earth's daily rotation.
The sum of all these increments of velocity, arising from the
descent of all the falling waters on the earth's surface, would
in time become perceptible, did not nature, by the process of
evaporation, convey the waters back to their sources; and thus
again, by removing matter to a greater distance from the centre,
destroy the velocity generated by its previous approach.
17. The force of vapour is another fertile source of moving
power; but even in this case it cannot be maintained that power
is created. Water is converted into elastic vapour by the
combustion of fuel. The chemical changes which thus take place
are constantly increasing the atmosphere by large quantities of
carbonic acid and other gases noxious to animal life. The means
by which nature decomposes these elements, or reconverts them
into a solid form, are not sufficiently known: but if the end
could be accomplished by mechanical force, it is almost certain
that the power necessary to produce it would at least equal that
which was generated by the original combustion. Man, therefore,
does not create power; but, availing himself of his knowledge of
nature's mysteries, he applies his talents to diverting a small
and limited portion of her energies to his own wants: and,
whether he employs the regulated action of steam, or the more
rapid and tremendous effects of gunpowder, he is only producing
on a small scale compositions and decompositions which nature is
incessantly at work in reversing, for the restoration of that
equilibrium which we cannot doubt is constantly maintained
throughout even the remotest limits of our system. The operations
of man participate in the character of their author; they are
diminutive, but energetic during the short period of their
existence: whilst those of nature, acting over vast spaces, and
unlimited by time, are ever pursuing their silent and resistless
18. In stating the broad principle, that all combinations of
mechanical art can only augment the force communicated to the
machine at the expense of the time employed in producing the
effect, it might, perhaps, be imagined, that the assistance
derived from such contrivances is small. This is, however, by no
means the case: since the almost unlimited variety they afford,
enables us to exert to the greatest advantage whatever force we
employ. There is, it is true, a limit beyond which it is
impossible to reduce the power necessary to produce any given
effect, but it very seldom happens that the methods first
employed at all approach that limit. In dividing the knotted root
of a tree for fuel, how very different will be the time consumed,
according to the nature of the tool made use of! The hatchet, or
the adze, will divide it into small parts, but will consume a
large portion of the workman's time. The saw will answer the same
purpose more quickly and more effectually. This, in its turn, is
superseded by the wedge, which rends it in a still shorter time.
If the circumstances are favourable, and the workman skilful, the
time and expense may be still further reduced by the use of a
small quantity of gunpowder exploded in holes judiciously placed
in the block.
19. When a mass of matter is to be removed a certain force
must be expended; and upon the proper economy of this force the
price of transport will depend. A country must, however, have
reached a high degree of civilization before it will have
approached the limit of this economy. The cotton of Java is
conveyed in junks to the coast of China; but from the seed not
being previously separated, three-quarters of the weight thus
carried is not cotton. This might, perhaps, be justified in Java
by the want of machinery to separate the seed, or by the relative
cost of the operation in the two countries. But the cotton
itself, as packed by the Chinese, occupies three times the bulk
of an equal quantity shipped by Europeans for their own markets.
Thus the freight of a given quantity of cotton costs the Chinese
nearly twelve times the price to which, by a proper attention to
mechanical methods, it might be reduced. *
1. 'The Bandana handkerchiefs manufactured at Glasgow have long
superseded the genuine ones, and are now committed in large
quantities both by the natives and Chines.' Crawford's Indian
Archipelago, vol. iii, p. 505.
2. 'Captain Clapperton, when on a visit at the court of the
Sultan Bello, states, that provisionswere regularly sent me from
the sultan's table on pewter dishes with the London stamp; and I
even had a piece of meat served up on a white wash-hand basin of
English manufacture.' Clapperton's Journey, p. 88.
3. At Calicut, in the East Indies (whence the cotton cloth caled
calico derivesits name), the price of labour is one-seventh of
that in England, yet the market is supplied from British looms.
4. Liverpool, though not itself a manufacturing town, has been
placed in this list, from its connection with Manchester, of
which it is the port.
5. So sensible are the effects of grease in diminishing friction,
that the drivers of sledges in Amsterdam, on which heavy goodsare
transported, cary in their hand a rope soaked in tallow, which
they thrown down from time to time before the sledge, in order
that, by passing over the rope, it may become greased.
Chapter 2
Accumulating Power
20. Whenever the work to be done requires more force for its
execution than can be generated in the time necessary for its
completion, recourse must be had to some mechanical method of
preserving and condensing a part of the power exerted previously
to the commencement of the process. This is most frequently
accomplished by a fly-wheel, which is in fact nothing more than a
wheel having a very heavy rim, so that the greater part of its
weight is near the circumference. It requires great power applied
for some time to put this into rapid motion; but when moving with
considerable velocity, the effects are exceedingly powerful, if
its force be concentrated upon a small object. In some of the
iron works where the power of the steam-engine is a little too
small for the rollers which it drives, it is usual to set the
engine at work a short time before the red-hot iron is ready to
be removed from the furnace to the rollers, and to allow it to
work with great rapidity until the fly has acquired a velocity
rather alarming to those unused to such establishments. On
passing the softened mass of iron through the first groove, the
engine receives a great and very perceptible check; and its speed
is diminished at the next and at each succeeding passage, until
the iron bar is reduced to such a size that the ordinary power of
the engine is sufficient to roll it.
21. The powerful effect of a large flywheel when its force
can be concentrated on a point, was curiously illustrated at one
of the largest of our manufactories. The proprietor was shewing
to a friend the method of punching holes in iron plates for the
boilers of steam-engines. He held in his hand a piece of
sheet-iron three-eighths of an inch thick, which he placed under
the punch. Observing, after several holes had been made, that the
punch made its perforations more and more slowly, he called to
the engine-man to know what made the engine work so sluggishly,
when it was found that the flywheel and punching apparatus had
been detached from the steam-engine just at the commencement of
his experiment.
22. Another mode of accumulating power arises from lifting a
weight and then allowing it to fall. A man, even with a heavy
hammer, might strike repeated blows upon the head of a pile
without producing any effect. But if he raises a much heavier
hammer to a much greater height, its fall, though far less
frequently repeated, will produce the desired effect.
When a small blow is given to a large mass of matter, as to a
pile, the imperfect elasticity of the material causes a small
loss of momentum in the transmission of the motion from each
particle to the succeeding one; and, therefore, it may happen
that the whole force communicated shall be destroyed before it
reaches the opposite extremity.
23. The power accumulated within a small space by gunpowder
is well known; and, though not strictly an illustration of the
subject discussed in this chapter, some of its effects, under
peculiar circumstances, are so singular, that an attempt to
explain them may perhaps be excused. If a gun is loaded with ball
it will not kick so much as when loaded with small shot; and
amongst different kinds of shot, that which is the smallest,
causes the greatest recoil against the shoulder. A gun loaded
with a quantity of sand, equal in weight to a charge of
snipe-shot, kicks still more. If, in loading, a space is left
between the wadding and the charge, the gun either recoils
violently, or bursts. If the muzzle of a gun has accidentally
been stuck into the ground, so as to be stopped up with clay, or
even with snow, or if it be fired with its muzzle plunged into
water, the almost certain result is that it bursts.
The ultimate cause of these apparently inconsistent effects
is, that every force requires time to produce its effect; and if
the time requisite for the elastic vapour within to force out the
sides of the barrel, is less than that in which the condensation
of the air near the wadding is conveyed in sufficient force to
drive the impediment from the muzzle, then the barrel must burst.
If sometimes happens that these two forces are so nearly balanced
that the barrel only swells; the obstacle giving way before the
gun is actually burst.
The correctness of this explanation will appear by tracing
step by step the circumstances which arise on discharging a gun
loaded with powder confined by a cylindrical piece of wadding,
and having its muzzle filled with clay, or some other substance
having a moderate degree of resistance. In this case the first
effect of the explosion is to produce an enormous pressure on
everything confining it, and to advance the wadding through a
very small space. Here let us consider it as at rest for a
moment, and examine its condition. The portion of air in
immediate contact with the wadding is condensed; and if the
wadding were to remain at rest, the air throughout the tube would
soon acquire a uniform density. But this would require a small
interval of time; for the condensation next the wadding would
travel with the velocity of sound to the other end, from whence,
being reflected back, a series of waves would be generated,
which, aided by the friction of the tube, would ultimately
destroy the motion.
But until the first wave reaches the impediment at the
muzzle, the air can exert no pressure against it. Now if the
velocity communicated to the wadding is very much greater than
that of sound, the condensation of the air immediately in advance
of it may be very great before the resistance transmitted to the
muzzle is at all considerable; in which case the mutual repulsion
of the particles of air so compressed, will offer an absolute
barrier to the advance of the wadding.(1*)
If this explanation be correct, the additional recoil, when a
gun is loaded with small shot or sand, may arise in some measure
from the condensation of the air contained between their
particles; but chiefly from the velocity communicated by the
explosion to those particles of the substances in immediate
contact with the powder being greater than that with which a wave
can be transmitted through them. It also affords a reason for the
success of a method of blasting rocks by filling the upper part
of the hole above the powder with sand, instead of clay rammed
hard. That the destruction of the gun barrel does not arise from
the property possessed by fluids, and in some measure also by
sand and small shot, of pressing equally in all directions, and
thus exerting a force against a large portion of the interior
surface, seems to be proved by a circumstance mentioned by Le
Vaillant and other travellers, that, for the purpose of taking
birds without injuring their plumage, they filled the barrel of
their fowling pieces with water, instead of loading them with a
charge of shot.
24. The same reasoning explains a curious phenomenon which
occurs in firing a still more powerfully explosive substance. If
we put a small quantity of fulminating silver upon the face of an
anvil, and strike it slightly with a hammer, it explodes; but
instead of breaking either the hammer or the anvil, it is found
that that part of the face of each in contact with the
fulminating silver is damaged. In this case the velocity
communicated by the elastic matter disengaged may be greater than
the velocity of a wave traversing steel; so that the particles at
the surface are driven by the explosion so near to those next
adjacent, that when the compelling force is removed, the
repulsion of the particles within the mass drives back those
nearer to the surface, with such force, that they pass beyond the
limits of attraction, and are separated in the shape of powder.
25. i) The success of the experiment of firing a tallow candle
through a deal board, would be explained in the same manner, by
supposing the velocity of a wave propagated through deal to be
greater than that of a wave passing through tallow.
25. ii) The boiler of a steam-engine sometimes bursts even
during the escape of steam through the safety-valve. If the water
in the boiler is thrown upon any part which happens to be red
hot, the steam formed in the immediate neighbourhood of that part
expands with greater velocity than that with which a wave can be
transmitted through the less heated steam; consequently one
particle is urged against the next, and an almost invincible
obstacle is formed, in the same manner as described in the case
of the discharge of a gun. If the safety-valve is closed, it may
retain the pressure thus created for a short time, and even when
it is open the escape may not be sufficiently rapid to remove all
impediment; there may therefore exist momentarily within the
boiler pressures of various force, varying from that which can
just lift the safety-valve up to that which is sufficient, if
exerted during an extremely small space of time, to tear open the
boiler itself.
26. This reasoning ought, however, to be admitted with
caution; and perhaps some inducement to examine it carefully may
be presented by tracing it to extreme cases. It would seem, but
this is not a necessary consequence, that a gun might be made so
long, that it would burst although no obstacle filled up its
muzzle. It should also follow that if, after the gun is charged,
the air were extracted from the barrel, though the muzzle be then
left closed, the gun ought not to burst. It would also seem to
follow from the principle of the explanation, that a body might
be projected in air, or other elastic resisting medium, with such
force that, after advancing a very short space it should return
in the same direction in which it was projected.
1. See Poisson's remarks, Ecole Polytec. Cahier, xxi, p. 191.
Chapter 3
Regulating Power
27. Uniformity and steadiness in the rate at which machinery
works, are essential both for its effect and its duration. The
first illustration which presents itself is that beautiful
contrivance, the governor of the steam-engine, which must
immediately occur to all who are familiar with that admirable
engine. Wherever the increased speed of the engine would lead to
injurious or dangerous consequences, this is applied; and it is
equally the regulator of the water-wheel which drives a
spinning-jenny, or of the windmills which drain our fens. In the
dockyard at Chatham, the descending motion of a large platform,
on which timber is raised, is regulated by a governor; but as the
weight is very considerable, the velocity of this governor is
still further checked by causing its motion to take place in
28. Another very beautiful contrivance for regulating the
number of strokes made by a steam-engine, is used in Cornwall: it
is called the cataract, and depends on the time required to fill
a vessel plunged in water, the opening of the valve through which
the fluid is admitted being adjustable at the will of the
29. The regularity of the supply of fuel to the fire under
the boilers of steam-engines is another mode of contributing to
the uniformity of their rate, and also economizes the consumption
of coal. Several patents have been taken out for methods of
regulating this supply: the general principle being to make the
engine supply the fire with small quantities of fuel at regular
intervals by means of a hopper, and to make it diminish this
supply when the engine works too quickly. One of the incidental
advantages of this plan is, that by throwing on a very small
quantity of coal at a time, the smoke is almost entirely
consumed. The dampers of ashpits and chimneys are also, in some
cases, connected with machines in order to regulate their speed.
30. Another contrivance for regulating the effect of
machinery consists in a vane or fly, of little weight, but
presenting a large surface. This revolves rapidly, and soon
acquires a uniform rate, which it cannot greatly exceed, because
any addition to its velocity produces a much greater addition to
the resistance it meets with from the air. The interval between
the strokes on the bell of a clock is regulated in this way, and
the fly is so contrived, that the interval may be altered by
presenting the arms of it more or less obliquely to the direction
in which they move. This kind of fly, or vane, is generally used
in the smaller kinds of mechanism, and, unlike the heavy fly, it
is a destroyer instead of a preserver of force. It is the
regulator used in musical boxes, and in almost all mechanical
31. The action of a fly, or vane, suggests the principle of
an instrument for measuring the altitude of mountains, which
perhaps deserves a trial, since, if it succeed only tolerably, it
will form a much more portable instrument than the barometer. It
is well known that the barometer indicates the weight of a column
of the atmosphere above it, whose base is equal to the bore of
the tube. It is also known that the density of the air adjacent
to the instrument will depend both on the weight of air above it,
and on the heat of the air at that place. If, therefore, we can
measure the density of the air, and its temperature, the height
of a column of mercury which it would support in the barometer
can be found by calculation. Now the thermometer gives
information respecting the temperature of the air immediately;
and its density might be ascertained by means of a watch and a
small instrument, in which the number of turns made by a vane
moved by a constant force, should be registered. The less dense
the air in which the vane revolves, the greater will be the
number of its revolutions in a given time: and tables could be
formed from experiments in partially exhausted vessels, aided by
calculation, from which, if the temperature of the air, and the
number of revolutions of the vane are given, the corresponding
height of the barometer might be found.(1*)
1. To persons who may be inclined to experiment upon this or any
other instrument, I would beg to suggest the perusal of the
section 'On the art of Observing', Observations on the Decline of
Science in England, p. 170, Fellowes, 1828.
Chapter 4
Increase and Diminution of Velocity
32. The fatigue produced on the muscles of the human frame
does not altogether depend on the actual force employed in each
effort, but partly on the frequency with which it is exerted. The
exertion necessary to accomplish every operation consists of two
parts: one of these is the expenditure of force which is
necessary to drive the tool or instrument; and the other is the
effort required for the motion of some limb of the animal
producing the action. In driving a nail into a piece of wood, one
of these is lifting the hammer, and propelling its head against
the nail; the other is, raising the arm itself, and moving it in
order to use the hammer. If the weight of the hammer is
considerable, the former part will cause the greatest portion of
the exertion. If the hammer is light, the exertion of raising the
arm will produce the greatest part of the fatigue. It does
therefore happen, that operations requiring very trifling force,
if frequently repeated, will tire more effectually than more
laborious work. There is also a degree of rapidity beyond which
the action of the muscles cannot be pressed.
33. The most advantageous load for a porter who carries wood
up stairs on his shoulders, has been investigated by M. Coulomb;
but he found from experiment that a man walking up stairs without
any load, and raising his burden by means of his own weight in
descending, could do as much work in one day, as four men
employed in the ordinary way with the most favourable load.
34. The proportion between the velocity with which men or
animals move, and the weights they carry, is a matter of
considerable importance, particularly in military affairs. It is
also of great importance for the economy of labour, to adjust the
weight of that part of the animal's body which is moved, the
weight of the tool it urges, and the frequency of repetition of
these efforts, so as to produce the greatest effect. An instance
of the saving of time by making the same motion of the arm
execute two operations instead of one, occurs in the simple art
of making the tags of bootlaces: these tags are formed out of
very thin, tinned, sheet-iron, and were formerly cut out of long
strips of that material into pieces of such a breadth that when
bent round they just enclosed the lace. Two pieces of steel have
recently been fixed to the side of the shears, by which each
piece of tinned-iron as soon as it is cut is bent into a
semi-cylindrical form. The additional power required for this
operation is almost imperceptible, and it is executed by the same
motion of the arm which produces the cut. The work is usually
performed by women and children; and with the improved tool more
than three times the quantity of tags is produced in a given
35. Whenever the work is itself light, it becomes necessary,
in order to economize time, to increase the velocity. Twisting
the fibres of wool by the fingers would be a most tedious
operation: in the common spinning-wheel the velocity of the foot
is moderate, but by a very simple contrivance that of the thread
is most rapid. A piece of catgut passing round a large wheel, and
then round a small spindle, effects this change. This contrivance
is common to a multitude of machines, some of them very simple.
In large shops for the retail of ribands, it is necessary at
short intervals to 'take stock', that is, to measure and rewind
every piece of riband, an operation which, even with this mode of
shortening it, is sufficiently tiresome, but without it would be
almost impossible from its expense. The small balls of sewing
cotton, so cheap and so beautifully wound, are formed by a
machine on the same principle, and but a few steps more
36. In turning from the smaller instruments in frequent use
to the larger and more important machines, the economy arising
from the increase of velocity becomes more striking. In
converting cast into wrought-iron, a mass of metal, of about a
hundredweight, is heated almost to white heat, and placed under a
heavy hammer moved by water or steam power. This is raised by a
projection on a revolving axis; and if the hammer derived its
momentum only from the space through which it fell, it would
require a considerably greater time to give a blow. But as it is
important that the softened mass of red-hot iron should receive
as many blows as possible before it cools, the form of the cam or
projection on the axis is such, that the hammer, instead of being
lifted to a small height, is thrown up with a jerk, and almost
the instant after it strikes against a large beam, which acts as
a powerful spring, and drives it down on the iron with such
velocity that by these means about double the number of strokes
can be made in a given time. In the smaller tilt-hammers, this is
carried still further by striking the tail of the tilt-hammer
forcibly against a small steel anvil, it rebounds with such
velocity, that from three to five hundred strokes are made in a
minute. In the manufacture of anchors, an art in which a similar
contrivance is of still greater importance, it has only been
recently applied.
37. In the manufacture of scythes, the length of the blade
renders it necessary that the workman should move readily, so as
to bring every part of it on the anvil in quick succession. This
is effected by placing him in a seat suspended by ropes from the
ceiling: so that he is enabled, with little bodily exertion, to
vary his distance, by pressing his feet against the block which
supports the anvil, or against the floor.
38. An increase of velocity is sometimes necessary to render
operations possible: thus a person may skate with great rapidity
over ice which would not support his weight if he moved over it
more slowly. This arises from the fact, that time is requisite
for producing the fracture of the ice: as soon as the weight of
the skater begins to act on any point, the ice, supported by the
water, bends slowly under him; but if the skater's velocity is
considerable, he has passed off from the spot which was loaded
before the bending has reached the point which would cause the
ice to break.
39. An effect not very different from this might take place
if very great velocity were communicated to boats. Let us suppose
a flatbottomed boat, whose bow forms an inclined plane with the
bottom, at rest in still water. If we imagine some very great
force suddenly to propel this boat, the inclination of the plane
at the forepart would cause it to rise in the water; and if the
force were excessive, it might even rise out of the water, and
advance, by a series of leaps, like a piece of slate or an oyster
shell, thrown as a 'duck and drake'.
If the force were not sufficient to pull the boat out of the
water, but were just enough to bring its bottom to the surface,
it would be carried along with a kind of gliding motion with
great rapidity; for at every point of its course it would require
a certain time before, it could sink to its usual draft of water;
but before that time had elapsed, it would have advanced to
another point, and consequently have been raised by the reaction
of the water on the inclined plane at its forepart.
40. The same fact, that bodies moving with great velocity
have not time to exert the full effect of their weight, seems to
explain a circumstance which appears to be very unaccountable. It
sometimes happens that when foot-passengers are knocked down by
carriages, the wheels pass over them with scarcely any injury,
though, if the weight of the carriage had rested on their body,
even for a few seconds, it would have crushed them to death. If
the view above taken is correct, the injury in such circumstances
will chiefly happen to that part of the body which is struck by
the advancing wheel.
41. An operation in which rapidity is of essential importance
is in bringing the produce of mines up to the surface. The shafts
through which the produce is raised are sunk at a very great
expense, and it is, of course, desirable to sink as few of them
as possible. The matter to be extracted is therefore raised by
steam-engines with considerable, and without this many of our
mines could not be worked velocity, with profit.
42. The effect of great velocity in modifying the form of a
cohesive substance is beautifully shown in the process for making
window glass, termed "flashing", which is one of the most striking
operations in our domestic arts. A workman having dipped his iron
tube into the glass pot, and loaded it with several pounds of the
melted "metal", blows out a large globe, which is connected with
his rod by a short thick hollow neck. Another workman now fixes
to the globe immediately opposite to its neck, an iron rod, the
extremity of which has been dipped in the melted glass; and when
this is firmly attached, a few drops of water separate the neck
of the globe from the iron tube. The rod with the globe attached
to it is now held at the mouth of a glowing furnace: and by
turning the rod the globe is made to revolve slowly, so as to be
uniformly exposed to the heat: the first effect of this softening
is to make the glass contract upon itself and to enlarge the
opening of the neck. As the softening proceeds, the globe is
turned more quickly on its axis, and when very soft and almost
incandescent, it is removed from the fire, and the velocity of
rotation being still continually increased, the opening enlarges
from the effect of the centrifugal force, at first gradually,
until at last the mouth suddenly expands or "flashes" out into one
large circular sheet of red hot glass. The neck of the original
globe, which is to become the outer part of the sheet, is left
thick to admit of this expansion, and forms the edge of the
circular plate of glass, which is called a "Table". The centre
presents the appearance of a thick boss or prominence, called the
"Bull's-eye", at the part by which it was attached to the iron
43. The most frequent reason for employing contrivances for
diminishing velocity, arises from the necessity of overcoming
great resistances with small power. Systems of pulleys, the
crane, and many other illustrations, might also be adduced here
as examples; but they belong more appropriately to some of the
other causes which we have assigned for the advantages of
machinery. The common smoke-jack is an instrument in which the
velocity communicated is too great for the purpose required, and
it is transmitted through wheels which reduce it to a more
moderate rate.
44. Telegraphs are machines for conveying information over
extensive lines with great rapidity. They have generally been
established for the purposes of transmitting information during
war, but the increasing wants of man will probably soon render
them subservient to more peaceful objects.
A few years since the telegraph conveyed to Paris information
of the discovery of a comet, by M. Gambart, at Marseilles: the
message arrived during a sitting of the French Board of
Longitude, and was sent in a note from the Minister of the
Interior to Laplace, the President, who received it whilst the
writer of these lines was sitting by his side. The object in this
instance was, to give the earliest publicity to the fact, and to
assure to M. Gambart the title of its first discoverer.
At Liverpool a system of signals is established for the
purposes of commerce, so that each merchant can communicate with
his own vessel long before she arrives in the port.
1. See Transactions of the Society of Arts, 1826.
Chapter 5
Extending the Time of Action of Forces
45. This is one of the most common and most useful of the
employments of machinery. The half minute which we daily devote
to the winding-up of our watches is an exertion of labour almost
insensible; yet, by the aid of a few wheels, its effect is spread
over the whole twenty-four hours. In our clocks, this extension
of the time of action of the original force impressed is carried
still further; the better kind usually require winding up once in
eight days, and some are occasionally made to continue in action
during a month, or even a year. Another familiar illustration may
be noticed in our domestic furniture: the common jack by which
our meat is roasted, is a contrivance to enable the cook in a few
minutes to exert a force which the machine retails out during the
succeeding hour in turning the loaded spit; thus enabling her to
bestow her undivided attention on the other important duties of
her vocation. A great number of automatons and mechanical toys
moved by springs, may be classed under this division.
