Lot 206
  • 206

More, Samuel

50,000 - 70,000 GBP
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  • More, Samuel
  • Autograph manuscript journals, recording his detailed observations during six expeditions primarily to industrial sites around England and Wales
  • ink on paper
providing a vivid, detailed, highly knowledgeable, and unpublished witness to the early years of the Industrial Revolution, in four  volumes, all 4to:
(1) a journey to Cornwall, paginated, 156 pages, plus a few blanks, with three printed maps and plans and a sketch map of Maiden Castle inserted, 1 September to 1 November 1763, reverse calf, covers detached, first seven leaves (all blank) loose
(2) a journey to industrial sites of the West Midlands including Birmingham, New Willey, Etruria, and Coalbrookdale, paginated, 49 pages, text mostly on rectos only, 9 to 27 July 1776, including a sketch section of a Watt's patent steam engine, an ink and wash sketch of a railway, and an item of printed ephemera inserted, bound with a journey to the West Midlands, including Iron Bridge, and Anglesey, notably Parys Mountain, 28 June to 4 August 1780, paginated, 134 pages, with two items of printed ephemera inserted and one item loose, half calf marbled boards, tear to sketch of steam engine, light damp staining to last c.50 pages of 1780 journal, joints weak, loss to spine
(3) a journey to the West Midlands, Anglesey and Lancashire, especially Castlehead and the Lake District, 90 pages, plus blanks, text on rectos only, 7 August to 14 October 1783, followed by (on the same paper stock), a journey to the West Midlands, Anglesey and Lancashire, 112 pages, text on rectos only, 4 September to 15 October 1784, with one print inserted, half calf marbled boards with red lettering piece, loss at spine, covers worn
(4) a journey to Alnwick, Northumberland, c.170 pages, text on rectos only, 30 June to 27 September 1785, with ten manuscript items and five printed items inserted, half calf marbled boards with red lettering piece, upper cover heavily worn, loss at spine


G.E. Mercer, 'Mr More of the Adelphi: Notes on the Life and Work of Samuel More, Secretary of the Society, 1770-1799', in The Virtuoso Tribe of Arts & Sciences, ed. Allan and Abbott (1992), pp.307-335

Catalogue Note

Samuel More (1726-1799) was one of the most respected men of practical science in  late eighteenth century England. He was a trained apothecary, a skilled chemist and geologist with a mechanical knowledge that was sufficiently well regarded for him to be an influential witness in the crucial patent trials of Joseph Arkwright. He tried his hand at engraving, took a strong interest in agricultural reform, and was consulted on economic policy by Pitt the Younger. From 1769 he was Secretary of the Society of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce (today known as the Royal Society of Arts), an institution which played a pivotal role in the dissemination of the new knowledge and skills that enabled the Industrial Revolution. These journals record a number of expeditions by More around the country, undertaken with infectious enthusiasm and possibly forming part of his duties as Secretary. These journals are full of the careful observation that would be expected of a man of science, and are also brimming with excitement at the capacities of industrialisation: as one of the best-connected men of science of his age, he well understood that the new technologies being developed by industrialists in the Midlands and elsewhere – many of whom were his personal friends – were reshaping the world.

The first journal records a journey to Cornwall in September-October 1763, some years before his appointment as Secretary. The detailed daily entries record his journey, his impression of the towns through which he passed from Chichester to Penzance, great houses such as Goodwood, antiquities such as Castle Treryn on Logan Rock (“…our Guides told us, This was the last Place the Giants inhabited in England…”) and Maiden Castle near Dorchester, with close observations of gannets and the rare Cornish chough. It was, however, industrial sites that were of greatest interest to More, such as salt works, tin smelting works, and especially mines. He provides careful descriptions of technological innovations including ever-larger water-wheels and the use of steam engines, and gives lively accounts of his four ventures down mine shafts, including Wheal (Huele) Fortune copper mine in Cornwall:

