The Circle Of The Mechanical Arts by Thomas Martin, 1813. Introduction

The Circle Of Mechanical Arts by Thomas Martin 1813

The Circle Of The Mechanical Arts front cover

Some years ago Toby Hall gifted me with the EAIA copy of The Circle Of The Mechanical Arts by Thomas Martin, 1813. At the time the EAIA was selling off much of their reference library along with donating many texts as needed. Toby decided that, in recompense for my work on digitizing The Chronicle Of The Early American Industries Association, The Directory Of American Toolmakers along with a number of other publishing projects, I should have my pick of the texts displayed on the EAIA table at a Spicer Auction pre-show. Without hesitation I chose the only copy of Circle that I had ever seen outside of a library.

My goal was to reproduce Circle as a true facsimile or as close as possible. At nearly 700 pages that was a tall order. I contracted with The HF group to image the book on their non-destructive equipment. A month later I received a DVD of 300 dpi high resolution B&W and RGB TIFF images. Text only pages were imaged in B&W, all plates in full color RGB. Between other publishing projects, I slogged through the images, prepping for PDF production. 

But one question remained: Who was Thomas Martin, Civil Engineer? Other than one other book which was an excerpt of Circle, Martin had not authored any other books. Research Librarian time. Weeks of digging through online databases, conversations with antiquarian booksellers and ultimately The British Library reference desk resulted in an interesting set of theories as to who Thomas Martin was, even if he was Thomas Martin or another writing under a pen name. I had published Circle in a print edition. Unfortunately the Print On Demand services I worked with could not produce a true facsimile. Jump to Payhip and my new foray into digital downloads. The entire book has been processed from the original images, pages in B&W and plates in full color RGB. Shortly to be available for purchase as a PDF file.

Herewith my introduction from The Circle Of The Mechanical Arts pdf:

The Circle Of The Mechanical Arts is a technical compendium, as stated in the title page, “...Containing Practical Treatises On The Various Manual Arts, Trades, And Manufactures. By Thomas Martin, Civil Engineer, Assisted By Eminent Professional Mechanics And Manufacturers.” Often erroneously compared to the two house building centric books of the 17th and 19th centuries, respectively, Mechanick Exercises, by Joseph Moxon and The Mechanic’s Companion, by Peter Nicholson, Martin’s work is an expansive, single volume compilation of those trades and manufactures that typified early 19th century British industrialization.

In reading Circle, it is important to remember the sub-title: ‘Assisted By Eminent Professional Mechanics And Manufacturers.’ Martin was the editor of this book, not the overall author. He drew upon the professional contacts he had developed during his career in the assembling of the various technical chapters.

The Circle Of The Mechanical Arts was first published in 1813 for Richard Rees, the significant London publisher of technical literature. There are recorded 2nd printings of 1815 by Rees and then  further 3rd and 4th printings of 1818 and 1820 by J. Bumpus, yet another prolific 19th century London publisher. The continued publication of The Circle Of The Mechanical Arts through four separate printings indicates it ’s popularity throughout the first quarter of the 19th century. Today it is a relatively rare book in both libraries and private collections. This scarcity can be attributed to both the quarto size (9.5 inches x 12 inches) and to it ’s function as a work of general reference. Quite possibly, Circle was purchased by ‘Gentlemen’ landowners, as well as by Guild Halls and Masters of various trades for use in the training of apprentices.

Period Reviews

The Monthly Magazine: Vol. 33, p. 267; April 1812

“A very useful work is about to be published, entitled The Circle of the Mechanical Arts.” It will contain treatises on the different mechanical arts, trades, and manufactures, written in a plain and familiar manner. work of this description has long been wanted, as there is no book extant that contains a full description of the manual arts and trades. It will be comprised within the compass of one large volume, in quarto, with numerous plates.”