46. A small moving power, in the shape of a jack or a spring
with a train of wheels, is often of great convenience to the
experimental philosopher, and has been used with advantage in
magnetic and electric experiments where the rotation of a disk of
metal or other body is necessary, thus allowing to the enquirer
the unimpeded use of both his hands. A vane connected by a train
of wheels, and set in motion by a heavy weight, has also, on some
occasions, been employed in chemical processes, to keep a
solution in a state of agitation. Another object to which a
similar apparatus may be applied, is the polishing of small
specimens of minerals for optical experiments.
Chapter 6
Saving time in Natural Operations
47. The process of tanning will furnish us with a striking
illustration of the power of machinery in accelerating certain
processes in which natural operations have a principal effect.
The object of this art is to combine a certain principle called
tanning with every particle of the skin to be tanned. This, in
the ordinary process, is accomplished by allowing the skins to
soak in pits containing a solution of tanning matter: they remain
in the pits six, twelve, or eighteen months; and in some
instances (if the hides are very thick), they are exposed to the
operation for two years, or even during a longer period. This
length of time is apparently required in order to allow the
tanning matter to penetrate into the interior of a thick hide.
The improved process consists in placing the hides with the
solution of tan in close vessels, and then exhausting the air.
The effect is to withdraw any air which may be contained in the
pores of the hides, and to aid capillary attraction by the
pressure of the atmosphere in forcing the tan into the interior
of the skins. The effect of the additional force thus brought
into action can be equal only to one atmosphere, but a further
improvement has been made: the vessel containing the hides is,
after exhaustion, filled up with a solution of tan; a small
additional quantity is then injected with a forcing-pump. By
these means any degree of pressure may be given which the
containing vessel is capable of supporting; and it has been found
that, by employing such a method, the thickest hides may be
tanned in six weeks or two months.
48. The same process of injection might be applied to
impregnate timber with tar, or any other substance capable of
preserving it from decay, and if it were not too expensive, the
deal floors of houses might thus be impregnated with alumine or
other substances, which would render them much less liable to be
accidentally set on fire. In some cases it might be useful to
impregnate woods with resins, varnish, or oil; and wood saturated
with oil might, in some instances, be usefully employed in
machinery for giving a constant, but very minute supply of that
fluid to iron or steel, against which it is worked. Some idea of
the quantity of matter which can be injected into wood by great
pressure, may be formed, from considering the fact stated by Mr
Scoresby, respecting an accident which occurred to a boat of one
of our whaling-ships. The harpoon having been struck into the
fish, the whale in this instance, dived directly down, and
carried the boat along with him. On returning to the surface the
animal was killed, but the boat, instead of rising, was found
suspended beneath the whale by the rope of the harpoon; and on
drawing it up, every part of the wood was found to be so
completely saturated with water as to sink immediately to the
49. The operation of bleaching linen in the open air is one
for which considerable time is necessary; and although it does
not require much labour, yet, from the risk of damage and of
robbery from long /exposure, a mode of shortening the process was
highly desirable. The method now practised, although not
mechanical, is such a remarkable instance of the application of
science to the practical purposes of manufactures, that in
mentioning the advantages derived from shortening natural
operations, it would have been scarcely pardonable to have
omitted all allusion to the beautiful application of chlorine, in
combination with lime, to the art of bleaching.
50. Another instance more strictly mechanical occurs in some
countries where fuel is expensive, and the heat of the sun is not
sufficient to evaporate the water from brine springs. The water
is first pumped up to a reservoir, and then allowed to fall in
small streams through faggots. Thus it becomes divided; and,
presenting a large surface, evaporation is facilitated, and the.
brine which is collected in the vessels below the faggots is
stronger than that which was pumped up. After thus getting rid of
a large part of the water, the remaining portion is driven off by
boiling. The success of this process depends on the condition of
the atmosphere with respect to moisture. If the air, at the time
the brine falls through the faggots, holds in solution as much
moisture as it can contain in an invisible state, no more can be
absorbed from the salt water, and the labour expended in pumping
is entirely wasted. The state of the air, as to dryness, is
therefore an important consideration in fixing the time when this
operation is to be performed; and an attentive examination of its
state, by means of the hygrometer, might be productive of some
economy of labour.
51. In some countries, where wood is scarce, the evaporation
of salt water is carried on by a large collection of ropes which
are stretched perpendicularly. In passing down the ropes, the
water deposits the sulphate of lime which it held in solution,
and gradually incrusts them, so that in the course of twenty
years, when they are nearly rotten, they are still sustained by
the surrounding incrustation, thus presenting the appearance of a
vast collection of small columns.
52. Amongst natural operations perpetually altering the
surface of our globe, there are some which it would be
advantageous to accelerate. The wearing down of the rocks which
impede the rapids of navigable rivers, is one of this class. A
very beautiful process for accomplishing this object has been
employed in America. A boat is placed at the bottom of the rapid,
and kept in its position by a long rope which is firmly fixed on
the bank of the river near the top. An axis, having a wheel
similar to the paddle-wheel of a steamboat fixed at each end of
it, is placed across the boat; so that the two wheels and their
connecting axis shall revolve rapidly, being driven by the force
of the passing current. Let us now imagine several beams of wood
shod with pointed iron fixed at the ends of strong levers,
projecting beyond the bow of the boat, as in the annexed
If these levers are at liberty to move up and down, and if
one or more projecting pieces, called cams, are fixed on the axis
opposite to the end of each lever, the action of the stream upon
the wheels will keep up a perpetual succession of blows. The
sharp-pointed shoe striking upon the rock at the bottom, will
continually detach small pieces, which the stream will
immediately carry off. Thus, by the mere action of the river
itself, a constant and most effectual system of pounding the rock
at its bottom is established. A single workman may, by the aid of
a rudder, direct the boat to any required part of the stream; and
when it is necessary to move up the rapid, as the channel is cut,
he can easily cause the boat to advance by means of a capstan.
53. When the object of the machinery just described has been
accomplished, and the channel is sufficiently deep, a slight
alteration converts the apparatus to another purpose almost
equally advantageous. The stampers and the projecting pieces on
the axis are removed, and a barrel of wood or metal, surrounding
part of the axis, and capable, at pleasure, of being connected
with, or disconnected from the axis itself, is substituted. The
rope which hitherto fastened the boat, is now fixed to this
barrel; and if the barrel is loose upon the axis, the
paddle-wheel makes the axis only revolve, and the boat remains in
its place: but the moment the axis is attached to its surrounding
barrel, this begins to turn, and winding up the rope, the boat is
gradually drawn up against the stream; and may be employed as a
kind of tug-boat for vessels which have occasion to ascend the
rapid. When the tug-boat reaches the summit the barrel is
released from the axis, and friction being applied to moderate
its velocity, the boat is allowed to descend.
54. Clocks occupy a very high place amongst instruments by
means of which human time is economized: and their multiplication
in conspicuous places in large towns is attended with many
advantages. Their position, nevertheless, in London, is often
very ill chosen; and the usual place, halfway up on a high
steeple, in the midst of narrow streets, in a crowded city, is
very unfavourable, unless the church happen to stand out from the
houses which form the street. The most eligible situation for a
clock is, that it should project considerably into the street at
some elevation, with a dial-plate on each side, like that which
belonged to the old church of St Dunstan, in Fleet Street, so
that passengers in both directions would have their attention
directed to the hour.
55. A similar remark applies, with much greater force, to the
present defective mode of informing the public of the position of
the receiving houses for the twopenny and general post. In the
lowest corner of the window of some attractive shop is found a
small slit, with a brass plate indicating its important office so
obscurely that it seems to be an object rather to prevent its
being conspicuous. No striking sign assists the anxious enquirer,
who, as the moments rapidly pass which precede the hour of
closing, torments the passenger with his enquiries for the
nearest post-office. He reaches it, perhaps, just as it is
closed; and must then either hasten to a distant part of the town
in order to procure the admission of his letters or give up the
idea of forwarding them by that post; and thus, if they are
foreign letters, he may lose, perhaps, a week or a fortnight by
waiting for the next packet.
The inconvenience in this and in some other cases, is of
perpetual and everyday occurrence; and though, in the greater
part of the individual cases, it may be of trifling moment, the
sum of all these produces an amount, which it is always worthy of
the government of a large and active population to attend to. The
remedy is simple and obvious: it would only be necessary, at each
letter-box, to have a light frame of iron projecting from the
house over the pavement, and carrying the letters G. P., or T.
P., or any other distinctive sign. All private signs are at
present very properly prohibited from projecting into the street:
the passenger, therefore, would at once know where to direct his
attention, in order to discover a post-office; and those
letter-boxes which occurred in the great thoroughfares could not
fail to be generally known.
Chapter 7
Exerting Forces Too Great for Human Power, and Executing
Operations Too Delicate for Human Touch
56. It requires some skill and a considerable apparatus to
enable many men to exert their whole force at a given point; and
when this number amounts to hundreds or to thousands, additional
difficulties present themselves. If ten thousand men were hired
to act simultaneously, it would be exceedingly difficult to
discover whether each exerted his whole force, and consequently,
to be assured that each man did the duty for which he was paid.
And if still larger bodies of men or animals were necessary, not
only would the difficulty of directing them become greater, but
the expense would increase from the necessity of transporting
food for their subsistence.
The difficulty of enabling a large number of men to exert
their force at the same instant of time has been almost obviated
by the use of sound. The whistle of the boatswain performs this
service on board ships; and in removing, by manual force, the
vast mass of granite, weighing above 1,400 tons, on which the
equestrian figure of Peter the Great is placed at St Petersburgh,
a drummer was always stationed on its summit to give the signal
for the united efforts of the workmen.
An ancient Egyptian drawing was discovered a few years since,
by Champollion, in which a multitude of men appeared harnessed to
a huge block of stone, on the top of which stood a single
individual with his hands raised above his head, apparently in
the act of clapping them, for the purpose of insuring the
exertion of their combined force at the same moment of time.
57. In mines, it is sometimes necessary to raise or lower
great weights by capstans requiring the force of more than one
hundred men. These work upon the surface; but the directions must
be communicated from below, perhaps from the depth of two hundred
fathoms. This communication, however, is accomplished with ease
and certainty by signals: the usual apparatus is a kind of
clapper placed on the surface close to the capstan, so that every
man may hear, and put in motion from below by a rope passing up
the shaft.
At Wheal Friendship mine in Cornwall, a different contrivance
is employed: there is in that mine an inclined plane, passing
underground about two-thirds of a mile in length. Signals are
communicated by a continuous rod of metal, which being struck
below, the blow is distinctly heard on the surface.
58. In all our larger manufactories numerous instances occur
of the application of the power of steam to overcome resistances
which it would require far greater expense to surmount by means
of animal labour. The twisting of the largest cables, the
rolling, hammering, and cutting large masses of iron, the
draining of our mines, all require enormous exertions of physical
force continued for considerable periods of time. Other means are
had recourse to when the force required is great, and the space
through which it is to act is small. The hydraulic press of
Bramah can, by the exertion of one man, produce a pressure of
1,500 atmospheres; and with such an instrument a hollow cylinder
of wrought iron three inches thick has been burst. In rivetting
together the iron plates, out of which steam-engine boilers are
made, it is necessary to produce as close a joint as possible.
This is accomplished by using the rivets red-hot: while they are
in that state the two plates of iron are rivetted together, and
the contraction which the rivet undergoes in cooling draws them
together with a force which is only limited by the tenacity of
the metal of which the rivet itself is made.
59. It is not alone in the greater operations of the engineer
or the manufacturer, that those vast powers which man has called
into action, in availing himself of the agency of steam, are
fully developed. Wherever the individual operation demanding
little force for its own performance is to be multiplied in
almost endless repetition, commensurate power is required. It is
the same 'giant arm' which twists 'the largest cable', that spins
from the cotton plant an 'almost gossamer thread'. Obedient to
the hand which called into action its resistless powers, it
contends with the ocean and the storm, and rides triumphant
through dangers and difficulties unattempted by the older modes
of navigation. It is the same engine that, in its more regulated
action, weaves the canvas it may one day supersede, or, with
almost fairy fingers, entwines the meshes of the most delicate
fabric that adorns the female form.(1*)
60. The Fifth Report of the Select Committee of the House of
Commons on the Holyhead Roads furnishes ample proof of the great
superiority of steam vessels. The following extracts are taken
from the evidence of Captain Rogers, the commander of one of the
Question. Are you not perfectly satisfied, from the experience
you have had, that the steam vessel you command is capable of
performing what no sailing vessel can do?
Answer. Yes.
Question. During your passage from Gravesend to the Downs, could
any square-rigged vessel, from a first-rate down to a sloop of
war, have performed the voyage you did in the time you did it in
the steamboat?
Answer. No: it was impossible. In the Downs we passed several
Indiamen, and 150 sail there that could not move down the
channel: and at the back of Dungeness we passed 120 more.
Question. At the time you performed that voyage, with the weather
you have described, from the Downs to Milford, if that weather
had continued twelve months, would any square-rigged vessel have
performed it?
Answer. They would have been a long time about it: probably,
would have been weeks instead of days. A sailing vessel would not
have beat up to Milford, as we did, in twelve months.
61. The process of printing on the silver paper, which is
necessary for bank-notes, is attended with some inconvenience,
from the necessity of damping the paper previously to taking the
impression. It was difficult to do this uniformly and in the old
process of dipping a parcel of several sheets together into a
vessel of water, the outside sheets becoming much more wet than
the others, were very apt to be torn. A method has been adopted
at the Bank of Ireland which obviates this inconvenience. The
whole quantity of paper to be damped is placed in a close vessel
from which the air is exhausted; water is then admitted, and
every leaf is completely wetted; the paper is then removed to a
press, and all the superfluous moisture is squeezed out.
62. The operation of pulverizing solid substances and of
separating the powders of various degrees of fineness, is common
in the arts: and as the best graduated sifting fails in effecting
this separation with sufficient delicacy, recourse is had to
suspension in a fluid medium. The substance when reduced by
grinding to the finest powder is agitated in water which is then
drawn off: the coarsest portion of the suspended matter first
subsides, and that which requires the longest time to fall down
is the finest. In this manner even emery powder, a substance of
great density, is separated into the various degrees of fineness
which are required. Flints, after being burned and ground, are
suspended in water, in order to mix them intimately with clay,
which is also suspended in the same fluid for the formation of
porcelain. The water is then in part evaporated by heat, and the
plastic compound, out of which our most beautiful porcelain is
formed, remains. It is a curious fact, and one which requires
further examination than it has yet received, that, if this
mixture be suffered to remain long at rest before it is worked
up, it becomes useless; for it is then found that the silex,
which at first was uniformly mixed, becomes aggregated together
in small lumps. This parallel to the formation of flints in the
chalk strata deserves attention.(2*)
63. The slowness with which powders subside, depends partly
on the specific gravity of the substance, and partly on the
magnitude of the particles themselves. Bodies, in falling through
a resisting medium, after a certain time acquire a uniform
velocity, which is called their terminal velocity, with which
they continue to descend: when the particles are very small, and
the medium dense, as water, this terminal velocity is soon
arrived at. Some of the finer powders even of emery require
several hours to subside through a few feet of water, and the mud
pumped up into our cisterns by some of the water companies is
suspended during a still longer time. These facts furnish us with
some idea of the great extent over which deposits of river mud
may be spread; for if the mud of any river whose waters enter the
Gulf Stream, sink through one foot in an hour, it might be
carried by that stream 1,500 miles before it had sunk to the
depth of 600 or 700 feet.
64. A number of small filaments of cotton project from even
the best spun thread, and when this thread is woven into muslin
they injure its appearance. To cut these off separately is quite
impossible, but they are easily removed by passing the muslin
rapidly over a cylinder of iron kept at a dull red heat: the time
during which each portion of the muslin is in contact with the
red-hot iron is too short to heat it to the burning point; but
the filaments being much finer, and being pressed close to the
hot metal, are burnt.
The removal of these filaments from patent net is still more
necessary for its perfection. The net is passed at a moderate
velocity through a flame of gas issuing from a very long and
narrow slit. Immediately above the flame a long funnel is fixed,
which is connected with a large air-pump worked by a
steam-engine. The flame is thus drawn forcibly through the net,
and all the filaments on both sides of it are burned off at one
operation. Previously to this application of the air-pump, the
net acting in the same way, although not to the same extent, as
the wire-gauze in Davy's safety lamp, cooled down the flame so as
to prevent the combustion of the filaments on the upper side: the
air-pump by quickening the current of ignited gas, removes this
1. The importance and diversified applications of the steam
engine were most ably enforced in the speeches made at a public
meeting held (June 1824) for the purpose of proposing the
erection of a monument to the memory of James Watt; these were
subsequently printed.
2. Some observations on the subject, by Dr Fitton, occur in the
appendix to Captain King's Survey of the Coast of Australia, vol.
ii, p. 397. London, 1826.
Chapter 8
Registering Operations
65. One great advantage which we may derive from machinery is
from the check which it affords against the inattention, the
idleness, or the dishonesty of human agents. Few occupations are
more wearisome than counting a series of repetitions of the same
fact; the number of paces we walk affords a tolerably good
measure of distance passed over, but the value of this is much
enhanced by possessing an instrument, the pedometer, which will
count for us the number of steps we have made. A piece of
mechanism of this kind is sometimes applied to count the number
of turns made by the wheel of a carriage, and thus to indicate
the distance travelled: an instrument, similar in its object,
but differing in its construction, has been used for counting the
number of strokes made by a steam-engine, and the number of coins
struck in a press. One of the simplest instruments for counting
any series of operations, was contrived by Mr Donkin.(1*)
66. Another instrument for registering is used in some
establishments for calendering and embossing. Many hundred
thousand yards of calicoes and stuffs undergo these operations
weekly; and as the price paid for the process is small, the value
of the time spent in measuring them would bear a considerable
proportion to the profit. A machine has, therefore, been
contrived for measuring and registering the length of the goods
as they pass rapidly through the hands of the operator, by which
all chance of erroneous counting is avoided.
67. Perhaps the most useful contrivance of this kind, is one
for ascertaining the vigilance of a watchman. It is a piece of
mechanism connected with a clock placed in an apartment to which
the watchman has not access; but he is ordered to pull a string
situated in a certain part of his round once in every hour. The
instrument, aptly called a tell-tale, informs the owner whether
the man has missed any, and what hours during the night.
68. It is often of great importance, both for regulations of
excise as well as for the interest of the proprietor, to know the
quantity of spirits or of other liquors which have been drawn off
by those persons who are allowed to have access to the vessels
during the absence of the inspectors or principals. This may be
accomplished by a peculiar kind of stop-cock--which will, at
each opening, discharge only a certain measure of fluid the
number of times the cock has been turned being registered by a
counting apparatus accessible only to the master.
69. The time and labour consumed in gauging the contents of
casks partly filled, has led to an improvement which, by the
simplest means, obviates a considerable inconvenience, and
enables any person to read off, on a scale, the number of gallons
contained in any vessel, as readily as he does the degree of heat
indicated by his thermometer. A small stop-cock connects the
bottom of the cask with a glass tube of narrow bore fixed to a
scale on the side of the cask, and rising a little above its top.
The plug of the cock may be turned into three positions: in the
first, it cuts off all communication with the cask: in the
second, it opens a communication between the cask and the glass
tube: and, in the third. It cuts off the connection between the
cask and the tube, and opens a communication between the tube and
any vessel held beneath the cock to receive its contents. The
scale of the tube is graduated by pouring into the cask
successive quantities of water, while the communication between
the cask and the tube is open. Lines are then drawn on the scale
opposite the places in the tube to which the water rises at each
addition, and the scale being thus formed by actual
measurement,(2*) the contents of each cask are known by
inspection, and the tedious process of gauging is altogether
dispensed with. Other advantages accrue from this simple
contrivance, in the great economy of time which it introduces in
making mixtures of different spirits, in taking stock, and in
receiving spirit from the distiller.
70. The gas-meter, by which the quantity of gas used by each
consumer is ascertained, is another instrument of this kind. They
are of various forms, but all of them intended to register the
number of cubic feet of gas which has been delivered. It is very
desirable that these meters should be obtainable at a moderate
price, and that every consumer should employ them; because, by
making each purchaser pay only for what he consumes, and by
preventing that extravagant waste of gas which we frequently
observe, the manufacturer of gas will be enabled to make an equal
profit at a diminished price to the consumer.
71. The sale of water by the different companies in London,
might also, with advantage, be regulated by a meter. If such a
system were adopted, much water which is now allowed to run to
waste would be saved, and an unjust inequality between the rates
charged on different houses by the same company be avoided.
72. Another most important object to which a meter might be
applied, would be to register the quantity of water passing into
the boilers of steam-engines. Without this, our knowledge of the
quantity evaporated by different boilers, and with fireplaces of
different constructions, as well as our estimation of the duty of
steam-engines, must evidently be imperfect.
73. Another purpose to which machinery for registering
operations is applied with much advantage is the determination of
the average effect of natural or artificial agents. The mean
height of the barometer, for example, is ascertained by noting
its height at a certain number of intervals during the
twenty-four hours. The more these intervals are contracted, the
more correctly will the mean be ascertained; but the true mean
ought to be influenced by each momentary change which has
occurred. Clocks have been proposed and made with this object, by
which a sheet of paper is moved, slowly and uniformly, before a
pencil fixed to a float upon the surface of the mercury in the
cup of the barometer. Sir David Brewster proposed, several years
ago to suspend a barometer, and swing it as a pendulum. The
variations in the atmosphere would thus alter the centre of
oscillation, and the comparison of such an instrument with a good
clock, would enable us to ascertain the mean altitude of the
barometer during any interval of the observer's absence.(3*)
An instrument for measuring and registering the quantity of
rain, was invented by Mr John Taylor, and described by him in the
Philosophical Magazine. It consists of an apparatus in which a
vessel that receives the rain falling into the reservoir tilts
over as soon as it is full, and then presents another similar
vessel to be filled, which in like manner, when full, tilts the
former one back again. The number of times these vessels are
emptied is registered by a train of wheels; and thus, without the
presence of the observer, the quantity of rain falling during a
whole year may be measured and recorded.
Instruments might also be contrived to determine the average
force of traction of horses--of the wind--of a stream or of any
irregular and fluctuating effort of animal or other natural
74. Clocks and watches may be considered as instruments for
registering the number of vibrations performed by a pendulum or a
balance. The mechanism by which these numbers are counted is
technically called a scapement. It is not easy to describe: but
the various contrivances which have been adopted for this
purpose, are amongst the most interesting and most ingenious to
which mechanical science has given birth. Working models, on an
enlarged scale, are almost necessary to make their action
understood by the unlearned reader; and, unfortunately, these are
not often to be met with. A very fine collection of such models
exists amongst the collection of instruments at the University of
Instruments of this kind have been made to extend their
action over considerable periods of time, and to register not
merely the hour of the day, but the days of the week, of the
month, of the year, and also to indicate the occurrence of
several astronomical phenomena.
Repeating clocks and watches may be considered as instruments
for registering time, which communicate their information only
when the owner requires it, by pulling a string, or by some
similar application.
An apparatus has recently been applied to watches, by which
the hand which indicates seconds leaves a small dot of ink on the
dial-plate whenever a certain stop or detent is pushed in. Thus,
whilst the eye is attentively fixed on the phenomenon to be
observed, the finger registers on the face of the watch-dial the
commencement and the end of its appearance.
75. Several instruments have been contrived for awakening the
attention of the observer at times previously fixed upon. The
various kinds of alarums connected with clocks and watches are of
this kind. In some instances it is desirable to be able to set
them so as to give notice at many successive and distant points
of time, such as those of the arrival of given stars on the
meridian. A clock of this kind is used at the Royal Observatory
at Greenwich.
76. An earthquake is a phenomenon of such frequent occurrence,
and so interesting, both from its fearful devastations as well as
from its connection with geological theories, that it becomes
important to possess an instrument which shall, if possible,
indicate the direction of the shock, as well as its intensity.
An observation made a few years since at Odessa, after an
earthquake which happened during the night, suggests a simple
instrument by which the direction of the shock may be determined.
A glass vase, partly filled with water, stood on the table of
a room in a house at Odessa; and, from the coldness of the glass,
the inner part of the vessel above the water was coated with dew.
Several very perceptible shocks of an earthquake happened between
three and four o'clock in the morning; and when the observer got
up, he remarked that the dew was brushed off at two opposite
sides of the glass by a wave which the earthquake had caused in
the water. The line joining the two highest points of this wave
was, of course, that in which the shock travelled. This
circumstance, which was accidentally noticed by an engineer at
Odessa,(4*) suggests the plan of keeping, in countries subject to
earthquakes, glass vessels partly filled with treacle, or some
unctuous fluid, so that when any lateral motion is communicated
to them from the earth, the adhesion of the liquid to the glass
shall enable the observer, after some interval of time, to
determine the direction of the shock.
In order to obtain some measure of the vertical oscillation
of the earth, a weight might be attached to a spiral spring, or a
pendulum might be sustained in a horizontal position, and a
sliding index be moved by either of them, so that the extreme
deviations should be indicated by it. This, however, would not
give even the comparative measure accurately, because a
difference in the velocity of the rising or falling of the
earth's surface would affect the instrument.
1. Transactions of the Society of Arts, 1819, p. 116.
2. The contrivance is due to Mr Hencky, of High Holborn, in whose
establishment it is in constant use.
3. About seven or eight years since, without being aware of Sir
David Brewster's proposal. I adapted a barometer, as a pendulum,
to the works of a common eight day clock: it remained in my
library for several months, but I have mislaid the observations
which were made.
4. Memoires de l'Academie des Sciences de Petersburgh, 6e serie,
tom. i. p. 4.
Chapter 9
Economy of the Materials Employed
77. The precision with which all operations by machinery are
executed, and the exact similarity of the articles thus made,
produce a degree of economy in the consumption of the raw
material which is, in some cases, of great importance. The
earliest mode of cutting the trunk of a tree into planks, was by
the use of the hatchet or the adze. It might, perhaps, be first
split into three or four portions, and then each portion was
reduced to a uniform surface by those instruments. With such
means the quantity of plank produced would probably not equal the
quantity of the raw material wasted by the process: and, if the
planks were thin, would certainly fall far short of it. An
improved tool, completely reverses the case: in converting a tree
into thick planks, the saw causes a waste of a very small
fractional part; and even in reducing it to planks of only an
inch in thickness, does not waste more than an eighth part of the
raw material. When the thickness of the plank is still further
reduced, as is the case in cutting wood for veneering, the
quantity of material destroyed again begins to bear a
considerable proportion to that which is used; and hence circular
saws, having a very thin blade, have been employed for such
purposes. In order to economize still further the more valuable
woods, Mr Brunel contrived a machine which, by a system of
blades, cut off the veneer in a continuous shaving, thus
rendering the whole of the piece of timber available.
78. The rapid improvements which have taken place in the
printing press during the last twenty years, afford another
instance of saving in the materials consumed, which has been well
ascertained by measurement, and is interesting from its
connection with literature. In the old method of inking type, by
large hemispherical balls stuffed and covered with leather, the
printer, after taking a small portion of ink from the ink-block,
was continually rolling the balls in various directions against
each other, in order that a thin layer of ink might be uniformly
spread over their surface. This he again transferred to the type
by a kind of rolling action. In such a process, even admitting
considerable skill in the operator, it could not fail to happen
that a large quantity of ink should get near the edges of the
balls, which, not being transferred to the type, became hard and
useless, and was taken off in the form of a thick black crust.
Another inconvenience also arose--the quantity of ink spread on
the block not being regulated by measure, and the number and
direction of the transits of the inking-balls over each other
depending on the will of the operator, and being consequently
irregular, it was impossible to place on the type a uniform layer
of ink, of the quantity exactly sufficient for the impression.
The introduction of cylindrical rollers of an elastic substance,
formed by the mixture of glue and treacle, superseded the
inking-balls, and produced considerable saving in the consumption
of ink: but the most perfect economy was only to be produced by
mechanism. When printing-presses, moved by the power of steam,
were introduced, the action of these rollers was found to be well
adapted to their performance; and a reservoir of ink was formed,
from which a roller regularly abstracted a small quantity at each
impression. From three to five other rollers spread this portion
uniformly over a slab (by most ingenious contrivances varied in
almost each kind of press), and another travelling roller, having
fed itself on the slab, passed and repassed over the type just
before it gave the impression to the paper.
In order to shew that this plan of inking puts the proper
quantity of ink upon the type, we must prove, first--that the
quantity is not too little: this would soon have been discovered
from the complaints of the public and the booksellers; and,
secondly that it is not too great. This latter point was
satisfactorily established by an experiment. A few hours after
one side of a sheet of paper has been printed upon, the ink is
sufficiently dry to allow it to receive the impression upon the
other; and, as considerable pressure is made use of, the tympan
on which the side first printed is laid, is guarded from soiling
it by a sheet of paper called the set-off sheet. This paper
receives, in succession, every sheet of the work to be printed,
acquiring from them more or less of the ink, according to their
dryness, or the quantity upon them. It was necessary in the
former process, after about one hundred impressions, to change
this set-off sheet, which then became too much soiled for further
use. In the new method of printing by machinery, no such sheet is
used, but a blanket is employed as its substitute; this does not
require changing above once in five thousand impressions, and
instances have occurred of its remaining sufficiently clean for
twenty thousand. Here, then, is a proof that the quantity of
superfluous ink put upon the paper in machine-printing is so
small, that, if multiplied by five thousand, and in some
instances even by twenty thousand, it is only sufficient to
render useless a single piece of clean cloth.(1*) The following
were the results of an accurate experiment upon the effect of the
process just described, made at one of the largest printing
establishments in the metropolis.(2*) Two hundred reams of paper
were printed off, the old method of inking with balls being
employed; two hundred reams of the same paper, and for the same
book, were then printed off in the presses which inked their own
type. The consumption of ink by the machine was to that by the
balls as four to nine, or rather less than one-half.
1. In the very best kind of printing, it is necessary, in the old
method, to change the set-off sheet once in twelve times. In
printing the same kind of work by machinery, the blanket is
changed once in 2000.
2. This experiment was made at the establishment of Mr Clowes, in
Stamford Street.
Chapter 10
Of the Identity of the Work When It is of the Same Kind, and its
Accuracy when of Different Kinds
79. Nothing is more remarkable, and yet less unexpected, than
the perfect identity of things manufactured by the same tool. If
the top of a circular box is to be made to fit over the lower
part, it may be done in the lathe by gradually advancing the tool
of the sliding-rest; the proper degree of tightness between the
box and its lid being found by trial. After this adjustment, if a
thousand boxes are made, no additional care is required; the tool
is always carried up to the stop, and each box will be equally
adapted to every lid. The same identity pervades all the arts of
printing; the impressions from the same block, or the same
copperplate, have a similarity which no labour could produce by
hand. The minutest traces are transferred to all the impressions,
and no omission can arise from the inattention or unskilfulness
of the operator. The steel punch, with which the cardwadding for
a fowling-piece is cut, if it once perform its office with
accuracy, constantly reproduces the same exact circle.
80. The accuracy with which machinery executes its work is,
perhaps, one of its most important advantages: it may, however,
be contended, that a considerable portion of this advantage may
be resolved into saving of time; for it generally happens, that
any improvement in tools increases the quantity of work done in a
given time. Without tools, that is, by the mere efforts of the
human hand, there are, undoubtedly, multitudes of things which it
would be impossible to make. Add to the human hand the rudest
cutting instrument, and its powers are enlarged: the fabrication
of many things then becomes easy, and that of others possible
with great labour. Add the saw to the knife or the hatchet, and
other works become possible, and a new course of difficult
operations is brought into view, whilst many of the former are
rendered easy. This observation is applicable even to the most
perfect tools or machines. It would be possible for a very
skilful workman, with files and polishing substances, to form a
cylinder out of a piece of steel; but the time which this would
require would be so considerable, and the number of failures
would probably be so great, that for all practical purposes such
a mode of producing a steel cylinder might be said to be
impossible. The same process by the aid of the lathe and the
sliding-rest is the everyday employment of hundreds of workmen.
81. Of all the operations of mechanical art, that of turning
is the most perfect. If two surfaces are worked against each
other, whatever may have been their figure at the commencement,
there exists a tendency in them both to become portions of
spheres. Either of them may become convex, and the other concave,
with various degrees of curvature. A plane surface is the line of
separation between convexity and concavity, and is most difficult
to hit; it is more easy to make a good circle than to produce a
straight line. A similar difficulty takes place in figuring
specula for telescopes; the parabola is the surface which
separates the hyperbolic from the elliptic figure, and is the
most difficult to form. If a spindle, not cylindrical at its end,
be pressed into a hole not circular, and kept constantly turning,
there is a tendency in these two bodies so situated to become
conical, or to have circular sections. If a triangular-pointed
piece of iron be worked round in a circular hole the edges will
gradually wear, and it will become conical. These facts, if
they do not explain, at least illustrate the principles on
which the excellence of work formed in the lathe depends.
Chapter 11
Of Copying
82. The two last-mentioned sources of excellence in the work
produced by machinery depend on a principle which pervades a very
large portion of all manufactures, and is one upon which the
cheapness of the articles produced seems greatly to depend. The
principle alluded to is that of copying, taken in its most
extensive sense. Almost unlimited pains are, in some instances,
bestowed on the original, from which a series of copies is to be
produced; and the larger the number of these copies, the more
care and pains can the manufacturer afford to lavish upon the
original. It may thus happen, that the instrument or tool
actually producing the work, shall cost five or even ten thousand
times the price of each individual specimen of its power.
As the system of copying is of so much importance, and of
such extensive use in the arts, it will be convenient to classify
a considerable number of those processes in which it is employed.
The following enumeration however is not offered as a complete
list; and the explanations are restricted to the shortest
possible detail which is consistent with a due regard to making
the subject intelligible.
Operations of copying are effected under the following
by printing from cavities          by stamping
by printing from surface           by punching
by casting                         with elongation
by moulding                        with altered dimensions
Of printing from cavities
83. The art of printing, in all its numerous departments, is
essentially an art of copying. Under its two great divisions,
printing from hollow lines, as in copperplate, and printing from
surface, as in block printing, are comprised numerous arts.
84. Copperplate printing. In this instance, the copies are
made by transferring to paper, by means of pressure, a thick ink,
from the hollows and lines cut in the copper. An artist will
sometimes exhaust the labour of one or two years upon engraving a
plate, which will not, in some cases furnish above five hundred
copies in a state of perfection.
85. Engravings on steel. This art is like that of engraving
on copper, except that the number of copies is far less limited.
A bank-note engraved as a copperplate, will not give above three
thousand impressions without a sensible deterioration. Two
impressions of a bank-note engraved on steel were examined by one
of our most eminent artists,(1*) who found it difficult to
pronounce with any confidence, which was the earliest impression.
One of these was a proof from amongst the first thousand, the
other was taken after between seventy and eighty thousand had
been printed off.
86. Music printing. Music is usually printed from pewter
plates, on which the characters have been impressed by steel
punches. The metal being much softer than copper, is liable to
scratches, which detain a small portion of the ink. This is the
reason of the dirty appearance of printed music. A new process
has recently been invented by Mr Cowper, by which this
inconvenience will be avoided. The improved method, which give
sharpness to the characters, is still an art of copying; but it
is effected by surface printing, nearly in the same manner as
calico-printing from blocks, to be described hereafter, 96. The
method of printing music from pewter plates, although by far the
most frequently made use of, is not the only one employed, for
music is occasionally printed from stone. Sometimes also it is
printed with moveable type; and occasionally the musical
characters are printed on the paper, and the lines printed
afterwards. Specimens of both these latter modes of
music-printing may be seen in the splendid collection of
impressions from the types of the press of Bodoni at Parma: but
notwithstanding the great care bestowed on the execution of that
work, the perpetual interruption of continuity in the lines,
arising from the use of moveable types, when the characters and
lines are printed at the same time, is apparent.
87. Calico printing from cylinders. Many of the patterns on
printed calicos are copies by printing from copper cylinders
about four or five inches in diameter, on which the desired
pattern has been previously engraved. One portion of the
cylinders is exposed to the ink, whilst an elastic scraper of
very thin steel, by being pressed forcibly against another part,
removes all superfluous ink from the surface previously to its
reaching the cloth. A piece of calico twenty-eight yards in
length rolls through this press, and is printed in four or five
88. Printing from perforated sheets of metal, or stencilling.
Very thin brass is sometimes perforated in the form of letters,
usually those of a name; this is placed on any substance which it
is required to mark, and a brush dipped in some paint is passed
over the brass. Those parts which are cut away admit the paint.
and thus a copy of the name appears on the substance below. This
method, which affords rather a coarse copy, is sometimes used for
paper with which rooms are covered, and more especially for the
borders. If a portion be required to match an old pattern, this
is, perhaps the most economical way of producing it.
89. Coloured impressions of leaves upon paper may be made by
a kind of surface printing. Such leaves are chosen as have
considerable inequalities: the elevated parts of these are
covered, by means of an inking ball, with a mixture of some
pigment ground up in linseed oil; the leaf is then placed between
two sheets of paper, and being gently pressed, the impression
from the elevated parts on each side appear on the corresponding
sheets of paper.
90. The beautiful red cotton handkerchiefs dyed at Glasgow
have their pattern given to them by a process similar to
stencilling, except that instead of printing from a pattern, the
reverse operation that of discharging a part of the colour from a
cloth already dyed--is performed. A number of handkerchiefs are
pressed with very great force between two plates of metal, which
are similarly perforated with round or lozenge-shaped holes,
according to the intended pattern. The upper plate of metal is
surrounded by a rim, and a fluid which has the property of
discharging the red dye is poured upon that plate. This liquid
passes through the holes in the metal, and also through the
calico; but, owing to the great pressure opposite all the parts
of the plates not cut away, it does not spread itself beyond the
pattern. After this, the handkerchiefs are washed, and the
pattern of each is a copy of the perforations in the metal-plate
used in the process.
Another mode by which a pattern is formed by discharging
colour from a previously dyed cloth, is to print on it a pattern
with paste; then, passing it into the dying-vat, it comes out
dyed of one uniform colour But the paste has protected the fibres
of the cotton from the action of the dye or mordant; and when the
cloth so dyed is well washed, the paste is dissolved, and leaves
uncoloured all those parts of the cloth to which it was applied.
Printing from surface
91. This second department of printing is of more frequent
application in the arts than that which has just been considered.
92. Printing from wooden blocks. A block of box wood is, in
this instance, the substance out of which the pattern is formed:
the design being sketched upon it, the workman cuts away with
sharp tools every part except the lines to be represented in the
impression. This is exactly the reverse of the process of
engraving on copper, in which every line to be represented is cut
away. The ink, instead of filling the cavities cut in the wood,
is spread upon the surface which remains, and is thence
transferred to the paper.
93. Printing from moveable types. This is the most important
in its influence of all the arts of copying. It possesses a
singular peculiarity, in the immense subdivision of the parts
that form the pattern. After that pattern has furnished thousands
of copies, the same individual elements may be arranged again and
again in other forms, and thus supply multitudes of originals,
from each of which thousands of their copied impressions may
flow. It also possesses this advantage, that woodcuts may be used
along with the letterpress, and impressions taken from both at
the same operation.
94. Printing from stereotype. This mode of producing copies
is very similar to the preceding. There are two modes by which
stereotype plates are produced. In that most generally adopted a
mould is taken in plaster from the moveable types, and in this
the stereotype plate is cast. Another method has been employed in
France: instead of composing the work in moveable type, it was
set up in moveable copper matrices; each matrix being in fact a
piece of copper of the same size as the type, and having the
impression of the letter sunk into its surface instead of
projecting in relief. A stereotype plate may, it is evident, be
obtained at once from this arrangement of matrices. The objection
to the plan is the great expense of keeping so large a collection
of matrices.
As the original composition does not readily admit of change,
stereotype plates can only be applied with advantage to cases
where an extraordinary number of copies are demanded, or where
the work consists of figures, and it is of great importance to
ensure accuracy. Trifling alterations may, however, be made in it
from time to time; and thus mathematical tables may, by the
gradual extirpation of error, at last become perfect. This mode
of producing copies possesses, in common with that by moveable
types, the advantage of admitting the use of woodcuts: the copy
of the woodcut in the stereotype plate being equally perfect.
with that of the moveable type. This union is of considerable
importance, and cannot be accomplished with engravings on copper.
95. Lettering books. The gilt letters on the backs of books
are formed by placing a piece of gold leaf upon the leather, and
pressing upon it brass letters previously heated: these cause the
gold immediately under them to adhere to the leather, whilst the
rest of the metal is easily brushed away. When a great number of
copies of the same volume are to be lettered, it is found to be
cheaper to have a brass pattern cut with the whole of the proper
title: this is placed in a press, and being kept hot, the covers,
each having a small bit of leaf-gold placed in the proper
position, are successively brought under the brass, and stamped.
The lettering at the back of the volume in the reader's hand was
executed in this manner.
96. Calico printing from blocks. This is a mode of copying,
by surface printing, from the ends of small pieces of copper
wire, of various forms, fixed into a block of wood. They are all
of one uniform height, about the eighth part of an inch above the
surface of the wood, and are arranged by the maker into any
required pattern. If the block be placed upon a piece of fine
woollen cloth, on which ink of any colour has been uniformly
spread, the projecting copper wires receive a portion, which they
give up when applied to the calico to be printed. By the former
method of printing on calico, only one colour could be used; but
by this plan, after the flower of a rose, for example, has been
printed with one set of blocks, the leaves may be printed of
another colour by a different set.
97. Printing oilcloth. After the canvas, which forms the
basis of oilcloth, has been covered with paint of one uniform
tint, the remainder of the processes which it passes through, are
a series of copyings by surface printing, from patterns formed
upon wooden blocks very similar to those employed by the calico
printer. Each colour requiring a distinct set of blocks, those
oilcloths with the greatest variety of colours are most
There are several other varieties of printing which we shall
briefly notice as arts of copying; which, although not strictly
surface printing, yet are more allied to it than that from
98. Letter copying. In one of the modes of performing this
process, a sheet of very thin paper is damped, and placed upon
the writing to be copied. The two papers are then passed through
a rolling press, and a portion of the ink from one paper is
transferred to the other. The writing is, of course, reversed by
this process; but the paper to which it is transferred being
thin, the characters are seen through it on the other side, in
their proper position. Another common mode of copying letters is
by placing a sheet of paper covered on both sides with a
substance prepared from lamp-black, between a sheet of thin paper
and the paper on which the letter to be despatched is to be
written. If the upper or thin sheet be written upon with any hard
pointed substance, the word written with this style will be
impressed from the black paper upon both those adjoining it. The
translucency of the upper sheet, which is retained by the writer,
is in this instance necessary to render legible the writing which
is on the back of the paper. Both these arts are very limited in
their extent, the former affording two or three, the latter from
two to perhaps ten or fifteen copies at the same time.
99. Printing on china. This is an art of copying which is
carried to a very great extent. As the surfaces to which the
impression is to be conveyed are often curved, and sometimes even
fluted, the ink, or paint, is first transferred from the copper
to some flexible substance, such as paper, or an elastic compound
of glue and treacle. It is almost immediately conveyed from this
to the unbaked biscuit, to which it more readily adheres.
100. Lithographic printing. This is another mode of producing
copies in almost unlimited number. The original which supplies
the copies is a drawing made on a stone of a slightly porous
nature, the ink employed for tracing it is made of such greasy
materials that when water is poured over the stone it shall not
wet the lines of the drawing. When a roller covered with printing
ink, which is of an oily nature, is passed over the stone
previously wetted, the water prevents this ink from adhering to
the uncovered portions; whilst the ink used in the drawing is of
such a nature that the printing ink adheres to it. In this state,
if a sheet of paper be placed upon the stone, and then passed
under a press, the printing ink will be transferred to the paper,
leaving the ink used in the drawing still adhering to the stone.
101. There is one application of lithographic printing which
does not appear to have received sufficient attention, and
perhaps further experiments are necessary to bring it to
perfection. It is the reprinting of works which have just arrived
from other countries. A few years ago one of the Paris newspapers
was reprinted at Brussels as soon as it arrived by means of
lithography. Whilst the ink is yet fresh, this may easily be
accomplished: it is only necessary to place one copy of the
newspaper on a lithographic stone; and by means of great pressure
applied to it in a rolling press, a sufficient quantity of the
printing ink will be transferred to the stone. By similar means,
the other side of the newspaper may be copied on another stone,
and these stones will then furnish impressions in the usual way.
If printing from stone could be reduced to the same price per
thousand as that from moveable types, this process might be
adopted with great advantage for the supply of works for the use
of distant countries possessing the same language. For a single
copy might be printed off with transfer ink, and thus an English
work, for example, might be published in America from stone,
whilst the original, printed from moveable types, made its
appearance on the same day in England.
102. It is much to be wished that such a method were
applicable to the reprinting of facsimiles of old and scarce
books. This, however, would require the sacrifice of two copies,
since a leaf must be destroyed for each page. Such a method of
reproducing a small impression of an old work, is peculiarly
applicable to mathematical tables, the setting up of which in
type is always expensive and liable to error, but how long ink
will continue to be transferable to stone, from paper on which it
has been printed, must be determined by experiment. The
destruction of the greasy or oily portion of the ink in the
character of old books, seems to present the greatest impediment;
if one constituent only of the ink were removed by time, it might
perhaps be hoped, that chemical means would ultimately be
discovered for restoring it: but if this be unsuccessful, an
attempt might be made to discover some substance having a strong
affinity for the carbon of the ink which remains on the paper,
and very little for the paper itself.(2*)
103. Lithographic prints have occasionally been executed in
colours. In such instances a separate stone seems to have been
required for each colour, and considerable care, or very good
mechanism, must have been employed to adjust the paper to each
stone. If any two kinds of ink should be discovered mutually
inadhesive, one stone might be employed for two inks; or if the
inking-roller for the second and subsequent colours had portions
cut away corresponding to those parts of the stone inked by the
previous ones, then several colours might be printed from the
same stone: but these principles do not appear to promise much,
except for coarse subjects.
104. Register printing. It is sometimes thought necessary to
print from a wooden block, or stereotype plate, the same pattern
reversed upon the opposite side of the paper. The effect of this,
which is technically called Register printing, is to make it
appear as if the ink had penetrated through the paper, and
rendered the pattern visible on the other side. If the subject
chosen contains many fine lines, it seems at first sight
extremely difficult to effect so exact a super position of the
two patterns, on opposite sides of the same piece of paper, that
it shall be impossible to detect the slightest deviation; yet the
process is extremely simple. The block which gives the impression
is always accurately brought down to the same place by means of a
hinge; this spot is covered by a piece of thin leather stretched
over it; the block is now inked, and being brought down to its
place, gives an impression of the pattern to the leather: it is
then turned back; and being inked a second time, the paper
intended to be printed is placed upon the leather, when the block
again descending, the upper surface of the paper is printed from
the block, and its undersurface takes up the impression from the
leather. It is evident that the perfection of this mode of
printing depends in a great measure on finding some soft
substance like leather, which will take as much ink as it ought
from the block, and which will give it up most completely to
paper. Impressions thus obtained are usually fainter on the lower
side; and in order in some measure to remedy this defect, rather
more ink is put on the block at the first than at the second
Of copying by casting
105. The art of casting, by pouring substances in a fluid
state into a mould which retains them until they become solid, is
essentially an art of copying; the form of the thing produced
depending entirely upon that of the pattern from which it was
106. Of casting iron and other metals.--Patterns of wood or
metal made from drawings are the originals from which the moulds
for casting are made: so that, in fact, the casting itself is a
copy of the mould; and the mould is a copy of the pattern. In
castings of iron and metals for the coarser purposes, and, if
they are afterwards to be worked even for the finer machines,
the exact resemblance amongst the things produced, which takes
place in many of the arts to which we have alluded, is not
effected in the first instance, nor is this necessary. As the
metals shrink in cooling, the pattern is made larger than the
intended copy; and in extricating it from the sand in which it is
moulded, some little difference will occur in the size of the
cavity which it leaves. In smaller works where accuracy is more
requisite, and where few or no after operations are to be
performed, a mould of metal is employed which has been formed
with considerable care. Thus, in casting bullets, which ought to
be perfectly spherical and smooth, an iron instrument is used, in
which a cavity has been cut and carefully ground; and, in order
to obviate the contraction in cooling, a jet is left which may
supply the deficiency of metal arising from that cause, and which
is afterwards cut off. The leaden toys for children are cast in
brass moulds which open, and in which have been graved or
chiselled the figures intended to be produced.
107. A very beautiful mode of representing small branches of
the most delicate vegetable productions in bronze has been
employed by Mr Chantrey. A small strip of a fir-tree, a branch of
holly, a curled leaf of broccoli, or any other vegetable
production, is suspended by one end in a small cylinder of paper
which is placed for support within a similarly formed tin case.