The Monthly Review; Or, Literary Journal, Enlarged: From May To August, Inclusive. MDCCCXVI. Vol. LXXX; p. 309

“Arranging his materials in the manner of a dictionary, Mr. Martin here treats at considerable length of nearly seventy different arts, trades and manufactures; including in particular all those which relate to building, as Carpentry, Planing, Bricklaying, Brickmaking, Slating, Plaistering, Masonry, &c. Others, connected with domestic economy, as Brewing and

Baking, are also introduced in their alphabetical order. Besides these, we have treatises on Dying, Hat-making, Glass-making, Pottery, Porcelain, Soap-making, Tanning, Distillation, &c.“

The Critical Review: Series The Fifth; Vol. II, No. III; September, 1815 

We have much satisfaction in offering our remarks on the present work, which will recommend itself to general attention by the importance and novelty of the various subjects it treats upon; for although consisting of little more than six hundred quarto pages, we consider it a book of extensive information; abounding in accurate details of manufacturing processes, and in clear descriptions of useful machinery. Numerous works of the same kind have been published in Germany and France, as well as in England: but those in highest esteem have been executed upon so large a scale, as to deprive artificers in general of the advantages derivable f rom them: such publications being necessarily confined to the libraries of the rich, or repositories of the learned. Similar has been the fate of the different Cyclopedias: the expense alone has rendered them destitute of any utility to artists, and wholly defeated the purpose which they were designed to accomplish. But this volume, while it will be found to comprehend whatever is practically useful to tradesmen, or amusing to gentlemen, who read only to increase their stock of knowledge, is exempt f rom the slightest objection on this ground; being of moderate cost, and concise dimensions.”

“Upon the whole, we may recommend The Circle of the Mechanical Arts” to persons of various classes and ranks of life: to gentlemen who are fond of mechanical pursuits, or who for amusement superintend the works going on upon their estates, or who wish to be informed of the manufacture established in their own neighborhood, or of those which they may meet in their travels. It will, likewise, be found most particularly useful to persons engaged in trade; to youths apprenticed to learn the arts described; as well as to practical men in general. The whole is written with candour, and very well expressed; and the author is highly deserving the countenance of the public.”

Books by Thomas Martin

The Circle Of The Mechanical Arts. 1813

The Carpenters’ And Joiners’ Instructor. 1826 (consisting of the chapters on carpentry and joinery, including geometrical lines and strength of materials f rom The Circle Of The Mechanical Arts)

Biography: Thomas Martin: Civil Engineer

Little is known of Thomas Martin, Civil Engineer, of Great Britain. Apart f rom the two books noted, his name does not appear under any other title in current or past bibliographies. The only inferential reference that can be found is in: The Smeatonians: The Society Of Civil Engineers, by Garth Watson; Thomas Telford, London. 1989: ISBN: 0-7277-1526-7.

In The Smeatonians, a Thomas Martin is listed as having joined The Society in May of 1781. In the list of members for April 28, 1786, a home address of St. Michael’s Alley, Cornhill, London is given for Martin. Curiously, The Universal Magazine: Vol. XCIII, February 1793, p. 156, notes a Thomas Martin of St. Michael’s Alley, Cornhill, London, Clock and Watch-Maker, as being Bankrupt. Apparently this Martin was not successful in his horological endeavors.

Further research by staff of the Science Museum of London, to whom I am indebted, likewise found no references for Thomas Martin, author or civil engineer other than The Smeatonians notes. If the Thomas Martin of The Society Of Civil Engineers, Circle and the bankrupt horologist are one and the same, then quite possibly his age could have been in the twenties to thirties when he first joined The Society and in the late fifties to early sixties when he edited and

published Circle. The introduction to the second book of 1826, The Carpenters’ And Joiners’ Instructor, infers that the editor of book is someone other than the original author.

There are published references to John Farey, a famed 19th century engineer, as having authored Circle under the pseudonym Thomas Martin’. Research into Farey’s history indicates that the only connection between the two men is that Farey provided a number of the engraved plates for Circle. This is not at all surprising in that Farey, as a young man, was for many years employed by Richard Rees in producing plates for Rees’ various publications and that Rees published the first printing of Circle. Farey joined the Institution Of Civil Engineers, the organization that succeeded the Society Of Civil Engineers, in 1826, 45 years after the Thomas Martin who is now assumed to be The Thomas Martin, had first obtained membership in The Society.