The finest river silt, carefully separated from all the coarser
particles, and mixed with water, so as to have the consistency of
cream, is poured into the paper cylinder by small portions at a
time, carefully shaking the plant a little after each addition,
in order that its leaves may be covered, and that no bubbles of
air may be left. The plant and its mould are now allowed to dry,
and the yielding nature of the paper allows the loamy coating to
shrink from the outside.  When this is dry it is surrounded by a
coarser substance; and, finally, we have the twig with all its
leaves embedded in a perfect mould. This mould is carefully
dried, and then gradually heated to a red heat. At the ends of
some of the leaves or shoots, wires have been left to afford
airholes by their removal, and in this state of strong ignition a
stream of air is directed into the hole formed by the end of the
branch. The consequence is, that the wood and leaves which had
been turned into charcoal by the fire, are now converted into
carbonic acid by the current of air; and, after some time, the
whole of the solid matter of which the plant consisted is
completely removed, leaving a hollow mould, bearing on its
interior all the minutest traces of its late vegetable occupant.
When this process is completed, the mould being still kept at
nearly a red heat, receives the fluid metal, which, by its
weight, either drives the very small quantity of air, which at
that high temperature remains behind, out very through the
airholes, or compresses it into the pores of very porous
substance of which the mould is formed.
108. When the form of the object intended to be cast is such
that the pattern cannot be extricated from its mould of sand or
plaster, it becomes necessary to make the pattern with wax, or
some other easily fusible substance. The sand or plaster is
moulded round this pattern, and, by the application of heat, the
wax is extricated through an opening left purposely for its
109. It is often desirable to ascertain the form of the
internal cavities, inhabited by molluscous animals, such as those
of spiral shells, and of the various corals. This may be
accomplished by filling them with fusible metal, and dissolving
the substance of the shell by muriatic acid; thus a metallic
solid will remain which exactly filled all the cavities. If such
forms are required in silver, or any other difficulty fusible
metal, the shells may be filled with wax or resin, then dissolved
away; and the remaining waxen form may serve as the pattern from
which a plaster mould may be made for casting the metal. Some
nicety will be required in these operations; and perhaps the
minuter cavities can only be filled under an exhausted receiver.
110. Casting in plaster. This is a mode of copying applied to
a variety of purposes: to produce accurate representations of the
human form--of statues--or of rare fossils--to which latter
purpose it has lately been applied with great advantage. In all
casting, the first process is to make the mould; and plaster is
the substance which is almost always employed for the purpose.
The property which it possesses of remaining for a short time in
a state of fluidity, renders it admirably adapted to this object,
and adhesion, even to an original of plaster, is effectually
prevented by oiling the surface on which it is poured. The mould
formed round the subject which is copied, removed in separate
pieces and then reunited, is that in which the copy is cast. This
process gives additional utility and value to the finest works of
art. The students of the Academy at Venice are thus enabled to
admire the sculptured figures of Egina, preserved in the gallery
at Munich; as well as the marbles of the Parthenon, the pride of
our own Museum. Casts in plaster of the Elgin marbles adorn many
of the academies of the Continent; and the liberal employment of
such presents affords us an inexpensive and permanent source of
111. Casting in wax. This mode of copying, aided by proper
colouring, offers the most successful imitations of many objects
of natural history, and gives an air of reality to them which
might deceive even the most instructed. Numerous figures of
remarkable persons, having the face and hands formed in wax, have
been exhibited at various times; and the resemblances have, in
some instances been most striking. But whoever would see the art
of copying in wax carried to the highest perfection, should
examine the beautiful collection of fruit at the house of the
Horticultural Society; the model of the magnificent flower of the
new genus Rafflesia--the waxen models of the internal parts of
the human body which adorn the anatomical gallery of the Jardin
des Plantes at Paris, and the Museum at Florence--or the
collection of morbid anatomy at the University of Bologna. The
art of imitation by wax does not usually afford the multitude of
copies which flow from many similar operations. This number is
checked by the subsequent stages of the process, which, ceasing
to have the character of copying by a tool or pattern, become
consequently more expensive. In each individual production, form
alone is given by casting; the colouring must be the work of the
pencil, guided by the skill of the artist.
Of copying by moulding
112. This method of producing multitudes of individuals
having an exact resemblance to each other in external shape, is
adopted very widely in the arts. The substances employed are,
either naturally or by artificial preparation, in a soft or
plastic state; they are then compressed by mechanical force,
sometimes assisted by heat, into a mould of the required form.
113. Of bricks and tiles. An oblong box of wood fitting upon
a bottom fixed to the brickmaker's bench, is the mould from which
every brick is formed. A portion of the plastic mixture of which
the bricks consist is made ready by less skilful hands: the
workman first sprinkles a little sand into the mould, and then
throws the clay into it with some force; at the same time rapidly
working it with his fingers, so as to make it completely close up
to the corners. He next scrapes off, with a wetted stick, the
superfluous clay, and shakes the new-formed brick dexterously out
of its mould upon a piece of board, on which it is removed by
another workman to the place appointed for drying it. A very
skilful moulder has occasionally, in a long summer's day,
delivered from ten to eleven thousand bricks; but a fair average
day's work is from five to six thousand. Tiles of various kinds
and forms are made of finer materials, but by the same system of
moulding. Among the ruins of the city of Gour, the ancient
capital of Bengal, bricks are found having projecting ornaments
in high relief: these appear to have been formed in a mould, and
subsequently glazed with a coloured glaze. In Germany, also,
brickwork has been executed with various ornaments. The cornice
of the church of St Stephano, at Berlin, is made of large blocks
of brick moulded into the form required by the architect. At the
establishment of Messrs Cubitt, in Gray's Inn Lane, vases,
cornices, and highly ornamented capitals of columns are thus
formed which rival stone itself in elasticity, hardness, and
114. Of embossed china. Many of the forms given to those
beautiful specimens of earthenware which constitute the equipage
of our breakfast and our dinner-tables, cannot be executed in the
lathe of the potter. The embossed ornaments on the edges of the
plates, their polygonal shape, the fluted surface of many of the
vases, would all be difficult and costly of execution by the
hand; but they become easy and comparatively cheap, when made by
pressing the soft material out of which they are formed into a
hard mould. The care and skill bestowed on the preparation of
that mould are repaid by the multitude it produces. In many of
the works of the china manufactory, one part only of the article
is moulded; the upper surface of the plate, for example, whilst
the under side is figured by the lathe. In some instances, the
handle, or only a few ornaments, are moulded, and the body of the
work is turned.
115. Glass seals. The process of engraving upon gems requires
considerable time and skill. The seals thus produced can
therefore never become common. Imitations, however, have been
made of various degrees of resemblance. The colour which is given
to glass is, perhaps, the most successful part of the imitation.
A small cylindrical rod of coloured glass is heated in the flame
of a blowpipe, until the extremity becomes soft. The operator
then pinches it between the ends of a pair of nippers, which are
formed of brass, and on one side of which the device intended for
the seal has been carved in relief. When the mould has been well
finished and care is taken in heating the glass properly, the
seals thus produced are not bad imitations; and by this system of
copying they are so multiplied, that the more ordinary kinds are
sold at Birmingham for three pence a dozen.
116. Square glass bottles. The round forms which are usually
given to vessels of glass are readily produced by the expansion
of the air with which they are blown. It is, however, necessary
in many cases to make bottles of a square form, and each capable
of holding exactly the same quantity of fluid. It is also
frequently desirable to have imprinted on them the name of the
maker of the medicine or other liquid they are destined to
contain. A mould of iron, or of copper, is provided of the
intended size, on the inside of which are engraved the names
required. This mould, which is used in a hot state, opens into
two parts, to allow the insertion of the round, unfinished
bottle, which is placed in it in a very soft state before it is
removed from the end of the iron tube with which it was blown.
The mould is now closed, and the glass is forced against its
sides, by blowing strongly into the bottle.
117. Wooden snuff boxes. Snuff boxes ornamented with devices,
in imitation of carved work or of rose engine turning, are sold
at a price which proves that they are only imitations. The wood,
or horn, out of which they are formed, is softened by long
boiling in water, and whilst in this state it is forced into
moulds of iron, or steel, on which are cut the requisite
patterns, where it remains exposed to great pressure until it is
118. Horn knife handles and umbrella handles. The property
which horn possesses of becoming soft by the action of water and
of heat, fits it for many useful purposes. It is pressed into
moulds, and becomes embossed with figures in relief, adapted to
the objects to which it is to be applied. If curved, it may be
straightened; or if straight, it may be bent into any forms which
ornament or utility may require; and by the use of the mould
these forms may be multiplied in endless variety. The commoner
sorts of knives, the crooked handles for umbrellas, and a
multitude of other articles to which horn is applied, attest the
cheapness which the art of copying gives to the things formed of
this material.
119. Moulding tortoise-shell. The same principle is applied
to things formed out of the shell of the turtle, or the land
tortoise. From the greatly superior price of the raw material,
this principle of copying is, however, more rarely employed upon
it; and the few carvings which are demanded, are usually
performed by hand.
120. Tobacco-pipe making. This simple art is almost entirely
one of copying. The moulds are formed of iron, in two parts, each
embracing one half of the stem; the line of junction of these
parts may generally be observed running lengthwise from one end
of the pipe to the other. The hole passing to the bowl is formed
by thrusting a long wire through the clay before it is enclosed
in the mould. Some of the moulds have figures, or names, sunk in
the inside, which give a corresponding figure in relief upon the
finished pipe.
121. Embossing upon calico. Calicoes of one colour, but
embossed all over with raised patterns, though not much worn in
this country, are in great demand in several foreign markets.
This appearance is produced by passing them between rollers, on
one of which is figured in intaglio the pattern to be transferred
to the calico. The substance of the cloth is pressed very
forcibly into the cavities thus formed, and retains its pattern
after considerable use. The watered appearance in the cover of
the volume in the reader's hands is produced in a similar manner.
A cylinder of gun-metal, on which the design of the watering is
previously cut, is pressed by screws against another cylinder,
formed out of pieces of brown paper which have been strongly
compressed together and accurately turned. The two cylinders are
made to revolve rapidly, the paper one being slightly damped,
and, after a few minutes, it takes an impression from the upper
or metal one. The glazed calico is now passed between the
rollers, its glossy surface being in contact with the metal
cylinder, which is kept hot by a heated iron enclosed within it.
Calicoes are sometimes watered by placing two pieces on each
other in such a position that the longitudinal threads of the one
are at right angles to those of the other, and compressing them
in this state between flat rollers. The threads of the one piece
produce indentations in those of the other, but they are not so
deep as when produced by the former method.
122. Embossing upon leather. This art of copying from
patterns previously engraved on steel rollers is in most respects
similar to the preceding. The leather is forced into the
cavities, and the parts which are not opposite to any cavity are
powerfully condensed between the rollers.
123. Swaging. This is an art of copying practised by the
smith. In order to fashion his iron and steel into the various
forms demanded by his customers, he has small blocks of steel
into which are sunk cavities of different shapes; these are
called swages, and are generally in pairs. Thus if he wants a
round bolt, terminating in a cylindrical head of larger diameter,
and having one or more projecting rims, he uses a corresponding
swaging tool; and having heated the end of his iron rod, and
thickened it by striking the end in the direction of the axis
(which is technically called upsetting), he places its head upon
one part of the lage; and whilst an assistant holds the other
part on the top of the hot iron, he strikes it several times with
his hammer, occasionally turning the head one quarter round. The
heated iron is thus forced by the blows to assume the form of the
mould into which it is impressed.
124. Engraving by pressure. This is one of the most beautiful
examples of the art of copying carried to an almost unlimited
extent; and the delicacy with which it can be executed, and the
precision with which the finest traces of the graving tool can be
transferred from steel to copper, or even from hard steel to soft
steel, is most unexpected. We are indebted to Mr Perkins for most
of the contrivances which have brought this art at once almost to
perfection. An engraving is first made upon soft steel, which is
hardened by a peculiar process without in the least injuring its
delicacy. A cylinder of soft steel, pressed with great force
against the hardened steel engraving, is now made to roll very
slowly backward and forward over it, thus receiving the design,
but in relief. The cylinder is in its turn hardened without
injury., and if it be slowly rolled to and fro with strong
pressure on successive plates of copper, it will imprint on a
thousand of them a perfect facsimile of the original steel
engraving from which it was made. Thus the number of copies
producible from the same design may be multiplied a
thousand-fold. But even this is very far short of the limits to
which the process may be extended. The hardened steel roller,
bearing the design upon it in relief may be employed to make a
few of its first impressions upon plates of soft steel, and these
being hardened become the representatives of the original
engraving, and may in their turn be made the parents of other
rollers, each generating copperplates like their prototype. The
possible extent to which facsimiles of one original engraving may
thus be multiplied, almost confounds the imagination, and appears
to be for all practical purposes unlimited.
This beautiful art was first proposed by Mr Perkins for the
purpose of rendering the forgery of bank notes a matter of great
difficulty; and there are two principles which peculiarly adapt
it to that object: first, the perfect identity of all the
impressions, so that any variation in the minutest line would at
once cause detection; secondly, that the original plates may be
formed by the united labours of several artists most eminent in
their respective departments; for as only one original of each
design is necessary, the expense, even of the most elaborate
engraving, will be trifling, compared with the multitude of
copies produced from it.
125. It must, however, be admitted that the principle of
copying itself furnishes an expedient for imitating any engraving
or printed pattern, however complicated; and thus presents a
difficulty which none of the schemes devised for the prevention
of forgery appear to have yet effectually obviated. In attempting
to imitate the most perfect banknote, the first process would be
to place it with the printed side downwards upon a stone or other
substance, on which, by passing it through a rolling-press, it
might be firmly fixed. The next object would be to discover some
solvent which should dissolve the paper, but neither affect the
printing-ink, nor injure the stone or substance to which it is
attached. Water does not seem to do this effectually, and perhaps
weak alkaline or acid solutions would be tried. If, however, this
could be fully accomplished, and if the stone or other substance,
used to retain the impression, had those properties which enable
us to print from it, innumerable facsimiles of the note might
obviously be made, and the imitation would be complete. Porcelain
biscuit, which has recently been used with a black lead pencil
for memorandum books, seems in some measure adapted for such
trials, since its porosity may be diminished to any required
extent by regulating the dilution of the glazing.
126. Gold and silver moulding. Many of the mouldings used by
jewellers consist of thin slips of metal, which have received
their form by passing between steel rollers, on which the pattern
is embossed or engraved; thus taking a succession of copies of
the devices intended.
127. Ornamental papers. Sheets of paper coloured or covered
with gold or silver leaf, and embossed with various patterns, are
used for covering books, and for many ornamental purposes. The
figures upon these are produced by the same process, that of
passing the sheets of paper between engraved rollers.
Of copying by stamping
128. This mode of copying is extensively employed in the
arts. It is generally executed by means of large presses worked
with a screw and heavy flywheel. The materials on which the
copies are impressed are most frequently metals, and the process
is sometimes executed when they are hot, and in one case when the
metal is in a state between solidity and fluidity.
129. Coins and medals. The whole of the coins which circulate
as money are produced by this mode of copying. The screw presses
are either worked by manual labour, by water, or by steam power.
The mint which was sent a few years since to Calcutta was capable
of coining 200,000 pieces a day. Medals, which usually have their
figures in higher relief than coins, are produced by similar
means; but a single blow is rarely sufficient to bring them to
perfection, and the compression of the metal which arises from
the first blow renders it too hard to receive many subsequent
blows without injury to the die. It is therefore, after being
struck, removed to a furnace, in which it is carefully heated
red-hot and annealed, after which operation it is again placed
between the dies, and receives additional blows. For medals, on
which the figures are very prominent, these processes must be
repeated many times. One of the largest medals hitherto struck
underwent them nearly a hundred times before it was completed.
130. Ornaments for military accoutrements, and furniture.
These are usually of brass, and are stamped up out of solid or
sheet brass by placing it between dies, and allowing a heavy
weight to drop upon the upper die from a height of from five to
fifteen feet.
131. Buttons and nail heads. Buttons embossed with crests or
other devices are produced by the same means; and some of those
which are plain receive their hemispherical form from the dies in
which they are struck. The heads of several kinds of nails which
are portions of spheres, or polyhedrons, are also formed by these
132. Of a process for copying, called in France clichee. This
curious method of copying by stamping is applied to medals, and
in some cases to forming stereotype plates. There exists a range
of temperature previous to the melting point of several of the
alloys of lead, tin, and antimony, in which the compound is
neither solid, nor yet fluid. In this kind of pasty state it is
placed in a box under a die, which descends upon it with
considerable force. The blow drives the metal into the finest
lines of the die, and the coldness of the latter immediately
solidifies the whole mass. A quantity of the half-melted metal is
scattered in all directions by the blow, and is retained by the
sides of the box in which the process is carried on. The work
thus produced is admirable for its sharpness, but has not the
finished form of a piece just leaving the coining-press: the
sides are ragged, and it must be trimmed, and its thickness
equalized in the lathe.
Of copying by punching
133. This mode of copying consists in driving a steel punch
through the substance to be cut, either by a blow or by pressure.
In some cases the object is to copy the aperture, and the
substance separated from the plate is rejected; in other cases
the small pieces cut out are the objects of the workman's labour.
134. Punching iron plate for boilers. The steel punch used
for this purpose is from three-eighths to three-quarters of an
inch in diameter, and drives out a circular disk from a plate of
iron from one-quarter to five eighths of an inch thick.
135. Punching tinned iron. The ornamental patterns of open
work which decorate the tinned and japanned wares in general use,
are rarely punched by the workman who makes them. In London the
art of punching out these patterns in screw-presses is carried on
as a separate trade; and large quantities of sheet tin are thus
perforated for cullenders, wine-strainers, borders of waiters,
and other similar purposes. The perfection and the precision to
which the art has been carried are remarkable. Sheets of copper,
too, are punched with small holes about the hundredth of an inch
in diameter, in such multitudes that more of the sheet metal is
removed than remains behind; and plates of tin have been
perforated with above three thousand holes in each square inch.
136. The inlaid plates of brass and rosewood, called buhl
work, which ornament our furniture, are, in some instances,
formed by punching; but in this case, both the parts cut out, and
those which remain, are in many cases employed. In the remaining
illustrations of the art of copying by punching, the part made
use of is that which is punched out.
137. Cards for guns. The substitution of a circular disk of
thin card instead of paper, for retaining in its place the charge
of a fowling-piece, is attended with considerable advantage. It
would, however, be of little avail, unless an easy method was
contrived of producing an unlimited number of cards, each exactly
fitting the bore of the barrel. The small steel tool used for
this purpose cuts out innumerable circles similar to its cutting
end, each of which precisely fills the barrel for which it was
138. Ornaments of gilt paper. The golden stars, leaves, and
other devices, sold in shops for the purpose of ornamenting
articles made of paper and pasteboard, and other fancy works, are
cut by punches of various forms out of sheets of gilt paper.
139. Steel chains. The chain used in connecting the
mainspring and fusee in watches and clocks, is composed of small
pieces of sheet steel, and it is of great importance that each of
these pieces should be of exactly the same size. The links are of
two sorts; one of them consisting of a single oblong piece of
steel with two holes in it, and the other formed by connecting
two of the same pieces of steel, placed parallel to each other,
and at a small distance apart, by two rivets. The two kinds of
links occur alternately in the chain: each end of the single
pieces being placed between the ends of two others, and connected
with them by a rivet passing through all three. If the rivet
holes in the pieces for the double links are not precisely at
equal distances, the chain will not be straight, and will,
consequently, be unfit for its purpose.
Copying with elongation
140. In this species of copying there exists but little
resemblance between the copy and the original. It is the
cross-section only of the thing produced which is similar to the
tool through which it passes. When the substances to be operated
upon are hard, they must frequently pass in succession through
several holes, and it is in some cases necessary to anneal them
at intervals.
141. Wire drawing. The metal to be converted into wire is
made of a cylindrical form, and drawn forcibly through circular
holes in plates of steel: at each passage it becomes smaller.
and, when finished, its section at any point is a precise copy of
the last hole through which it passed. Upon the larger kinds of
wire, fine lines may sometimes be traced, running longitudinally.
these arise from slight imperfections in the holes of the
draw-plates. For many purposes of the arts, wire, the section of
which is square or half round, is required: the same method of
making it is pursued, except that the holes through which it is
drawn are in such cases themselves square, or half-round, or of
whatever other form the wire is required to be. A species of wire
is made, the section of which resembles a star with from six to
twelve rays; this is called pinion wire, and is used by the
clockmakers. They file away all the rays from a short piece,
except from about half an inch near one end: this becomes a
pinion for a clock; and the leaves or teeth are already burnished
and finished, from having passed through the draw-plate.
142. Tube drawing. The art of forming tubes of uniform
diameter is nearly similar in its mode of execution to wire
drawing. The sheet brass is bent round and soldered so as to form
a hollow cylinder; and if the diameter outside is that which is
required to be uniform, it is drawn through a succession of
holes, as in wire drawing: If the inside diameter is to be
uniform, a succession of steel cylinders, called triblets, are
drawn through the brass tube. In making tubes for telescopes, it
is necessary that both the inside and outside should be uniform.
A steel triblet, therefore, is first passed into the tube, which
is then drawn through a succession of holes, until the outside
diameter is reduced to the required size. The metal of which the
tube is formed is condensed between these holes and the steel
cylinder within; and when the latter is withdrawn the internal
surface appears polished. The brass tube is considerably extended
by this process, sometimes even to double its first length.
143. Leaden pipes. Leaden pipes for the conveyance of water
were formerly made by casting; but it has been found that they
can be made both cheaper and better by drawing them through holes
in the manner last described. A cylinder of lead, of five or six
inches in diameter and about two feet long, is cast with a small
hole through its axis, and an iron triblet of about fifteen feet
in length is forced into the hole. It is then drawn through a
series of holes, until the lead is extended upon the triblet from
one end to the other, and is of the proper thickness in
proportion to the size of the pipe.
144. Iron rolling. When cylinders of iron of greater
thickness than wire are required, they are formed by passing
wrought iron between rollers, each of which has sunk in it a
semi-cylindrical groove; and as such rollers rarely touch
accurately, a longitudinal line will usually be observed in the
cylinders so manufactured. Bar iron is thus shaped into all the
various forms of round, square, half-round, oval, etc. in which
it occurs in commerce. A particular species of moulding is thus
made, which resembles, in its section, that part of the frame of
a window which separates two adjacent panes of glass. Being much
stronger than wood, it can be considerably reduced in thickness,
and consequently offers less obstruction to the light; it is much
used for skylights.
145. It is sometimes required that the iron thus produced
should not be of uniform thickness throughout. This is the case
in bars for railroads, where greater depth is required towards
the middle of the rail which is at the greatest distance from the
supports. This form is produced by cutting the groove in the
rollers deeper at those parts where additional strength is
required, so that the hollow which surrounds the roller would, if
it could be unwound, be a mould of the shape the iron is intended
to fit.
146. Vermicelli. The various forms into which this paste is
made are given by forcing it through holes in tin plate. It
passes through them, and appears on the other side in long
strings. The cook makes use of the same method in preparing
butter and ornamental pastry for the table, and the confectioner
in forming cylindrical lozenges of various composition.
Of copying with altered dimensions
147. Of the pentagraph. This mode of copying is chiefly used
for drawings or maps: the instrument is simple; and, although
usually employed in reducing, is capable of enlarging the size of
the copy. An automaton figure, exhibited in London a short time
since, which drew profiles of its visitors, was regulated by a
mechanism on this principle. A small aperture in the wall,
opposite the seat in which the person is placed whose profile is
taken, conceals a camera lucida, which is placed in an adjoining
apartment: and an assistant, by moving a point, connected by a
pentagraph with the hand of the automaton, over the outline of
the head, causes the figure to trace a corresponding profile.
148. By turning. The art of turning might perhaps itself be
classed amongst the arts of copying. A steel axis, called a
mandril, having a pulley attached to the middle of it, is
supported at one end either by a conical point, or by a
cylindrical collar, and at the other end by another collar,
through which it passes. The extremity which projects beyond this
last collar is formed into a screw, by which various instruments,
called chucks, can be attached to it. These chucks are intended
to hold the various materials to be submitted to the operation of
turning, and have a great variety of forms. The mandril with the
chuck is made to revolve by a strap which passes over the pulley
that is attached to it, and likewise over a larger wheel moved
either by the foot, or by its connection with steam or water
power. All work which is executed on a mandril partakes in some
measure of the irregularities in the form of that mandril; and
the perfect circularity of section which ought to exist in every
part of the work, can only be ensured by an equal accuracy in the
mandril and its collar.
149. Rose engine turning. This elegant art depends in a great
measure on copying. Circular plates of metal called rosettes,
having various indentations on the surfaces and edges, are fixed
on the mandril, which admits of a movement either end-wise or
laterally: a fixed obstacle called the 'touch', against which the
rosettes are pressed by a spring, obliges the mandril to follow
their indentations, and thus causes the cutting tool to trace out
the same pattern on the work. The distance of the cutting tool
from the centre being usually less than the radius of the
rosette, causes the copy to be much diminished.
150. Copying dies. A lathe has been long known in France, and
recently been used at the English mint for copying dies. A blunt
point is carried by a very slow spiral movement successively over
every part of the die to be copied, and is pressed by a weight
into all the cavities; while a cutting point connected with it by
the machine traverses the face of a piece of soft steel, in which
it cuts the device of the original die on the same or on a
diminished scale. The degree of excellence of the copy increases
in proportion as it is smaller than the original. The die of a
crown-piece will furnish by copy a very tolerable die for a
sixpence. But the chief use to be expected from this lathe is to
prepare all the coarser parts, and leave only the finer and more
expressive lines for the skill and genius of the artist.
151. Shoe-last making engine. An instrument not very unlike
in principle was proposed for the purpose of making shoe lasts. A
pattern last of a shoe for the right foot was placed in one part
of the apparatus, and when the machine was moved, two pieces of
wood, placed in another part which had been previously adjusted
by screws, were cut into lasts greater or less than the original,
as was desired; and although the pattern was for the right foot,
one of the lasts was for the left, an effect which was produced
by merely interposing a wheel which reversed the motion between
the two pieces of wood to be cut into lasts.
152. Engine for copying busts. Many years since, the late Mr
Watt amused himself with constructing an engine to produce copies
of busts or statues, either of the same size as the original, or
in a diminished proportion. The substances on which he operated
were various, and some of the results were shewn to his friends,
but the mechanism by which they were made has never been
described. More recently, Mr Hawkins, who, nearly at the same
time, had also contrived a similar machine, has placed it in the
hands of an artist, who has made copies in ivory from a variety
of busts. The art of multiplying in different sizes the figures
of the sculptor, aided by that of rendering their acquisition
cheap through the art of casting, promises to give additional
value to his productions, and to diffuse more widely the pleasure
arising from their possession.
153. Screw cutting. When this operation is performed in the
lathe by means of a screw upon the mandril, it is essentially an
art of copying, but it is only the number of threads in a given
length which is copied; the form of the thread, and length as
well as the diameter of the screw to be cut, are entirely
independent of those from which the copy is made. There is
another method of cutting screws in a lathe by means of one
pattern screw, which, being connected by wheels with the mandril,
guides the cutting point. In this process, unless the time of
revolution of the mandril is the same as that of the screw which
guides the cutting point, the number of threads in a given length
will be different. If the mandril move quicker than the cutting
point, the screw which is produced will be finer than the
original; if it move slower, the copy will be more coarse than
the original. The screw thus generated may be finer or coarser--
it may be larger or smaller in diameter--it may have the same or
a greater number of threads than that from which it is copied;
yet all the defects which exist in the original will be
accurately transmitted, under the modified circumstances, to
every individual generated from it.
154. Printing from copper plates with altered dimensions.
Some very singular specimens of an art of copying, not yet made
public, were brought from Paris a few years since. A watchmaker
in that city, of the name of Gonord, had contrived a method by
which he could take from the same copperplate impressions of
different sizes, either larger or smaller than the original
design. Having procured four impressions of a parrot, surrounded
by a circle, executed in this manner, I shewed them to the late
Mr Lowry, an engraver equally distinguished for his skill, and
for the many mechanical contrivances with which he enriched his
art. The relative dimensions of the several impressions were 5.5,
6.3, 8.4, 15.0, so that the largest was nearly three times the
linear size of the smallest; and Mr Lowry assured me, that he was
unable to detect any lines in one which had not corresponding
lines in the others. There appeared to be a difference in the
quantity of ink, but none in the traces of the engraving; and,
from the general appearance, it was conjectured that the largest
but one was the original impression from the copperplate.
The means by which this singular operation was executed have
not been published; but two conjectures were formed at the time
which merit notice. It was supposed that the artist was in
possession of some method of transferring the ink from the lines
of a copperplate to the surface of some fluid, and of
retransferring the impression from the fluid to paper. If this
could be accomplished, the print would, in the first instance, be
of exactly the same size as the copper from which it was derived;
but if the fluid were contained in a vessel having the form of an
inverted cone, with a small aperture at the bottom, the liquid
might be lowered or raised in the vessel by gradual abstraction
or addition through the apex of the cone; in this case, the
surface to which the printing-ink adhered would diminish or
enlarge, and in this altered state the impression might be
retransferred to paper. It must be admitted, that this
conjectural explanation is liable to very considerable
difficulties; for, although the converse operation of taking an
impression from a liquid surface has a parallel in the art of
marbling paper, the possibility of transferring the ink from the
copper to the fluid requires to be proved.
Another and more plausible explanation is founded on the
elastic nature of the compound of glue and treacle, a substance
already in use in transferring engravings to earthenware. It is
conjectured, that an impression from the copperplate is taken
upon a large sheet of this composition; that this sheet is then
stretched in both directions, and that the ink thus expanded is
transferred to paper. If the copy is required to be smaller than
the original, the elastic substance must first be stretched, and
then receive the impression from the copperplate: on removing the
tension it will contract, and thus reduce the size of the design.
It is possible that one transfer may not in all cases suffice; as
the extensibility of the composition of glue and treacle,
although considerable, is still limited. Perhaps sheets of India
rubber of uniform texture and thickness, may be found to answer
better than this composition; or possibly the ink might be
transferred from the copper plate to the surface of a bottle of
this gum, which bottle might, after being expanded by forcing air
into it, give up the enlarged impression to paper. As it would
require considerable time to produce impressions in this manner,
and there might arise some difficulty in making them all of
precisely the same size, the process might be rendered more
certain and expeditious by performing that part of the operation
which depends on the enlargement or diminution of the design only
once; and, instead of printing from the soft substance.
transferring the design from it to stone: thus a considerable
portion of the work would be reduced to an art already well
known, that of lithography. This idea receives some confirmation
from the fact, that in another set of specimens, consisting of a
map of St Petersburgh, of several sizes, a very short line,
evidently an accidental defect, occurs in all the impressions of
one particular size, but not in any of a different size.
155. Machine to produce engraving from medals. An instrument
was contrived, a long time ago, and is described in the Manuel de
Tourneur, by which copperplate engravings are produced from
medals and other objects in relief. The medal and the copper are
fixed on two sliding plates at right angles to each other, so
connected that, when the plate on which the medal is fixed is
raised vertically by a screw, the slide holding the copperplate
is advanced by an equal quantity in the horizontal direction. The
medal is fixed on the vertical slide with its face towards the
copperplate, and a little above it.
A bar, terminating at one end in a tracing point, and at the
other in a short arm, at right angles to the bar, and holding a
diamond point, is placed horizontally above the copper; so that
the tracing point shall touch the medal to which the bar is
perpendicular, and the diamond point shall touch the copperplate
to which the arm is perpendicular.
Under this arrangement, the bar being supposed to move
parallel to itself, and consequently to the copper, if the
tracing point pass over a flat part of the medal, the diamond
point will draw a straight line of equal length upon the copper;
but, if the tracing point pass over any projecting part of the
medal, the deviation from the straight line by the diamond point,
will be exactly equal to the elevation of the corresponding point
of the medal above the rest of the surface. Thus, by the transit
of this tracing point over any line upon the medal, the diamond
will draw upon the copper a section of the medal through that
A screw is attached to the apparatus, so that if the medal be
raised a very small quantity by the screw, the copperplate will
be advanced by the same quantity, and thus a new line of section
may be drawn: and, by continuing this process, the series of
sectional lines on the copper produces the representation of the
medal on a plane: the outline and the form of the figure arising
from the sinuosities of the lines, and from their greater or less
proximity. The effect of this kind of engraving is very striking;
and in some specimens gives a high degree of apparent relief. It
has been practised on plate glass, and is then additionally
curious from the circumstance of the fine lines traced by the
diamond being invisible, except in certain lights.
From this description, it will have been seen that the
engraving on copper must be distorted; that is to say, that the
projection on the copper cannot be the same as that which arises
from a perpendicular projection of each point of the medal upon a
plane parallel to itself. The position of the prominent parts
will be more altered than that of the less elevated; and the
greater the relief of the medal the more distorted will be its
engraved representation. Mr John Bate, son of Mr Bate, of the
Poultry, has contrived an improved machine, for which he has
taken a patent, in which this source of distortion is remedied.
The head, in the title page of the present volume, is copied from
a medal of Roger Bacon, which forms one of a series of medals of
eminent men, struck at the Royal Mint at Munich, and is the first
of the published productions of this new art.(3*)
The inconvenience which arises from too high a relief in the
medal, or in the bust, might be remedied by some mechanical
contrivance, by which the deviation of the diamond point from the
right line (which it would describe when the tracing point
traverses a plane), would be made proportional not to the
elevation of the corresponding point above the plane of the
medal, but to its elevation above some other parallel plane
removed to a fit distance behind it. Thus busts and statues might
be reduced to any required degree of relief.
156. The machine just described naturally suggests other
views which seem to deserve some consideration, and, perhaps,
some experiment. If a medal were placed under the tracing point
of a pentagraph, an engraving tool substituted for the pencil,
and a copperplate in the place of the paper; and if, by some
mechanism, the tracing point, which slides in a vertical plane,
could, as it is carried over the different elevations of the
medal, increase or diminish the depth of the engraved line
proportionally to the actual height of the corresponding point on
the medal, then an engraving would be produced, free at least
from any distortion, although it might be liable to objections of
a different kind. If, by any similar contrivance, instead of
lines, we could make on each point of the copper a dot, varying
in size or depth with the altitude of the corresponding point of
the medal above its plane, than a new species of engraving would
be produced: and the variety of these might again be increased,
by causing the graving point to describe very small circles, of
diameters, varying with the height of the point on the medal
above a given plane; or by making the graving tool consist of
three equidistant points, whose distance increased or diminished
according to some determinate law, dependent on the elevation of
the point represented above the plane of the medal. It would,
perhaps, be difficult to imagine the effects of some of these
kinds of engraving; but they would all possess, in common, the
property of being projections, by parallel lines, of the objects
represented, and the intensity of the shade of the ink would
either vary according to some function of the distance of the
point represented from some given plane, or it would be a little
modified by the distances from the same plane of a few of the
immediately contiguous points.
157. The system of shading maps by means of lines of equal
altitude above the sea bears some analogy to this mode of
representing medals, and if applied to them would produce a
different species of engraved resemblance. The projections on the
plane of the medal, of the section of an imaginary plane, placed
at successive distances above it, with the medal itself, would
produce a likeness of the figure on the medal, in which all the
inclined parts of it would be dark in proportion to their
inclination. Other species of engraving might be conceived by
substituting, instead of the imaginary plane, an imaginary sphere
or other solid, intersecting the figure in the medal.
158. Lace made by caterpillars. A most extraordinary species
of manufacture, which is in a slight degree connected with
copying, has been contrived by an officer of engineers residing
at Munich. It consists of lace, and veils, with open patterns in
them, made entirely by caterpillars. The following is the mode of
proceeding adopted: he makes a paste of the leaves of the plant,
which is the usual food of the species of caterpillar(4*) he
employs, and spreads it thinly over a stone, or other flat
substance. He then, with a camel-hair pencil dipped in olive oil,
draws upon the coating of paste the pattern he wishes the insects
to leave open. This stone is then placed in an inclined position,
and a number of the caterpillars are placed at the bottom. A
peculiar species is chosen, which spins a strong web; and the
animals commencing at the bottom, eat and spin their way up to
the top, carefully avoiding every part touched by the oil, but
devouring all the rest of the paste. The extreme lightness of
these veils, combined with some strength, is truly surprising.
One of them, measuring twenty-six and a half inches by seventeen
inches, weighed only 1.51 grains; a degree of lightness which
will appear more strongly by contrast with other fabrics. One
square yard of the substance of which these veils are made weighs
4 1/3 grains, whilst one square yard of silk gauze weighs 137
grains, and one square yard of the finest patent net weighs 262
1/2 grains. The ladies' coloured muslin dresses, mentioned in the
table subjoined, cost ten shillings per dress, and each weigh six
ounces; the cotton from which they are made weighing nearly six
and two-ninth ounces avoirdupois weight.
Weight of one square yard of each of the following articles(5*)
                                                     Weight of
                                        Weight      cotton used
                             Value    finished of    in waking
                            per yard  one square    one square
 Description of goods       measure     yard            yard
                            s. d.    Troy grains    Troy grains
 Caterpillar veils           --         4 1/3           --
 Silk gauze 3-4 wide        1  0         137            --
 Finest patent net           --       262 1/2           --
 Fine cambric muslin         --          551            --
 6-4ths jaconet muslin      2  0         613           670
 Ladies' coloured muslin dresses 3 0     788           875
 6-4ths cambric             1  2         972          1069
 9-8ths calico              0  9         988          1085
 1/2-yard nankeen           0  8        2240          2432
159. This enumeration, which is far from complete, of the
arts in which copying is the foundation, may be terminated with
an example which has long been under the eye of the reader;
although few, perhaps, are aware of the number of repeated
copyings of which these very pages are the subject.
1. They are copies, by printing, from stereotype plates.
2. These stereotype plates are copied, by the art of casting,
from moulds formed of plaster of Paris.
3. These moulds are themselves copied by casting the plaster
in a liquid state upon the moveable types set up by the
[It is here that the union of the intellectual and the
mechanical departments takes place. The mysteries, however, of an
author's copying, form no part of our enquiry, although it may be
fairly remarked, that, in numerous instances, the mental far
eclipses the mechanical copyist.]
4. These moveable types, the obedient messengers of the most
opposite thoughts, the most conflicting theories, are themselves
copies by casting from moulds of copper called matrices.
5. The lower part of those matrices, bearing the impressions
of the letters or characters, are copies, by punching, from steel
punches on which the same characters exist in relief.
6. These steel punches are not themselves entirely exempted
from the great principle of art. Many of the cavities which exist
in them, such as those in the middle of the punches for the
letters a, b, d, e, g, etc., are produced from other steel
punches in which these parts are in relief.
We have thus traced through six successive stages of copying
the mechanical art of printing from stereotype plates: the
principle of copying contributing in this, as in every other
department of manufacture, to the uniformity and the cheapness of
the work produced.
1. The late Mr Lowry.
2. I posses a lithographic reprint of a page of a table, which
appears, from the from of the type, to have been several years
3. The construction of the engraving becomes evident on examining
it with a lens of sufficient power to show the continuity of the
4. The Phalaena pardilla, which feeds on the Prunus padus.
5. Some of these weights and measures are calculated from a
statement in the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons
on Printed Cotton Goods; and the widths of the pieces there given
are presumed to be the real widths, not those by which they are
called in the retail shops.
Chapter 12
On the Method of Observing Manufacturies
160. Having now reviewed the mechanical principles which
regulate the successful application of mechanical science to
great establishments for the production of manufactured goods, it
remains for us to suggest a few enquiries, and to offer a few
observations, to those whom an enlightened curiosity may lead to
examine the factories of this or of other countries.
The remark--that it is important to commit to writing all
information as soon as possible after it is received, especially
when numbers are concerned--applies to almost all enquiries. It
is frequently impossible to do this at the time of visiting an
establishment, although not the slightest jealousy may exist; the
mere act of writing information as it is communicated orally, is
a great interruption to the examination of machinery. In such
cases, therefore, it is advisable to have prepared beforehand the
questions to be asked, and to leave blanks for the answers, which
may be quickly inserted, as, in a multitude of cases, they are
merely numbers. Those who have not tried this plan will be
surprised at the quantity of information which may, through its
means, be acquired, even by a short examination. Each manufacture
requires its own list of questions, which will be better drawn up
after the first visit. The following outline, which is very
generally applicable, may suffice for an illustration; and to
save time, it may be convenient to have it printed; and to bind
up, in the form of a pocket-book, a hundred copies of the
skeleton forms for processes, with about twenty of the general
Outlines of a description of any of the mechanical arts ought to
contain information on the following points
Brief sketch of its history, particularly the date of its
invention, and of its introduction into England.
Short reference to the previous states through which the
material employed has passed: the places whence it is procured:
the price of a given quantity.
[The various processes must now be described successively
according to the plan which will be given in (161); after which
the following information should be given.]
Are various kinds of the same article made in one establishment,
or at different ones, and are there differences in the processes?
To what defects are the goods liable?
What substitutes or adulterations are used?
What waste is allowed by the master?
What tests are there of the goodness of the manufactured
The weight of a given quantity, or number, and a comparison
with that of the raw material?
The wholesale price at the manufactory? (L  s. d.) per (  )
The usual retail price? (L  s. d.)
Who provide tools? Master, or men? Who repair tools? Master,
or men?
What is the expense of the machinery?
What is the annual wear and tear, and what its duration?
Is there any particular trade for making it? Where?
Is it made and repaired at the manufactory?
In any manufactory visited, state the number ( ) of
processes; and of the persons employed in each process; and the
quantity of manufactured produce.
What quantity is made annually in Great Britain?
Is the capital invested in manufactories large or small?
Mention the principal seats of this manufacture in England;
and if it flourishes abroad, the places where it is established.
The duty, excise. or bounty, if any, should be stated, and
any alterations in past years; and also the amount exported or
imported for a series of years.
Whether the same article, but of superior, equal, or inferior
make, is imported?
Does the manufacturer export, or sell, to a middleman, who
supplies the merchant?
To what countries is it chiefly sent? and in what goods are
the returns made?
161. Each process requires a separate skeleton, and the
following outline will be sufficient for many different
  Process ( ) Manufacture ( )
    Place ( ) Name ( )
         date    183
The mode of executing it, with sketches of the tools or
machine if necessary.
The number of persons necessary to attend the machine. Are
the operatives men. ( ) women, ( ) or children? ( ) If mixed,
what are the proportions?
What is the pay of each? (s. d.) (s. d. ) (s. d.) per ( )
What number ( ) of hours do they work per day?
Is it usual, or necessary, to work night and day without
stopping? Is the labour performed by piece--or by day-work?
Who provide tools? Master, or men? Who repair tools? Master,
or men? What degree of skill is required, and how many years' ( )
The number of times ( ) the operation is repeated per day or
per hour?
The number of failures ( ) in a thousand?
Whether the workmen or the master loses by the broken or
damaged articles?
What is done with them?
If the same process is repeated several times, state the
diminution or increase of measure, and the loss, if any, at each
162. In this skeleton, the answers to the questions are in
some cases printed, as "Who repair the tools?--Masters, Men"; in
order that the proper answer may be underlined with a pencil. In
filling up the answers which require numbers, some care should be
taken: for instance, if the observer stands with his watch in his
hand before a person heading a pin, the workman will almost
certainly increase his speed, and the estimate will be too large.
A much better average will result from enquiring what quantity is
considered a fair day's work. When this cannot be ascertained,
the number of operations performed in a given time may frequently
be counted when the workman is quite unconscious that any person
is observing him. Thus the sound made by the motion of a loom may
enable the observer to count the number of strokes per minute,
even though he is outside the building in which it is contained.
M. Coulomb, who had great experience in making such observations,
cautions those who may repeat his experiments against being
deceived by such circumstances: 'Je prie' (says he) 'ceux qui
voudront les repeter, s'ils n'ont pas le temps de mesurer les
resultats apres plusiers jours d'un travail continu, d'observer
les ouvriers a differentes reprises dans la journee, sans qu'ils
sachent qu'ils sont observes. L'on ne peut trop avertir combien
l'on risque de se tromper en calculant, soit la vitesse, soit le
temps effectif du travail, d'apres une observation de quelques
minutes.' Memoires de l'Institut. vol. II, p. 247. It frequently
happens, that in a series of answers to such questions, there are
some which, although given directly, may also be deduced by a
short calculation from others that are given or known; and
advantage should always be taken of these verifications, in order
to confirm the accuracy of the statements; or, in case they are
discordant, to correct the apparent anomalies. In putting lists
of questions into the hands of a person undertaking to give
information upon any subject, it is in some cases desirable to
have an estimate of the soundness of his judgement. The questions
can frequently be so shaped, that some of them may indirectly
depend on others; and one or two may be inserted whose answers
can be obtained by other methods: nor is this process without its
advantages in enabling us to determine the value of our own
judgement. The habit of forming an estimate of the magnitude of
any object or the frequency of any occurrence, immediately
previous to our applying to it measure or number, tends
materially to fix the attention and to improve the judgement.
Section II
On the domestic and political economy of manufactures
Chapter 13
Distinction Between Making and Manufacturing
163. The economical principles which regulate the application
of machinery, and which govern the interior of all our great
factories, are quite as essential to the prosperity of a great
commercial country, as are those mechanical principles, the
operation of which has been illustrated in the preceding section.
The first object of every person who attempts to make any
article of consumption, is, or ought to be, to produce it in a
perfect form; but in order to secure to himself the greatest and
most permanent profit, he must endeavour, by every means in his
power, to render the new luxury or want which he has created,
cheap to those who consume it. The larger number of purchasers
thus obtained will, in some measure, secure him from the caprices
of fashion, whilst it furnishes a far greater amount of profit,
although the contribution of each individual is diminished. The
importance of collecting data, for the purpose of enabling the
manufacturer to ascertain how many additional customers he will
acquire by a given reduction in the price of the article he
makes, cannot be too strongly pressed upon the attention of those
who employ themselves in statistical enquiries. In some ranks of
society, no diminution of price can bring forward a great
additional number of customers; whilst, amongst other classes, a
very small reduction will so enlarge the sale, as to yield a
considerable increase of profit. Materials calculated to assist
in forming a table of the numbers of persons who possess incomes
of different amount, occur in the 14th Report of the
Commissioners of Revenue Inquiry, which includes a statement of
the amount of personal property proved at the legacy office
during one year; the number of the various classes of testators;
and an account of the number of persons receiving dividends from
funded property, distributed into classes. Such a table, formed
even approximately, and exhibited in the form of a curve, might
be of service.
164. A considerable difference exists between the terms
making and manufacturing. The former refers to the production of
a small, the latter to that of a very large number of
individuals; and the difference is well illustrated in the
evidence, given before the Committee of the House of Commons, on
the Export of Tools and Machinery. On that occasion Mr Maudslay
stated, that he had been applied to by the Navy Board to make
iron tanks for ships, and that he was rather unwilling to do so,
as he considered it to be out of his line of business; however,
he undertook to make one as a trial. The holes for the rivets
were punched by hand-punching with presses, and the 1680 holes
which each tank required cost seven shillings. The Navy Board,
who required a large number, proposed that he should supply forty
tanks a week for many months. The magnitude of the order made it
worth his while to commence manufacture, and to make tools for
the express business. Mr Maudslay therefore offered, if the Board
would give him an order for two thousand tanks, to supply them at
the rate of eighty per week. The order was given: he made tools,
by which the expense of punching the rivet-holes of each tank was
reduced from seven shillings to ninepence; he supplied
ninety-eight tanks a week for six months, and the price charged
for each was reduced from seventeen pounds to fifteen.
165. If, therefore, the maker of an article wish to become a
manufacturer, in the more extended sense of the term, he must
attend to other principles besides those mechanical ones on which
the successful execution of his work depends; and he must
carefully arrange the whole system of his factory in such a
manner, that the article he sells to the public may be produced
at as small a cost as possible. Should he not be actuated at
first by motives so remote, he will, in every highly civilized
country, be compelled, by the powerful stimulus of competition,
to attend to the principles of the domestic economy of
manufactures. At every reduction in price of the commodity he
makes, he will be driven to seek compensation in a saving of
expense in some of the processes; and his ingenuity will be
sharpened in this enquiry by the hope of being able in his turn
to undersell his rivals. The benefit of the improvements thus
engendered is, for a short time, confined to those from whose
ingenuity they derive their origin; but when a sufficient
experience has proved their value, they become generally adopted,
until in their turn they are superseded by other more economical
Chapter 14
Of Money as a Medium of Exchange
166. In the earlier stages of societies the interchange of
the few commodities required was conducted by barter, but as soon
as their wants became more varied and extensive, the necessity of
having some common measure of the value of all commodities--
itself capable of subdivision--became apparent: thus money was
introduced. In some countries shells have been employed for this
purpose; but civilized nations have, by common consent, adopted
the precious metals.(1*) The sovereign power has, in most
countries, assumed the right of coining; or, in other words, the
right of stamping with distinguishing marks, pieces of metal
having certain forms and weights and a certain degree of
fineness: the marks becoming a guarantee, to the people amongst
whom the money circulates, that each piece is of the required
weight and quality.
The expense of manufacturing gold into coin, and that of the
loss arising from wear, as well as of interest on the capital
invested in it, must either be defrayed by the State, or be
compensated by a small reduction in its weight, and is a far less
cost to the nation than the loss of time and inconvenience which
would arise from a system of exchange or barter.
167. These coins are liable to two inconveniences: they may
be manufactured privately by individuals, of the same quality,
and similarly stamped; or imitations may be made of inferior
metal, or of diminished weight. The first of these inconveniences
would be easily remedied by making the current value of the coin
nearly equal to that of the same weight of the metal; and the
second would be obviated by the caution of individuals in
examining the external characters of each coin, and partly by the
punishment inflicted by the State on the perpetrators of such
168. The subdivisions of money vary in different countries,
and much time may be lost by an inconvenient system of division.
The effect is felt in keeping extensive accounts, and
particularly in calculating the interest on loans, or the
discount upon bills of exchange. The decimal system is the best
adapted to facilitate all such calculations; and it becomes an
interesting question to consider whether our own currency might
not be converted into one decimally divided. The great step, that
of abolishing the guinea, has already been taken without any
inconvenience, and but little is now required to render the
change complete.
169. If, whenever it becomes necessary to call in the
half-crowns, a new coin of the value of two shillings were
issued, which should be called by some name implying a unit (a
prince, for instance), we should have the tenth part of a
sovereign. A few years after, when the public were familiar with
this coin, it might be divided into one hundred instead of
ninety-six farthings; and it would then consist of twenty-five
pence, each of which would be four per cent. less in value than
the former penny. The shillings and six-pences being then
withdrawn from circulation, their place might be supplied with
silver coins each worth five of the new pence, and by others of
ten-pence, and of twopence halfpenny; the latter coin, having a
distinct name, would be the tenth part of a prince.
170. The various manufactured commodities, and the various
property possessed by the inhabitants of a country, all become
measured by the standard thus introduced. But it must be observed
that the value of gold is itself variable; and that, like all
other commodities, its price depends on the extent of the demand
compared with that of the supply.
171. As transactions multiply, and the sums to be paid become
large, the actual transfer of the precious metals from one
individual to another is attended with inconvenience and
difficulty, and it is found more convenient to substitute written
promises to pay on demand specified quantities of gold. These
promises are called bank-notes; and when the person or body
issuing them is known to be able to fulfil the pledge, the note
will circulate for a long time before it gets into the hands of
any person who may wish to make use of the gold it represents.
These paper representatives supply the place of a certain
quantity of gold; and, being much cheaper, a large portion of the
expense of a metallic circulation is saved by their employment.
172. As commercial transactions increase, the transfer of
bank-notes is, to a considerable extent, superseded by shorter
processes. Banks are established, into which all monies are paid,
and out of which all payments are made, through written orders
called checks, drawn by those who keep accounts with them. In a
large capital, each bank receives, through its numerous
customers, checks payable by every other; and if clerks were sent
round to receive the amount in banknotes due from each, it would
occupy much time, and be attended with some risk and
173. Clearing house. In London this is avoided, by making all
checks paid in to bankers pass through what is technically called
The Clearing House. In a large room in Lombard Street, about
thirty clerks from the several London bankers take their
stations, in alphabetical order, at desks placed round the room;
each having a small open box by his side, and the name of the
firm to which he belongs in large characters on the wall above
his head. From time to time other clerks from every house enter
the room, and, passing along, drop into the box the checks due by
that firm to the house from which this distributor is sent. The
clerk at the table enters the amount of the several checks in a
book previously prepared, under the name of the bank to which
they are respectively due.
Four o'clock in the afternoon is the latest hour to which the
boxes are open to receive checks; and at a few minutes before
that time, some signs of increased activity begin to appear in
this previously quiet and business-like scene. Numerous clerks
then arrive, anxious to distribute, up to the latest possible
moment, the checks which have been paid into the houses of their
At four o'clock all the boxes are removed, and each clerk
adds up the amount of the checks put into his box and payable by
his own to other houses. He also receives another book from his
own house, containing the amounts of the checks which their
distributing clerk has put into the box of every other banker.
Having compared these, he writes out the balances due to or from
his own house, opposite the name of each of the other banks; and
having verified this statement by a comparison with the similar
list made by the clerks of those houses, he sends to his own bank
the general balance resulting from this sheet, the amount of
which, if it is due from that to other houses, is sent back in
At five o'clock the Inspector takes his seat; when each
clerk, who has upon the result of all the transactions a balance
to pay to various other houses, pays it to the inspector, who
gives a ticket for the amount. The clerks of those houses to whom
money is due, then receive the several sums from the inspector,
who takes from them a ticket for the amount. Thus the whole of
these payments are made by a double system of balance, a very
small amount of bank-notes passing from hand to hand, and
scarcely any coin.
174. It is difficult to form a satisfactory estimate of the
sums which daily pass through this operation: they fluctuate from
two millions to perhaps fifteen. About two millions and a half
may possibly be considered as something like an average,
requiring for its adjustment, perhaps, L200,000 in bank notes and
L20 in specie. By an agreement between the different bankers, all
checks which have the name of any firm written across them must
pass through the clearing house: consequently, if any such check
should be lost, the firm on which it is drawn would refuse to pay
it at the counter; a circumstance which adds greatly to the
convenience of commerce.
The advantage of this system is such, that two meetings a day
have been recently established--one at twelve, the other at
three o'clock; but the payment of balances takes place once only,
at five o'clock.
If all the private banks kept accounts with the Bank of
England, it would be possible to carry on the whole of these
transactions with a still smaller quantity of circulating medium.
175. In reflecting on the facility with which these vast
transactions are accomplished--supposing, for the sake of
argument, that they form only the fourth part of the daily
transactions of the whole community--it is impossible not to be
struck with the importance of interfering as little as possible
with their natural adjustment. Each payment indicates a transfer
of property made for the benefit of both parties; and if it were
possible, which it is not, to place, by legal or other means,
some impediment in the way which only amounted to one-eighth per
cent, such a species of friction would produce a useless
expenditure of nearly four millions annually: a circumstance
which is deserving the attention of those who doubt the good
policy of the expense incurred by using the precious metals for
one portion of the currency of the country.
176. One of the most obvious differences between a metallic
and a paper circulation is, that the coin can never, by any panic
or national danger, be reduced below the value of bullion in
other civilized countries; whilst a paper currency may, from the
action of such causes, totally lose its value. Both metallic and
paper money, it is true, may be depreciated, but with very
different effects.
1. Depreciation of coin. The state may issue coin of the same
nominal value, but containing only half the original quantity of
gold, mixed with some cheap alloy; but every piece so issued
bears about with it internal evidence of the amount of the
depreciation: it is not necessary that every successive
proprietor should analyse the new coin; but a few having done so,
its intrinsic worth becomes publicly known. Of course the coin
previously in circulation is now more valuable as bullion, and
quickly disappears. All future purchases adjust themselves to the
new standard, and prices are quickly doubled; but all past
contracts also are vitiated, and all persons to whom money is
owing, if compelled to receive payment in the new coin, are
robbed of one-half of their debt, which is confiscated for the
benefit of the debtor.
2. Depreciation of paper. The depreciation of paper money
follows a different course. If, by any act of the Government
paper is ordained to be a legal tender for debts, and, at the
same time, ceases to be exchangeable for coin, those who have
occasion to purchase of foreigners, who are not compelled to take
the notes, will make some of their payments in gold; and if the
issue of paper, unchecked by the power of demanding the gold it
represents, be continued, the whole of the coin will soon
disappear. But the public, who are obliged to take the notes, are
unable, by any internal evidence, to detect the extent of their
depreciation; it varies with the amount in circulation, and may
go on till the notes shall be worth little more than the paper on
which they are printed. During the whole of this time every
creditor is suffering to an extent which he cannot measure; and
every bargain is rendered uncertain in its advantage, by the
continually changing value of the medium through which it is
conducted. This calamitous course has actually been run in
several countries: in France, it reached nearly its extreme limit
during the existence of assignats. We have ourselves experienced
some portion of the misery it creates; but by a return to sounder
principles, have happily escaped the destruction and ruin which
always attends the completion of that career.
177. Every person in a civilized country requires, according
to his station in life, the use of a certain quantity of money,
to make the ordinary purchases of the articles which he consumes.
The same individual pieces of coin, it is true, circulate again
and again, in the same district: the identical piece of silver,
received by the workman on Saturday night, passing through the
hands of the butcher, the baker, and the small tradesman, is,
perhaps, given by the latter to the manufacturer in exchange for
his check, and is again paid into the hands of the workman at the
end of the succeeding week. Any deficiency in this supply of
money is attended with considerable inconvenience to all parties.
If it be only in the smaller coins, the first effect is a
difficulty in procuring small change; then a disposition in the
shopkeepers to refuse change unless a purchase to a certain
amount be made; and, finally, a premium in money will be given
for changing the larger denominations of coin.
Thus money itself varies in price, when measured by other
money in larger masses: and this effect takes place whether the
circulating medium is metallic or of paper. These effects have
constantly occurred, and particularly during the late war; and,
in order to relieve it, silver tokens for various sums were
issued by the Bank of England.
The inconvenience and loss arising from a deficiency of small
money fall with greatest weight on the classes whose means are
least; for the wealthier buyers can readily procure credit for
their small purchases, until their bill amounts to one of the
larger coins.
178. As money, when kept in a drawer, produces nothing, few
people, in any situation of life, will keep, either in coin or in
notes, more than is immediately necessary for their use; when,
therefore, there are no profitable modes of employing money, a
superabundance of paper will return to the source from whence it
issued, and an excess of coin will be converted into bullion and
179. Since the worth of all property is measured by money, it
is obviously conducive to the general welfare of the community,
that fluctuations in its value should be rendered as small and as
gradual as possible.
The evils which result from sudden changes in the value of
money will perhaps become more sensible, if we trace their
effects in particular instances. Assuming, as we are quite at
liberty to do, an extreme case, let us suppose three persons,
each possessing a hundred pounds: one of these, a widow advanced
in years, and who, by the advice of her friends, purchases with
that sum an annuity of twenty pounds a year during her life: and
let the two others be workmen, who, by industry and economy, have
each saved a hundred pounds out of their wages; both these latter
persons proposing to procure machines for calendering, and to
commence that business. One of these invests his money in a
savings' bank; intending to make his own calendering machine, and
calculating that he shall expend twenty pounds in materials, and
the remaining eighty in supporting himself and in paying the
workmen who assist him in constructing it. The other workman,
meeting with a machine which he can buy for two hundred pounds,
agrees to pay for it a hundred pounds immediately, and the
remainder at the end of a twelvemonth. Let us now imagine some
alteration to take place in the currency, by which it is
depreciated one-half: prices soon adjust themselves to the new
circumstances, and the annuity of the widow, though nominally of
the same amount, will, in reality, purchase only half the
quantity of the necessaries of life which it did before. The
workman who had placed his money in the savings' bank, having
perhaps purchased ten pounds' worth of materials, and expended
ten pounds in labour applied to them, now finds himself, by this
alteration in the currency, possessed nominally of eighty pounds,
but in reality of a sum which will purchase only half the labour
and materials required to finish his machine; and he can neither
complete it, from want of capital, nor dispose of what he has
already done in its unfinished state for the price it has cost
him. In the meantime, the other workman, who had incurred a debt
of a hundred pounds in order to complete the purchase of his
calendering machine, finds that the payments he receives for
calendering, have, like all other prices, doubled, in consequence
of the depreciation of the currency; and he has therefore, in
fact, obtained his machine for one hundred and fifty pounds.
Thus, without any fault or imprudence, and owing to circumstances
over which they have no control, the widow is reduced almost to
starve; one workman is obliged to renounce, for several years,
his hope of becoming a master; and another, without any superior
industry or skill, but in fact, from having made, with reference
to his circumstances, rather an imprudent bargain, finds himself
unexpectedly relieved from half his debt, and the possessor of a
valuable source of profit; whilst the former owner of the
machine, if he also has invested the money arising from its sale
in the savings' bank, finds his property suddenly reduced
180. These evils, to a greater or less extent, attend every
change in the value of the currency; and the importance of
preserving it as far as possible unaltered in value, cannot be
too strongly impressed upon all classes of the community.
1. In Russia platinum has been employed for coin; and it
possesses a peculiarity which deserves notice. Platinum cannot be
melted in our furnaces, and is chiefly valuable in commerce when
in the shape of ingots, from which it may be forged into useful
forms. But when a piece of platinum is cut into two parts, it
cannot easily be reunited except by means of a chemical process,
in which both parts are dissolved in an acid. Hence, when
platinum coin is too abundant, it cannot, like gold, be reduced
into masses by melting, but must pass through an expensive
process to render it useful.
Chapter 15
On the Influence of Verification on Price
181. The money price of an article at any given period is
usually stated to depend upon the proportion between the supply
and the demand. The average price of the same article during a
long period, is said to depend, ultimately, on the power of
producing and selling it with the ordinary profits of capital.
But these principles, although true in their general sense, are
yet so often modified by the influence of others, that it becomes
necessary to examine a little into the disturbing forces.
182. With respect to the first of these propositions, it may
be observed, that the cost of any article to the purchaser
includes, besides the ratio of the supply to the demand, another
element, which, though often of little importance, is, in many
cases, of great consequence. The cost, to the purchaser, is the
price he pays for any article, added to the cost of verifying the
fact of its having that degree of goodness for which he
contracts. In some cases the goodness of the article is evident
on mere inspection: and in those cases there is not much
difference of price at different shops. The goodness of loaf
sugar, for instance, can be discerned almost at a glance; and the
consequence is, that the price is so uniform, and the profit upon
it so small, that no grocer is at all anxious to sell it; whilst,
on the other hand, tea, of which it is exceedingly difficult to
judge, and which can be adulterated by mixture so as to deceive
the skill even of a practised eye, has a great variety of
different prices, and is that article which every grocer is most
anxious to sell to his customers.
The difficulty and expense of verification are, in some
instances, so great, as to justify the deviation from
well-established principles. Thus it is a general maxim that
Government can purchase any article at a cheaper rate than that
at which they can manufacture it themselves. But it has
nevertheless been considered more economical to build extensive
flour-mills (such are those at Deptford), and to grind their own
corn, than to verify each sack of purchased flour, and to employ
persons in devising methods of detecting the new modes of
adulteration which might be continually resorted to.
183. Some years since, a mode of preparing old clover and
trefoil seeds by a process called doctoring, became so prevalent
as to excite the attention of the House of Commons. It appeared
in evidence before a committee, that the old seed of the white
clover was doctored by first wetting it slightly, and then drying
it with the fumes of burning sulphur, and that the red clover
seed had its colour improved by shaking it in a sack with a small
quantity of indigo; but this being detected after a time, the
doctors then used a preparation of logwood, fined by a little
copperas, and sometimes by verdigris; thus at once improving the
appearance of the old seed, and diminishing, if not destroying,
its vegetative power already enfeebled by age. Supposing no
injury had resulted to good seed so prepared, it was proved that
from the improved appearance, the market price would be enhanced
by this process from five to twenty-five shillings a hundred
weight. But the greatest evil arose from the circumstance of
these processes rendering old and worthless seed equal in
appearance to the best. One witness had tried some doctored seed,
and found that not above one grain in a hundred grew, and that
those which did vegetate died away afterwards; whilst about
eighty or ninety per cent of good seed usually grows. The seed so
treated was sold to retail dealers in the country, who of course
endeavoured to purchase at the cheapest rate, and from them it
got into the hands of the farmers; neither of these classes being
capable of distinguishing the fraudulent from the genuine seed.
Many cultivators, in consequence, diminished their consumption of
the article; and others were obliged to pay a higher price to
those who had skill to distinguish the mixed seed, and who had
integrity and character to prevent them from dealing in it.
184. In the Irish flax trade, a similar example of the high
price paid for verification occurs. It is stated in the report of
the committee, "That the natural excellent quality of Irish flax,
as contrasted with foreign or British, has been admitted." Yet
from the evidence before that committee it appears that Irish
flax sells, in the market, from 1d. to 2d. per pound less than
other flax of equal or inferior quality. Part of this difference
of price arises from negligence in its preparation, but a part
also from the expense of ascertaining that each parcel is free
from useless matter to add to its weight: this appears from the
evidence of Mr J. Corry, who was, during twenty-seven years,
Secretary to the Irish Linen-Board:--
"The owners of the flax, who are almost always people in the lower
classes of life, believe that they can best advance their own
interests by imposing on the buyers. Flax being sold by weight,
various expedients are used to increase it; and every expedient
is injurious, particularly the damping of it; a very common
practice, which makes the flax afterwards heat. The inside of
every bundle (and the bundles all vary in bulk) is often full of
pebbles, or dirt of various kinds, to increase the weight. In
this state it is purchased, and exported to Great Britain. The
natural quality of Irish flax is admitted to be not inferior to
that produced by any foreign country; and yet the flax of every
foreign country, imported into Great Britain, obtains a
preference amongst the purchasers, because the foreign flax is
brought to the British market in a cleaner and more regular
state. The extent and value of the sales of foreign flax in Great
Britain can be seen by reference to the public accounts; and I am
induced to believe, that Ireland, by an adequate extension of her
flax tillage, and having her flax markets brought under good
regulations, could, without encroaching in the least degree upon
the quantity necessary for her home consumption, supply the whole
of the demand of the British market, to the exclusion of the
185. The lace trade affords other examples; and, in enquiring
into the complaints made to the House of Commons by the framework
knitters, the committee observe, that, "It is singular that the
grievance most complained of one hundred and fifty years ago,
should, in the present improved state of the trade, be the same
grievance which is now most complained of: for it appears, by the
evidence given before your committee, that all the witnesses
attribute the decay of the trade more to the making of fraudulent
and bad articles, than to the war, or to any other cause." And it
is shewn by the evidence, that a kind of lace called "single-press"
was manufactured, which, although good to the eye, became nearly
spoiled in washing by the slipping of the threads; that not one
person in a thousand could distinguish the difference between
"single-press" and "double-press" lace; and that, even workmen and
manufacturers were obliged to employ a magnifying glass for that
purpose; and that, in another similar article, called "warp lace,"
such aid was essential. It was also stated by one witness, that
"The trade had not yet ceased, excepting in those places where the
fraud had been discovered; and from those places no orders are
now sent for any sort of Nottingham lace, the credit being
totally ruined."
186. In the stocking trade similar frauds have been practised. It
appeared in evidence, that stockings were made of uniform width
from the knee down to the ankle, and being wetted and stretched
on frames at the calf, they retained their shape when dry, but
that the purchaser could not discover the fraud until, after the
first washing, the stockings hung like bags about his ankles.
187. In the watch trade the practice of deceit, in forging
the marks and names of respectable makers, has been carried to a
great extent both by natives and foreigners; and the effect upon
our export trade has been most injurious, as the following
extract from the evidence before a committee of the House of
Commons will prove:--
"Question. How long have you been in the trade?
Answer. Nearly thirty years.
Question. The trade is at present much depressed?
Answer. Yes, sadly.
Question. What is your opinion of the cause of that distress?
Answer. I think it is owing to a number of watches that have been
made so exceedingly bad that they will hardly look at them in the
foreign markets; all with a handsome outside show, and the works
hardly fit for anything.
Question. Do you mean to say, that all the watches made in this
country are of that description?
Answer. No; only a number which are made up by some of the Jews,
and other low manufacturers. I recollect something of the sort
years ago, of a falloff of the East India work, owing to there
being a number of handsome-looking watches sent out, for
instance, with hands on and figures, as if they shewed seconds,
and had not any work regular to shew the seconds: the hand went
round, but it was not regular.
Question. They had no perfect movements?
Answer. No, they had not; that was a long time since, and we had
not any East India work for a long time afterwards."
In the home market, inferior but showy watches are made at a
cheap rate, which are not warranted by the maker to go above half
an hour; about the time occupied by the Jew pedlar in deluding
his country customer.
188. The practice, in retail linen-drapers' shops, of calling
certain articles yard wide when the real width is perhaps, only
seven-eighths or three-quarters, arose at first from fraud, which
being detected, custom was pleaded in its defence: but the result
is, that the vender is constantly obliged to measure the width of
his goods in the customer's presence. In all these instances the
object of the seller is to get a higher price than his goods
would really produce if their quality were known; and the
purchaser, if not himself a skilful judge (which rarely happens
to be the case), must pay some person, in the shape of an
additional money price, who has skill to distinguish, and
integrity to furnish, articles of the quality agreed on. But as
the confidence of persons in their own judgement is usually
great, large numbers will always flock to the cheap dealer, who
thus, attracting many customers from the honest tradesman,
obliges him to charge a higher price for his judgement and
character than, without such competition, he could afford to do.
189. There are few things which the public are less able to
judge of than the quality of drugs; and when these are compounded
into medicines it is scarcely possible, even for medical men, to
decide whether pure or adulterated ingredients have been
employed. This circumstance, concurring with the present
injudicious mode of paying for medical assistance, has produced a
curious effect on the price of medicines. Apothecaries, instead
of being paid for their services and skill, are remunerated by
being allowed to place a high charge upon their medicines, which
are confessedly of very small pecuniary value. The effect of such
a system is an inducement to prescribe more medicine than is
necessary; and in fact, even with the present charges, the
apothecary, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, cannot be
fairly remunerated unless the patient either takes, or pays for,
more physic than he really requires. The apparent extravagance of
the charge of eighteen pence for a two-ounce phial(1*) of
medicine, is obvious to many who do not reflect on the fact that
a great part of the charge is, in reality, payment for the
exercise of professional skill. As the same charge is made by the
apothecary, whether he attends the patient or merely prepares the
prescription of a physician, the chemist and druggist soon
offered to furnish the same commodity at a greatly diminished
price. But the eighteen pence charged by the apothecary might
have been fairly divided into two parts, three pence for medicine
and bottle, and fifteen pence for attendance. The chemist,
therefore, who never attends his customers, if he charges only a
shilling for the same medicine, realizes a profit of 200 or 300
per cent upon its value. This enormous profit has called into
existence a multitude of competitors; and in this instance the
impossibility of verifying has, in a great measure, counteracted
the beneficial effects of competition. The general adulteration
of drugs, even at the extremely high price at which they are
retailed as medicine, enables those who are supposed to sell them
in an unadulterated state to make large profits, whilst the same
evil frequently disappoints the expectation, and defeats the
skill, of the most eminent physician.
It is difficult to point out a remedy for this evil without
suggesting an almost total change in the system of medical
practice. If the apothecary were to charge for his visits, and to
reduce his medicines to one-fourth or one-fifth of their present
price, he would still have an interest in procuring the best
drugs, for the sake of his own reputation or skill. Or if the
medical attendant, who is paid more highly for his time, were to
have several pupils, he might himself supply the medicines
without a specific charge, and his pupils would derive
improvement from compounding them, as well as from examining the
purity of the drugs he would purchase. The public would gain
several advantages by this arrangement. In the first place, it
would be greatly for the interest of the medical practitioner to
have the best drugs; it would be in his interest also not to give
more physic than needful; and it would enable him, through some
of his more advanced pupils, to watch more frequently the changes
of any malady.
190. There are many articles of hardware which it is
impossible for the purchaser to verify at the time of purchase,
or even afterwards, without defacing them. Plated harness and
coach furniture may be adduced as examples: these are usually of
wrought iron covered with silver, owing their strength to the one
and a certain degree of permanent beauty to the other metal. Both
qualities are, occasionally, much impaired by substituting cast-
for wrought-iron, and by plating with soft solder (tin and lead)
instead of with hard solder (silver and brass). The loss of
strength is the greatest evil in this case; for cast iron, though
made for this purpose more tough than usual by careful annealing,
is still much weaker than wrought-iron, and serious accidents
often arise from harness giving way. In plating with soft
solder, a very thin plate of silver is made to cover the iron,
but it is easily detached, particularly by a low degree of heat.
Hard soldering gives a better coat of silver, which is very
firmly attached, and is not easily injured unless by a very high
degree of heat. The inferior can be made to look nearly as well
as the better article, and the purchaser can scarcely discover
the difference without cutting into it.
191. The principle that price, at any moment, is dependent on
the relation of the supply to the demand, is true to the full
extent only when the whole supply is in the hands of a very large
number of small holders, and the demand is caused by the wants of
another set of persons, each of whom requires only a very small
quantity. And the reason appears to be, that it is only in such
circumstances that a uniform average can be struck between the
feelings, the passions, the prejudices, the opinions, and the
knowledge, of both parties. If the supply, or present stock in
hand, be entirely in the possession of one person, he will
naturally endeavour to put such a price upon it as shall produce
by its sale the greatest quantity of money; but he will be guided
in this estimate of the price at which he will sell, both by the
knowledge that increased price will cause a diminished
consumption, and by the desire to realize his profit before a new
supply shall reach the market from some other quarter. If,
however, the same stock is in the hands of several dealers, there
will be an immediate competition between them, arising partly
from their different views of the duration of the present state
of supply, and partly from their own peculiar circumstances with
respect to the employment of their capital.
192. The expense of ascertaining that the price charged is
that which is legally due is sometimes considerable. The
inconvenience which this verification produces in the case of
parcels sent by coaches is very great. The time lost in
recovering an overcharge generally amounts to so many times the
value of the sum recovered, that it is but rarely resorted to. It
seems worthy of consideration whether it would not be a
convenience to the public if government were to undertake the
general conveyance of parcels somewhat on the same system with
that on which the post is now conducted. The certainty of their
delivery, and the absence of all attempt at overcharge, would
render the prohibition of rival carriers unnecessary. Perhaps an
experiment might be made on this subject by enlarging the weight
allowed to be sent by the two-penny post, and by conveying works
in sheets by the general post.
This latter suggestion would be of great importance to
literature, and consequently to the circulation of knowledge. As
the post-office regulations stand at present, it constantly
happens that persons who have an extensive reputation for
science, receive by post, from foreign countries, works, or parts
of works, for which they are obliged to pay a most extravagant
rate of postage, or else refuse to take in some interesting
communication. In France and Germany, printed sheets of paper are
forwarded by post at a very moderate expense, and it is fit that
the science and literature of England should be equally favoured.
193. It is important, if possible, always to connect the name
of the workman with the work he has executed: this secures for
him the credit or the blame he may justly deserve; and
diminishes, in some cases, the necessity of verification. The
extent to which this is carried in literary works, published in
America, is remarkable. In the translation of the Mecanique
Celeste by Mr Bowditch, not merely the name of the printer, but
also those of the compositors, are mentioned in the work.
194. Again, if the commodity itself is of a perishable
nature, such, for example, as a cargo of ice imported into the
port of London from Norway a few summers since, then time will
supply the place of competition; and, whether the article is in
the possession of one or of many persons, it will scarcely reach
a monopoly price. The history of cajeput oil during the last few
months, offers a curious illustration of the effect of opinion
upon price. In July of last year, 1831, cajeput oil was sold,
exclusive of duty, at 7 d. per ounce. The disease which had
ravaged the East was then supposed to be approaching our shores,
and its proximity created alarm. At this period, the oil in
question began to be much talked of, as a powerful remedy in that
dreadful disorder; and in September it rose to the price of 3s.
and 4s. the ounce. In October there were few or no sales: but in
the early part of November, the speculations in this substance
reached their height, and between the 1st and the 15th it
realized the following prices: 3s. 9d., 5s., 6s. 6d., 7s. 6d.,
8s., 9s., 10s., 10s. 6d., 11s. After 15 November, the holders of
cajeput oil were anxious to sell at much lower rates; and in
December a fresh arrival was offered by public sale at 5s., and
withdrawn, being sold afterwards, as it was understood, by
private contract, at 4s. or 4s. 6d. per oz. Since that time, 1s.
6d. and 1s. have been realized; and a fresh arrival, which is
daily expected (March, 1832) will probably reduce it below the
price of July. Now it is important to notice, that in November,
the time of greatest speculation, the quantity in the market was
held by few persons, and that it frequently changed hands, each
holder being desirous to realize his profit. The quantity
imported since that time has also been considerable.(2*)
195. The effect of the equalization of price by an increased
number of dealers, may be observed in the price of the various
securities sold at the Stock Exchange. The number of persons who
deal in the 3 per cent stock being large, any one desirous of
selling can always dispose of his stock at one-eighth per cent
under the market price; but those who wish to dispose of bank
stock, or of any other securities of more limited circulation,
are obliged to make a sacrifice of eight or ten times this amount
upon each hundred pounds value.
196. The frequent speculations in oil, tallow, and other
commodities, which must occur to the memory of most of my
readers, were always founded on the principle of purchasing up
all the stock on hand, and agreeing for the purchase of the
expected arrivals; thus proving the opinion of capitalists to be,
that a larger average price may be procured by the stock being
held by few persons.
1. Apothecaries frequently purchase these phials at the old
bottle warehouses at ten shillings per gross; so that when their
servant has washed them, the cost of the phial is nearly one
2. I have understood that the price of camphor, at the same time,
suffered similar changes.
Chapter 16
On the Influence of Durability on Price
197. Having now considered the circumstances that modify what
may be called the momentary amount of price, we must next examine
a principle which seems to have an effect on its permanent
average. The durability of any commodity influences its cost in a
permanent manner. We have already stated that what may be called
the momentary price of any commodity depends upon the proportion
existing between the supply and demand, and also upon the cost of
verification. The average price, during a long period, will
depend upon the labour required for producing and bringing it to
market, as well as upon the average supply and demand; but it
will also be influenced by the durability of the article
Many things in common use are substantially consumed in
using: a phosphorus match, articles of food, and a cigar, are
examples of this description. Some things after use become
inapplicable to their former purposes, as paper which has been
printed upon: but it is yet available for the cheesemonger or the
trunk-maker. Some articles, as pens, are quickly worn out by use;
and some are still valuable after a long continued wear. There
are others, few perhaps in number, which never wear out; the
harder precious stones, when well cut and polished, are of this
later class: the fashion of the gold or silver mounting in which
they are set may vary with the taste of the age, and such
ornaments are constantly exposed for sale as second-hand, but the
gems themselves, when removed from their supports, are never so
considered. A brilliant which has successively graced the necks
of a hundred beauties, or glittered for a century upon patrician
brows, is weighed by the diamond merchant in the same scale with
another which has just escaped from the wheel of the lapidary,
and will be purchased or sold by him at the same price per carat.
The great mass of commodities is intermediate in its character
between these two extremes, and the periods of respective
duration are very various. It is evident that the average price
of those things which are consumed in the act of using them, can
never be less than that of the labour of bringing them to market.
They may for a short time be sold for less, but under such
circumstances their production must soon cease altogether. On the
other hand, if an article never wears out, its price may continue
permanently below the cost of the labour expended in producing
it; and the only consequence will be, that no further production
will take place: its price will continue to be regulated by the
relation of the supply to the demand; and should that at any
aftertime rise, for a considerable period, above the cost of
production, it will be again produced.
198. Articles become old from actual decay, or the wearing
out of their parts; from improved modes of constructing them; or
from changes in their form and fashion, required by the varying
taste of the age. In the two latter cases, their utility is but
little diminished; and, being less sought after by those who have
hitherto employed them, they are sold at a reduced price to a
class of society rather below that of their former possessors.
Many articles of furniture, such as well-made tables and chairs,
are thus found in the rooms of those who would have been quite
unable to have purchased them when new; and we find constantly,
even in the houses of the more opulent, large looking-glasses
which have passed successively through the hands of several
possessors, changing only the fashion of their frames; and in
some instances even this alteration is omitted, an additional
coat of gilding saving them from the character of being
second-hand. Thus a taste for luxuries is propagated downwards in
society', and, after a short period, the numbers who have
acquired new wants become sufficient to excite the ingenuity of
the manufacturer to reduce the cost of supplying them, whilst he
is himself benefited by the extended scale of demand.
199. There is a peculiarity in looking-glasses with reference
to the principle just mentioned. The most frequent occasion of
injury to them arises from accidental violence; and the
peculiarity is, that, unlike most other articles, when broken
they are still of some value. If a large mirror is accidentally
cracked, it is immediately cut into two or more smaller ones,
each of which may be perfect. If the degree of violence is so
great as to break it into many fragments, these smaller pieces
may be cut into squares for dressing-glasses; and if the
silvering is injured, it can either be resilvered or used as
plate-glass for glazing windows. The addition from our
manufactories to the stock of plate-glass in the country is
annually about two hundred and fifty thousand square feet. It
would be very difficult to estimate the quantity annually
destroyed or exported, but it is probably small; and the effect
of these continual additions is seen in the diminished price and
increased consumption of the article. Almost all the better order
of shop fronts are now glazed with it. If it were quite
indestructible, the price would continually diminish; and unless
an increased demand arose from new uses, or from a greater number
of customers, a single manufactory, unchecked by competition,
would ultimately be compelled to shut up, driven out of the
market by the permanance of its own productions.
200. The metals are in some degree permanent, although
several of them are employed in such forms that they are
ultimately lost.
Copper is a metal of which a great proportion returns to use:
a part of that employed in sheathing ships and covering houses is
lost from corrosion; but the rest is generally remelted. Some is
lost in small brass articles, and some is consumed in the
formation of salts, Roman vitriol (sulphate of copper), verdigris
(acetate of copper), and verditer.
Gold is wasted in gilding and in embroidering; but a portion
of this is recovered by burning the old articles. Some portion is
lost by the wear of gold, but, upon the whole, it possesses
considerable permanence.
Iron. A proportion of this metal is wasted by oxidation, in
small nails, in fine wire; by the wear of tools, and of the tire
of wheels, and by the formation of some dyes: but much, both of
cast- and of wrought-iron, returns to use.
Lead is wasted in great quantities. Some portion of that
which is used in pipes and in sheets for covering roofs returns
to the melting-pot; but large quantities are consumed in the form
of small shot, or sometimes in that of musket balls, litharge,
and red lead, for white and red paints, for glass-making, for
glazing pottery, and for sugar of lead (acetate of lead).
Silver is rather a permanent metal. Some portion is consumed
in the wear of coin, in that of silver plate, and a portion in
silvering and embroidering.
Tin. The chief waste of this metal arises from tinned iron;
some is lost in solder and in solutions for the dyers.
Chapter 17
Of Price as Measured by Money
201. The money price at which an article sells furnishes us
with comparatively little information respecting its value, if we
compare distant intervals of time and different countries; for
gold and silver, in which price is usually measured, are
themselves subject, like all other commodities, to changes in
value; nor is there any standard to which these variations can be
referred. The average price of a certain quality of different
manufactured articles, or of raw produce, has been suggested as a
standard; but a new difficulty then presents itself; for the
improved methods of producing such articles render their money
price extremely variable within very limited periods. The annexed
table will afford a striking instance of this kind of change
within a period of only twelve years.
 Prices of the following articles at Birmingham, in the
undermentioned years
 Description 1818 1824 1828 1830
 s. d. s. d. s. d. s. d.
 Anvils cwt 25 0 20 0 16 0 13 0
 Awls, polished, Liverpool gross 2 6 2 0 1 6 1 2
 Bed-screws, 6 inches long gross 18 0 15 0 6 0 5 0
 Bits, tinned. for bridles doz. 5 0 5 0 3 3 2 6
 Bolts for doors, 6 inches doz. 6 0 5 0 2 3 1 6
 Braces for carpenters, with 12 bits set 9 0 4 0 4 2 3 5
 Buttons, for coats gross 4 6 6 3 3 0 2 2
 Buttons, small, for waistcoats gross 2 6 2 0 1 2 0 8
 Candlesticks, 6 in., brass pair 2 1 1 2 0 1 7 1 2
 Curry-combs, six barred doz. 2 9 2 6 1 5 0 1 1
 Frying-pans cwt 25 0 21 0 18 0 16 0
 Gun-locks, single roller each 6 0 5 2 1 10 1 6
 Hammers. shoe, No. 0 doz. 6 9 3 9 3 0 2 9
Description 1818 1824 1828 1830
 s. d. s. d. s. d. s. d.
 Hinges, cast-butts, 1 inch doz. 0 10 0 71/2 0 31/4 0 21/4
 Knobs, brass, 2 inches for commodes doz. 4 0 3 6 1 6 1 2
 Latches for doors, bright thumb doz. 2 3 2 2 1 0 0 9
 Locks for doors, iron rim, 6 inches doz. 38 0 32 0 15 0 13 6
 Sad-irons and other castings cwt 22 6 20 0 14 0 11 6
 Shovel and tongs, fire-irons pair 1 0 1 0 0 9 0 6
 Spoons, tinned table gross 17 6 15 0 10 0 7 0
 Stirrups, plated pair 4 6 3 9 1 6 1 1
 Trace-chains cwt 28 0 25 0 19 6 16 6
 Trays, japanned tea, 30 inches each 4 6 3 0 2 0 1 5
 Vices for blacksmiths cwt 30 0 28 0 22 0 19 6
 Wire, brass lb. 1 10 1 4 1 0 0 9
 --, iron, No. 6 bund. 16 0 13 0 9 0 7 0
202. I have taken some pains to assure myself of the accuracy
of the above table: at different periods of the years quoted the
prices may have varied; but I believe it may be considered as a
fair approximation. In the course of my enquiries I have been
favoured with another list, in which many of the same articles
occur, but in this last instance the prices quoted are separated
by an interval of twenty years. It is extracted from the books of
a highly respectable house at Birmingham; and the prices confirm
the accuracy of the former table, so far as they relate to the
articles which are found in that list.
 Prices of 1812 and 1832
 per cent in
 price of
 Description 1812 1832 1812
 s. d. s. d.
 Anvils cwt 25 0 14 0 44
 Awls, Liverpool blades gross 3 6 1 0 71
 Candlesticks, iron, plain 3 103/4 2 31/2 41
 screwed 6 41/2 3 9 41
 Bed screws, 6 inch square head gross 7 6 4 6 40
 flat head gross 8 6 4 8 45
 Curry-combs, 6 barred dozen 4 01/2 1 0 75
 per cent in
 price of
 Description 1812 1832 1812
 s. d. s. d.
Curry-combs, 8 barred dozen 5 51/2 1 5 74
 patent, 6 barred dozen 7 11/2 1 5 80
 8 barred dozen 8 63/4 1 10 79
 Fire-irons, iron head, No. 1. 1 41/2 0 73/4 53
 No. 2 1 6 0 81/2 53
 No. 3 1 81/4 0 91/2 53
 No. 4 1 101/2 0 101/2 53
 Gun-locks, single roller each 7 21/2 1 11 73
 Locks, 1 1/4 brass, port. pad 16 0 2 6 85
 2 1/2 inch 3 keyed till-locks each 2 2 0 9 65
 Shoe tacks gross 5 0 2 0 60
 Spoons, tinned, iron table gross 22 6 7 0 69
 Stirrups. com. tinned, 2 bar dozen 7 0 2 9 61
 Trace-chains, iron cwt 46 91/2 15 0 68
 Prices of the principal materials, used in mines in Cornwall, at
different periods [I am indebited to Mr John Taylor for this
interesting table]
 Description 1800 1810 1820 1830 1832
 s. d. s. d. s. d. s. d. s. d.
 Coals wey 81 7 85 5 53 4 51 0 40 0
 Timber (balk) foot 2 0 4 0 1 5 1 0 0 10
 (oak) foot 3 31/2 3 0 3 6 3 3
 Ropes cwt 66 0 84 0 48 6 40 0 40 0
 Iron (common bar) cwt 20 6 14 6 11 0 7 0 6 6
 Common castings cwt 16 0 15 0 8 0 6 6
 Pumps cwt 16s. & 17s. 17s. & 18s. 12s. & 15s. 6 6 6 10
 Gunpowder 100 lbs. 114 2 117 6 68 0 52 6 49 0
 Candles 9 3 10 0 8 9 5 11 4 10
 Tallow cwt 72 0 84 0 65 8 52 6 43 0
 Leather lb. 2 4 2 3 24 22 21
 Blistered steel cwt 50 0 44 0 38 0
 2s. nails cwt 32 0 28 6 22 0 17 0 16 6
203. I cannot omit availing myself of this opportunity of
calling the attention of the manufacturers, merchants, and
factors, in all our manufacturing and commercial towns, to the
great importance, both for their own interests, and for that of
the population to which their capital gives employment, of
collecting with care such averages from the actual sales
registered in their books. Nor, perhaps, would it be without its
use to suggest, that such averages would be still more valuable
if collected from as many different quarters as possible; that
the quantity of the goods from which they are deduced, together
with the greatest deviations from the mean, ought to be given;
and that if a small committee were to undertake the task, it
would give great additional weight to the information. Political
economists have been reproached with too small a use of facts,
and too large an employment of theory. If facts are wanting, let
it be remembered that the closet-philosopher is unfortunately too
little acquainted with the admirable arrangements of the factory,
and that no class of persons can supply so readily, and with so
little sacrifice of time, the data on which all the reasonings of
political economists are founded, as the merchant and
manufacturer; and, unquestionably, to no class are the deductions
to which they give rise so important. Nor let it be feared that
erroneous deductions may be made from such recorded facts: the
errors which arise from the absence of facts are far more
numerous and more durable than those which result from unsound
reasoning respecting true data.
204. The great diminution in price of the articles here
enumerated may have arisen from several causes: 1. The alteration
in the value of the currency. 2. The increased value of gold in
consequence of the increased demand for coin. The first of these
causes may have had some influence, and the second may have had a
very small effect upon the two first quotations of prices, but
none at all upon the two latter ones. 3. The diminished rate of
profit produced by capital however employed. This may be
estimated by the average price of three per cents at the periods
stated. 4. The diminished price of the raw materials out of which
these articles were manufactured. The raw material is principally
brass and iron, and the reduction upon it may, in some measure,
be estimated by the diminished price of iron and brass wire, in
the cost of which articles, the labour bears a less proportion
than it does in many of the others. 5. The smaller quantity of
raw material employed, and perhaps, in some instances, an
inferior, quality of workmanship. 6. The improved means by which
the same effect was produced by diminished labour.
205. In order to afford the means of estimating the influence
of these several causes, the following table is subjoined:
 1812 1818 1824 1828 1830 1832
 Average Price of L s d. L s. d. L s d L s. d L s d L s. d
 Gold. per oz 4 15 6 4 0 3 17 61/2 3 17 7 3 17 91/2 3 17 10 1/2
 Value of currency. per cent 79 5 3 97 6 10 100 100 100 100
 Price of 3 per cent consols 591/4 781/4 935/8 86 893/4 821/2
 Wheat per quarter 6 5 0 4 1 0 3 2 l 3 1 1 10 3 14 6 2 19 3
 English pig iron at Birmingham 7 l0 0 6 7 6 6 l0 0 5 10 0 4 l0 0
 English bar iron at Birmingham 10 10 0 9 10 0 7 15 0 6 0 0 5 0 0
 Swedish bar iron in London, excluding duty of from L4 to L6 10s
per ton 16 10 0 17 10 0 14 0 0 14 10 0 13 15 0 13 2 0
As this table, if unaccompanied by any explanation, might
possibly lead to erroneous conclusions, I subjoin the following
observations, for which I am indebted to the kindness of Mr
Tooke, who may yet, I hope, be induced to continue his valuable
work on High and Low Prices, through the important period which
has elapsed since its publication.
'The table commences with 1812, and exhibits a great falling
off in the price of wheat and iron coincidently with a fall in
the price of gold, and leading to the inference of cause and
effect. Now, as regards wheat, it so happened that in 1812 it
reached its highest price in consequence of a series of bad
harvests, when relief by importation was difficult and enormously
expensive. In December, 1813, whilst the price of gold had risen
to L5, the price of wheat had fallen to 73s., or 50 per cent
under what it had been in the spring of 1812; proving clearly
that the two articles were under the influence of opposite
'Again, in 1812, the freight and insurance on Swedish iron
were so much higher than at present as to account for nearly the
whole of the difference of price: and in 1818 there had been an
extensive speculation which had raised the price of all iron, so
that a part of the subsequent decline was a mere reaction from a
previously unfounded elevation. More recently, in 1825, there was
a great speculative rise in the article, which served as a strong
stimulus to increased production: this, aided by improved power
of machinery, has proceeded to such an extent as fully to account
for the fall of price.'
To these reflections I will only add, that the result of my
own observation leads me to believe that by far the most
influential of these causes has been the invention of cheaper
modes of manufacturing. The extent to which this can be carried,
while a profit can yet be realized at the reduced price, is truly
astonishing, as the following fact, which rests on good
authority, will prove. Twenty years since, a brass knob for the
locks of doors was made at Birmingham; the price, at that time,
being 13s. 4d. per dozen. The same article is now manufactured,
having the same weight of metal, and an equal, or in fact a
slightly superior finish, at 1s. 9 1/4d. per dozen. One
circumstance which has produced this economy in the manufacture
is, that the lathe on which these knobs are finished is now
turned by a steam-engine; so that the workman, relieved from that
labour, can make them twenty times as fast as he did formerly.
206. The difference of price of the same article, when of
various dimensions at different periods in the same country--and
in different countries--is curiously contrasted in the annexed
 Comparative price of plate glass, at the manufactories of
London, Paris, Berlin, and Petersburg
 Height Breadth 1771 1794 1832 1825 1835 1828 1825
 in inches in inches L s d L s d L s d L s d L s d L s d L s d
 16 16 0103 0101 0176 087 076 081 0410
 30 20 146 232 2610 11610 1710 0106 1210
 50 30 24 2 4 11 5 0 6 12 10 9 0 5 5 0 3 8 13 0 5 15 0
 60 40 67 14 10 27 0 0 13 9 6 22 7 5 10 4 3 21 18 0 12 9 0
 76 40 43 6 0 19 2 9 36 4 5 14 17 5 35 2 11 17 5 0
 90 50 84 8 0 34 12 9 71 3 8 28 13 4 33 18 7
 100 75 275 0 0 74 5 10 210 13 3 70 9 7
 120 75 97 15 9 354 3 2 98 3 10
The price of silvering these plates is twenty per cent on the
cost price for English glass; ten per cent on the cost price for
Paris plates; and twelve and a half on those of Berlin.
The following table shews the dimensions and price, when
silvered, of the largest plates of glass ever made by the British
Plate Glass Company, which are now at their warehouse in London:
Height Breadth Price when silvered
 Inches Inches L s. d.
 132 84 200 8 0
 146 81 220 7 0
 149 84 239 1 6
 131 83 239 10 7
 160 80 246 15 4
The prices of the largest glass in the Paris lists when
silvered, and reduced to English measure, were:
Year Inches Inches Price when silvered
                        L  s. d.
 1825 128 80           629 12 0
 1835 128 80           136 19 0
207. If we wish to compare the value of any article at
different periods of time, it is clear that neither any one
substance, nor even the combination of all manufactured goods,
can furnish us with an invariable unit by which to form our scale
of estimation. Mr Malthus has proposed for this purpose to
consider a day's labour of an agricultural labourer, as the unit
to which all value should be referred. Thus, if we wish to
compare the value of twenty yards of broad cloth in Saxony at the
present time, with that of the same kind and quantity of cloth
fabricated in England two centuries ago, we must find the number
of days' labour the cloth would have purchased in England at the
time mentioned, and compare it with the number of days' labour
which the same quantity of cloth will now purchase in Saxony.
Agricultural labour appears to have been selected, because it
exists in all countries, and employs a large number of persons,
and also because it requires a very small degree of previous
instruction. It seems, in fact, to be merely the exertion of a
man's physical force; and its value above that of a machine of
equal power arises from its portability, and from the facility of
directing its efforts to arbitrary and continually fluctuating
purposes. It may perhaps be worthy of enquiry, whether a more
constant average might not be deduced from combining with this
species of labour those trades which require but a moderate
exertion of skill and which likewise exist in all civilized
countries, such as those of the blacksmith and carpenter,
etc.(1*) In all such comparisons there is, however, another
element, which, though not essentially necessary, will yet add
much to our means of judging.
It is an estimate of the quantity of that food on which the
labourer usually subsists, which is necessary for his daily
support, compared with the quantity which his daily wages will
208. The existence of a class of middlemen, between small
producers and merchants, is frequently advantageous to both
parties; and there are certain periods in the history of several
manufactures which naturally call that class of traders into
existence. There are also times when the advantage ceasing, the
custom of employing them also terminates; the middlemen,
especially when numerous, as they sometimes are in retail trades,
enhancing the price without equivalent good. Thus, in the recent
examination by the House of Commons into the state of the coal
trade, it appears that five-sixths of the London public is
supplied by a class of middlemen who are called in the trade
Brass plate coal merchants: these consist principally of
merchants' clerks, gentlemen's servants, and others, who have no
wharfs of their own, but merely give their orders to some true
coal merchant, who sends in the coals from his wharf: the brass
plate coal merchants, of course, receiving a commission for his
209. In Italy this system is carried to a great extent
amongst the voituriers, or persons who undertake to convey
travellers. There are some possessed of greater fluency and a
more persuasive manner who frequent the inns where the English
resort, and who, as soon as they have made a bargain for the
conveyance of a traveller, go out amongst their countrymen and
procure some other voiturier to do the job for a considerably
smaller sum, themselves pocketing the difference. A short time
before the day of starting, the contractor appears before his
customer in great distress, regretting his inability to perform
the journey on account of the dangerous illness of a mother or
some relative, and requesting to have his cousin or brother
substituted for him. The English traveller rarely fails to
acquiesce in this change, and often praises the filial piety of
the rogue who has deceived him.
1. Much information for such an enquiry is to be found, for the
particular period to which it refers, in the Report of the
Committee of the House of Commons on Manufacturers' Employment, 2
July, 1830.
Chapter 18
Of Raw Materials
210. Although the cost of any article may be reduced in its
ultimate analysis to the quantity of labour by which it was
produced; yet it is usual, in a certain state of the manufacture
of most substances, to call them by the term raw material. Thus
iron, when reduced from the ore and rendered malleable, is in a
state fitted for application to a multitude of useful purposes,
and is the raw material out of which most of our tools are made.
In this stage of its manufacture, but a moderate quantity of
labour has been expended on the substance; and it becomes an
interesting subject to trace the various proportions in which raw
material, in this sense of the term, and labour unite to
constitute the value of many of the productions of the arts.
211. Gold leaf consists of a portion of the metal beaten out
to so great a degree of thinness, as to allow a greenish-blue
light to be transmitted through its pores. About 400 square
inches of this are sold, in the form of a small book containing
25 leaves of gold, for 1s. 6d. In this case, the raw material, or
gold, is worth rather less than two-thirds of the manufactured
article. In the case of silver leaf, the labour considerably
exceeds the value of the material. A book of fifty leaves, which
would cover above 1000 square inches, is sold for 1s. 3d.
212. We may trace the relative influence of the two causes
above referred to, in the prices of fine gold chains made at
Venice. The sizes of these chains are known by numbers, the
smallest having been (in 1828) No. 1, and the numbers 2, 3, 4,
etc., progressively increasing in size. The following table shews
the numbers and the prices of those made at that time.(1*) The
first column gives the number by which the chain is known; the
second expresses the weight in grains of one inch in length of
each chain; the third column the number of links in the same
length; and the last expresses the price, in francs worth
tenpence each, of a Venetian braccio, or about two English feet
of each chain.
 Venetian gold chains
 Price of a Venetian
 Braccio, equal to
 Weight of Number of links two feet 1/8 inch
 No. one inch, in grains in one inch English
 0.44 98 to 100 60 francs
 1.56 92 40
 1 1/2.77 88 26
 2.99 84 20
 3 1.46 72 20
 4 1.61 64 21
 5 2.09 64 23
 6 2.61 60 24
 7 3.36 56 27
 8 3.65 56 29
 9 3.72 56 32
 10 5.35 50 34
 24 9.71 32 60
Amongst these chains, that numbered 0 and that numbered 24
are exactly of the same price, although the quantity of gold in
the latter is twenty-two times as much as in the former. The
difficulty of making the smallest chain is so great, that the
women who make it cannot work above two hours at a time. As we
advance from the smaller chain, the proportionate value of the
work to the worth of the material becomes less and less, until at
the numbers 2 and 3, these two elements of cost balance each
other: after which, the difficulty of the work decreases, and the
value of the material increases.
213. The quantity of labour expended on these chains is,
however, incomparably less than that which is applied in some of
the manufactures of iron. In the case of the smallest Venetian
chain the value of the labour is not above thirty times that of
the gold. The pendulum spring of a watch, which governs the
vibrations of the balance, costs at the retail price two pence,
and weighs fifteen one-hundredths of a grain, whilst the retail
price of a pound of the best iron, the raw material out of which
fifty thousand such springs are made, is exactly the same sum of
two pence.
214. The comparative price of labour and of raw material
entering into the manufactures of France, has been ascertained
with so much care, in a memoir of M. A. M. Heron de Villefosse,
Recherches statistiques, sur les Metaux de France.(2*) that we
shall give an abstract of his results reduced to English
measures. The facts respecting the metals relate to the year
In France the quantity of raw material which can be purchased
for L1, when manufactured into
 Silk goods is worth L2.37
 Broad cloth and woollens 2.15
 Hemp and cables 3.94
 Linen comprising thread laces 5.00
 Cotton goods 2.44
 The price of pig-lead was L1 1s. per cwt; and lead of the value
of L1 sterling, became worth, when manufactured into
 Sheets or pipes of moderate dimensions L 1. 25
 White lead 2.60
 Ordinary printing characters 4.90
 The smallest type 28.30
 The price of copper was L5 2s. per cwt. Copper worth L1 became
when manufactured into
 Copper sheeting L1.26
 Household utensils 4.77
 Common brass pins tinned 2.34
 Rolled into plates covered with 1/20 silver 3.56
 Woven into metallic cloth, each square inch of which contains
10,000 meshes 52.23
The price of tin was L4 12s. per cwt. Tin worth L1 when
manufactured into
 Leaves for silvering glass became L1.73
 Household utensils 1.85
Quicksilver cost L10 16s. per cwt. Quicksilver worth L1 when
manufactured into
 Vermilion of average quality became L1.81
Metallic arsenic cost L1 4s. per cwt. Arsenic worth L1 when
manufactured into
 White oxide of arsenic became L1.83
 Sulphuret (orpiment) 4.26
The price of cast-iron was 8s. per cwt. Cast-iron worth L1
when manufactured into
 Household utensils became L2.00
 Machinery 4.00
 Ornamental. as buckles. etc 45.00
 Bracelets. figures, buttons. etc. 147.00
8ar-iron cost L1 6s. per cwt. Bar-iron worth L1 when
manufactured into
 Agricultural instruments became L3.57
 Barrels, musket 9. 10
 Barrels of double-barrel guns. twisted and damasked 238.08
 Blades of penknives 657.14
 razor. cast steel 53.57 sabre, for cavalry. infantry, and
artillery. etc. from 9.25 to 16.07
 of table knives 35.70
 Buckles of polished steel, used as jewellery 896.66
 Clothiers' pins 8.03
 Door-latches and bolts from 4.85 to 8.50
 Files, common 2.55 flat, cast steel 20.44
 Horseshoes 2.55
 Iron, small slit, for nails 1. 10
 Metallic cloth, iron wire, No. 80 96.71
 Needles of various sizes from 17.33 to 70.85
 Reeds for weaving 3-4ths calico 21.87
 Saws (frame) of steel 5. 12
 for wood 14.28
Scissors, finest kind 446.94
 Steel, cast 4.28
 cast, in sheets 6.25
 cemented 2.41
 natural 1.42
 Sword handles, polished steel 972.82
 Tinned iron from 2.04 to 2.34
 Wire, iron from 2. 14 to 10.71
215. The following is stated by M. de Villefosse to be the
price of bar-iron at the forges of various countries, in January,
per ton
 L s. d.
 France 26 10 0
 Belgium and Germany 16 14 0
 Sweden and Russia, at Stockholm and St Petersburg 13 13 0
 England, at Cardiff 10 1 0
 The price of the article in 1832 was 5 0 0
M. De Villefosse states, that in France bar-iron, made as it
usually is with charcoal, costs three times the price of the
cast-iron out of which it is made; whilst in England, where it is
usually made with coke, the cost is only twice the price of
216. The present price (1832) of lead in England is L13 per
ton, and the worth of L1 of it manufactured into
 Milled sheet lead becomes Ll.08
The present price of cake copper is L84 per ton, and the
worth of L1 of it manufactured into
 Sheet copper becomes L1.11
1. A still finer chain is now manufactured (1832).
2.  Memoires de l'Institut. 1826
Chapter 19
On the Division of Labour
217. Perhaps the most important principle on which the
economy of a manufacture depends, is the division of labour
amongst the persons who perform the work. The first application
of this principle must have been made in a very early stage of
society, for it must soon have been apparent, that a larger
number of comforts and conveniences could be acquired by each
individual, if one man restricted his occupation to the art of
making bows, another to that of building houses, a third boats,
and so on. This division of labour into trades was not, however,
the result of an opinion that the general riches of the community
would be increased by such an arrangement; but it must have
arisen from the circumstance of each individual so employed
discovering that he himself could thus make a greater profit of
his labour than by pursuing more varied occupations. Society must
have made considerable advances before this principle could have
been carried into the workshop; for it is only in countries which
have attained a high degree of civilization, and in articles in
which there is a great competition amongst the producers, that
the most perfect system of the division of labour is to be
observed. The various principles on which the advantages of this
system depend, have been much the subject of discussion amongst
writers on political economy; but the relative importance of
their influence does not appear, in all cases, to have been
estimated with sufficient precision. It is my intention, in the
first instance, to state shortly those principles, and then to
point out what appears to me to have been omitted by those who
have previously treated the subject.
218. 1. Of the time required for learning. It will readily be
admitted, that the portion of time occupied in the acquisition of
any art will depend on the difficulty of its execution; and that
the greater the number of distinct processes, the longer will be
the time which the apprentice must employ in acquiring it. Five
or seven years have been adopted, in a great many trades, as the
time considered requisite for a lad to acquire a sufficient
knowledge of his art, and to enable him to repay by his labour,
during the latter portion of his time, the expense incurred by
his master at its commencement. If, however, instead of learning
all the different processes for making a needle, for instance,
his attention be confined to one operation, the portion of time
consumed unprofitably at the commencement of his apprenticeship
will be small, and all the rest of it will be beneficial to his
master: and, consequently, if there be any competition amongst
the masters, the apprentice will be able to make better terms,
and diminish the period of his servitude. Again, the facility of
acquiring skill in a single process, and the early period of life
at which it can be made a source of profit, will induce a greater
number of parents to bring up their children to it; and from this
circumstance also, the number of workmen being increased, the
wages will soon fall.
219. 2. Of waste of materials in learning. A certain quantity
of material will, in all cases, be consumed unprofitably, or
spoiled by every person who learns an art; and as he applies
himself to each new process, he will waste some of the raw
material, or of the partly manufactured commodity. But if each
man commit this waste in acquiring successively every process,
the quantity of waste will be much greater than if each person
confine his attention to one process; in this view of the
subject, therefore, the division of labour will diminish the
price of production.
220. 3. Another advantage resulting from the division of
labour is, the saving of that portion of time which is always
lost in changing from one occupation to another. When the human
hand, or the human head, has been for some time occupied in any
kind of work, it cannot instantly change its employment with full
effect. The muscles of the limbs employed have acquired a
flexibility during their exertion, and those not in action a
stiffness during rest, which renders every change slow and
unequal in the commencement. Long habit also produces in the
muscles exercised a capacity for enduring fatigue to a much
greater degree than they could support under other circumstances.
A similar result seems to take place in any change of mental
exertion; the attention bestowed on the new subject not being so
perfect at first as it becomes after some exercise.
221. 4. Change of tools. The employment of different tools in
the successive processes is another cause of the loss of time in
changing from one operation to another. If these tools are
simple, and the change is not frequent, the loss of time is not
considerable; but in many processes of the arts the tools are of
great delicacy, requiring accurate adjustment every time they are
used; and in many cases the time employed in adjusting bears a
large proportion to that employed in using the tool. The
sliding-rest, the dividing and the drilling-engine, are of this
kind; and hence, in manufactories of sufficient extent, it is
found to be good economy to keep one machine constantly employed
in one kind of work: one lathe, for example, having a screw
motion to its sliding-rest along the whole length of its bed, is
kept constantly making cylinders; another, having a motion for
equalizing the velocity of the work at the point at which it
passes the tool, is kept for facing surfaces; whilst a third is
constantly employed in cutting wheels.
222. 5. Skill acquired by frequent repetition of the same
processes. The constant repetition of the same process
necessarily produces in the workman a degree of excellence and
rapidity in his particular department, which is never possessed
by a person who is obliged to execute many different processes.
This rapidity is still further increased from the circumstance
that most of the operations in factories, where the division of
labour is carried to a considerable extent, are paid for as
piece-work. It is difficult to estimate in numbers the effect of
this cause upon production. In nail-making, Adam Smith has
stated, that it is almost three to one; for, he observes, that a
smith accustomed to make nails, but whose whole business has not
been that of a nailer, can make only from eight hundred to a
thousand per day; whilst a lad who had never exercised any other
trade, can make upwards of two thousand three hundred a day.
223. In different trades, the economy of production arising
from the last-mentioned cause will necessarily be different. The
case of nail-making is, perhaps, rather an extreme one. It must,
however, be observed, that, in one sense, this is not a permanent
source of advantage; for, though it acts at the commencement of
an establishment, yet every month adds to the skill of the
workmen; and at the end of three or four years they will not be
very far behind those who have never practised any other branch
of their art. Upon an occasion when a large issue of bank-notes
was required, a clerk at the Bank of England signed his name,
consisting of seven letters, including the initial of his
Christian name, five thousand three hundred times during eleven
working hours, besides arranging the notes he had signed in
parcels of fifty each.
224. 6. The division of labour suggests the contrivance of
tools and machinery to execute its processes. When each
processes, by which any article is produced, is the sole
occupation of one individual, his whole attention being devoted
to a very limited and simple operation, improvements in the form
of his tools, or in the mode of using them, are much more likely
to occur to his mind, than if it were distracted by a greater
variety of circumstances. Such an improvement in the tool is
generally the first step towards a machine. If a piece of metal
is to be cut in a lathe, for example, there is one particular
angle at which the cutting-tool must be held to insure the
cleanest cut; and it is quite natural that the idea of fixing the
tool at that angle should present itself to an intelligent
workman. The necessity of moving the tool slowly, and in a
direction parallel to itself, would suggest the use of a screw,
and thus arises the sliding-rest. It was probably the idea of
mounting a chisel in a frame, to prevent its cutting too deeply,
which gave rise to the common carpenter's plane. In cases where a
blow from a hammer is employed, experience teaches the proper
force required. The transition from the hammer held in the hand
to one mounted upon an axis, and lifted regularly to a certain
height by some mechanical contrivance, requires perhaps a greater
degree of invention than those just instanced; yet it is not
difficult to perceive, that, if the hammer always falls from the
same height, its effect must be always the same.
225. When each process has been reduced to the use of some
simple tool, the union of all these tools, actuated by one moving
power, constitutes a machine. In contriving tools and simplifying
processes, the operative workmen are, perhaps, most successful;
but it requires far other habits to combine into one machine
these scattered arts. A previous education as a workman in the
peculiar trade, is undoubtedly a valuable preliminary; but in
order to make such combinations with any reasonable expectation
of success, an extensive knowledge of machinery, and the power of
making mechanical drawings, are essentially requisite. These
accomplishments are now much more common than they were
formerly, and their absence was, perhaps, one of the causes of
the multitude of failures in the early history of many of our
226. Such are the principles usually assigned as the causes
of the advantage resulting from the division of labour. As in the
view I have taken of the question, the most important and
influential cause has been altogether unnoticed, I shall restate
those principles in the words of Adam Smith:
"The great increase in the quantity of work, which, in consequence
of the division of labour, the same number of people are capable
of performing, is owing to three different circumstances: first,
to the increase of dexterity in every particular workman;
secondly, to the saving of time, which is commonly lost in
passing from one species of work to another; and, lastly, to the
invention of a great number of machines which facilitate and
abridge labour, and enable one man to do the work of many."
Now, although all these are important causes, and each has
its influence on the result; yet it appears to me, that any
explanation of the cheapness of manufactured articles, as
consequent upon the division of labour, would be incomplete if
the following principle were omitted to be stated.
That the master manufacturer, by dividing the work to be
executed into different processes, each requiring different
degrees of skill or of force, can purchase exactly that precise
quantity of both which is necessary for each process; whereas, if
the whole work were executed by one workman, that person must
possess sufficient skill to perform the most difficult, and
sufficient strength to execute the most laborious, of the
operations into which the art is divided.(1*)
227. As the clear apprehension of this principle, upon which
a great part of the economy arising from the division of labour
depends, is of considerable importance, it may be desirable to
point out its precise and numerical application in some specific
manufacture. The art of making needles is, perhaps, that which I
should have selected for this illustration, as comprehending a
very large number of processes remarkably different in their
nature; but the less difficult art of pinmaking, has some claim
to attention, from its having been used by Adam Smith; and I am
confirmed in the choice of it, by the circumstance of our
possessing a very accurate and minute description of that art, as
practised in France above half a century ago.
228. Pin-making. In the manufacture of pins in England the
following processes are employed:
1. Wire-drawing. (a) The brass wire used for making pins is
purchased by the manufacturer in coils of about twenty-two inches
in diameter, each weighing about thirty-six pounds. (b) The coils
are wound off into smaller ones of about six inches in diameter,
and between one and two pounds' weight. (c) The diameter of this
wire is now reduced, by drawing it repeatedly through holes in
steel plates, until it becomes of the size required for the sort
of pins intended to be made. During this process the wire is
hardened, and to prevent its breaking, it must be annealed two or
three times, according to the diminution of diameter required.
(d) The coils are then soaked in sulphuric acid, largely diluted
with water, in order to clean them, and are then beaten on stone,
for the purpose of removing any oxidated coating which may adhere
to them. These operations are usually performed by men, who draw
and clean from thirty to thirty-six pounds of wire a day. They
are paid at the rate of five farthings per pound, and generally
earn about 3s. 6d. per day.
M. Perronnet made some experiments on the extension the wire
undergoes in passing through each hole: he took a piece of thick
Swedish brass wire, and found
 Feet Inches
 Its length to be before drawing 3 8
 After passing the first hole 5 5
 second hole 7 2
 third hole 7 8
 It was now annealed, and the length became
 After passing the fourth hole 10 8
 fifth hole 13 1
 sixth hole 16 8
 And finally, after passing through six other holes 144 0
The holes through which the wire was drawn were not, in this
experiment, of regularly decreasing diameter: it is extremely
difficult to make such holes, and still more to preserve them in
their original dimensions.
229. 2. Straightening the wire. The coil of wire now passes
into the hands of a woman, assisted by a boy or girl. A few
nails, or iron pins, not quite in a line, are fixed into one end
of a wooden table about twenty feet in length; the end of the
wire is passed alternately between these nails, and is then
pulled to the other end of the table. The object of this process
is to straighten the wire, which had acquired a considerable
curvature in the small coils in which it had been wound. The
length thus straightened is cut off, and the remainder of the
coil is drawn into similar lengths. About seven nails or pins are
employed in straightening the wire, and their adjustment is a
matter of some nicety. It seems, that by passing the wire between
the first three nails or pins, a bend is produced in an opposite
direction to that which the wire had in the coil; this bend, by
passing the next two nails, is reduced to another less curved in
the first direction, and so on till the curve of the wire may at
last be confounded with a straight line.
230. 3. Pointing. (a) A man next takes about three hundred of
these straightened pieces in a parcel, and putting them into a
gauge, cuts off from one end, by means of a pair of shears, moved
by his foot, a portion equal in length to rather more than six
pins. He continues this operation until the entire parcel is
reduced into similar pieces. (b) The next step is to sharpen the
ends: for this purpose the operator sits before a steel mill,
which is kept rapidly revolving: it consists of a cylinder about
six inches in diameter, and two and a half inches broad, faced
with steel, which is cut in the manner of a file. Another
cylinder is fixed on the same axis at a few inches distant; the
file on the edge of which is of a finer kind, and is used for
finishing off the points. The workman now takes up a parcel of
the wires between the finger and thumb of each hand, and presses
the ends obliquely on the mill, taking care with his fingers and
thumbs to make each wire slowly revolve upon its axis. Having
thus pointed all the pieces at one end, he reverses them, and
performs the same operation on the other. This process requires
considerable skill, but it is not unhealthy; whilst the similar
process in needlemaking is remarkably destructive of health. (c)
The pieces now pointed at both ends, are next placed in gauges,
and the pointed ends are cut off, by means of shears, to the
proper length of which the pins are to be made. The remaining
portions of the wire are now equal to about four pins in length,
and are again pointed at each end, and their lengths again cut
off. This process is repeated a third time, and the small portion
of wire left in the middle is thrown amongst the waste, to be
melted along with the dust arising from the sharpening. It is
usual for a man, his wife, and a child, to join in performing
these processes; and they are paid at the rate of five farthings
per pound. They can point from thirty-four to thirty-six and a
half pounds per day, and gain from 6s. 6d. to 7s., which may be
apportioned thus; 5s. 6d. the man. 1s. the woman, 6d. to the boy
or girl.
231. 4. Twisting and cutting the heads. The next process is
making the heads. For this purpose (a) a boy takes a piece of
wire, of the same diameter as the pin to be headed, which he
fixes on an axis that can be made to revolve rapidly by means of
a wheel and strap connected with it. This wire is called the
mould. He then takes a smaller wire, which having passed through
an eye in a small tool held in his left hand, he fixes close to
the bottom of the mould. The mould is now made to revolve rapidly
by means of the right hand, and the smaller wire coils round it
until it has covered the whole length of the mould. The boy now
cuts the end of the spiral connected with the foot of the mould,
and draws it off. (b) When a sufficient quantity of heading is
thus made, a man takes from thirteen to twenty of these spirals
in his left hand, between his thumb and three outer fingers:
these he places in such a manner that two turns of the spiral
shall be beyond the upper edge of a pair of shears, and with the
forefinger of the same hand he feels that only two turns do so
project. With his right hand he closes the shears; and the two
turns of the spiral being cut off, drop into a basin; the
position of the forefinger preventing the heads from flying about
when cut off. The workmen who cut the heads are usually paid at
the rate of 2 1/2d. to 3d. per pound for large heads, but a
higher price is given for the smaller heading. Out of this they
pay the boy who spins the spiral; he receives from 4d. to 6d. a
day. A good workman can cut from six to about thirty pounds of
heading per day, according to its size.
232. 5. Heading. The process of fixing the head on the body
of the pin is usually executed by women and children. Each
operator sits before a small steel stake, having a cavity, into
which one half of the intended head will fit; immediately above
is a steel die, having a corresponding cavity for the other half
of the head: this latter die can be raised by a pedal moved by
the foot. The weight of the hammer is from seven to ten pounds,
and it falls through a very small space, perhaps from one to two
inches. The cavities in the centre of these dies are connected
with the edge of a small groove, to admit of the body of the pin,
which is thus prevented from being flattened by the blow of the
die. (a) The operator with his left hand dips the pointed end of
the body of a pin into a tray of heads; having passed the point
through one of them, he carries it along to the other end with
the forefinger. He now takes the pin in the right hand, and
places the head in the cavity of the stake, and, lifting the die
with his foot, allows it to fall on the head. This blow tightens
the head on the shank, which is then turned round, and the head
receives three or four blows on different parts of its
circumference. The women and children who fix the heads are paid
at the rate of 1s. 6d. for every twenty thousand. A skilful
operator can with great exertion do twenty thousand per day, but
from ten to fifteen thousand is the usual quantity: children head
a much smaller number: varying, of course, with the degree of
their skill. About one per cent of the pins are spoiled in the
process; these are picked out afterwards by women, and are
reserved, along with the waste from other processes, for the
melting-pot. The die in which the heads are struck is varied in
form according to the fashion of the time; but the repeated blows
to which it is subject render it necessary that it should be
repaired after it has been used for about thirty pounds of pins.
233. 6. Tinning. The pins are now fit to be tinned, a process
which is usually executed by a man, assisted by his wife, or by a
lad. The quantity of pins operated upon at this stage is usually
fifty-six pounds. (a) They are first placed in a pickle, in order
to remove any grease or dirt from their surface, and also to
render them rough, which facilitates the adherence of the tin
with which they are to be covered. (b) They are then placed in a
boiler full of a solution of tartar in water, in which they are
mixed with a quantity of tin in small grains. In this they are
generally kept boiling for about two hours and a half, and are
then removed into a tub of water into which some bran has been
thrown, for the purpose of washing off the acid liquor. (c) They
are then taken out, and, being placed in wooden trays, are well
shaken in dry bran: this removes any water adhering to them; and
by giving the wooden tray a peculiar kind of motion, the pins are
thrown up, and the bran gradually flies off, and leaves them
behind in the tray. The man who pickles and tins the pins usually
gets one penny per pound for the work, and employs himself,
during the boiling of one batch of pins, in drying those
previously tinned. He can earn about 9s. per day; but out of this
he pays about 3s. for his assistant.
234. 7. Papering. The pins come from the tinner in wooden
bowls, with the points projecting in all directions: the
arranging of them side by side in paper is generally performed by
women. (a) A woman takes up some, and places them on a comb, and
shaking them, some of the pins fall back into the bowl, and the
rest, being caught by their heads, are detained between the teeth
of the comb. (