“…I dressed myself in the Habit of a Miner, which consists of a Flannell Waistcoast, a kind of Coarse Linnin Jackett, a pair of Trowzers, a Woollen Cap, and an old thick Hat … We descended by a Ladder shaft, the Captain [guide] going first … The Ladders which are placed almost perpendicular are each of them … thirty feet long, and the Bottom of each Ladder, rests of some Timbers places across the Shaft … large enough for two People to stand on, we each of us carried a Candle, which we held between the Thumb and forefinger … having descended eight of these Ladders … we arrived at the Drift of the Mine … we went a considerable way in an horizontal Direction, and then descended again, not by a Ladder but by sliding down … and now and then creeping on our Hands and Knees … having gone near half a mile we came to … the Tinners (for so they call all miners here) … the Rock is from’d into a Kind of Wedge which divides the Load, In many parts the Reflection of the Candles on the Yellow Parts of the Ore made the appearance very beautifull … taking a Pick from one of the Workmen I dug out several Pieces … I began to think of returning, and was advised … to go up in the Kibball or Buckett accordingly I got in or rather half in, for you are obliged to have one leg out of the Buckett … and support yourself by holding the Rope by which the Buckett is drawn up … we now began to swing in the Air but with great Dexterity the Captain prevented the Bucket strikeing against the side of the shaft … I could not help imagining we were in a kind of dangerous situation, suspended in a small Bucket … by a rope three hundred feet in length…”

More’s summer travels in 1776, 1780, 1783 and 1784 were all to the rapidly developing industrial heartlands of Britain, and provide an extraordinarily rich account of the West Midlands and Northern Wales in the throes of the Industrial Revolution. More was not only a perceptive and careful observer, he was also remarkably well connected among the great industrialists of the age. He was particularly close to the great iron masters John Wilkinson (1728–1808) and Richard Reynolds (1735–1816), the revolutionary potter Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795), and the copper magnate Thomas Williams (1737-1802). His journeys tended to focus on visits to the new industrial works owned by these figures. In July 1776 he went from London to Birmingham and visited several sites around the West Midlands, mostly in the company of Wilkinson, Wedgwood, and Matthew Boulton. He inspected two of Boulton and Watt’s new steam engines, including one just installed at Bloomfield Colliery, which More describes with typical care (“…The House Cylinder 50 inches Diamr., is covered with Hair about 3 Inches thick which is kept on by Staves bound lightly round it…”). He spent several days at Wilkinson’s iron works at New Willey, discovering the furnace to be “one of the most exact Representations … of a volcano that can be imagined" ("...The flame driven out at the Top of the Furnace which resembles the Crater and the Streams of liquid Iron…are most astonishingly beautiful...”), and noting that “The roads here for carrying Ore, Lime-stone and Coal are called Rail-Roads they consist of Bars of Cast Iron … which are fastned by wooden Pins to wooden sleepers laid across the Horse Tracts” (complete with an illustrative diagram). He also visited Reynolds’s works at Coalbrookdale (“…all the Bellows we saw are of Iron but not worked as those of Mr Wilkinson, for here water is used which turning overshot wheels with Cogs on the Axis the pistons are alternately pressed down in two cylinders but … large Fire Engines are used to throw the Water back into the Pools…”), Wedgwood’s works at Etruria, and on one afternoon crossed the Severn to see the model of the proposed Iron Bridge. Abraham Derby was not at home so he had to content himself with “a drawing or two”, but provides a long account of the aims of the proposed revolutionary bridge.

The journey of 1780 took More to Wedgwood in Etruria, then west, including visits to glass factories in Ravenhead, to Anglesey and the greatest copper mine of the age: Thomas Williams’s Parys Mountain, near Amlwch. He describes the mine itself, smelting kilns (“…I could not help taking notice of a woman imployed in building one of these kilns who was working in the Habit of a Man and had always worn the same Dress from her Childhood. There ore when calcined is beat into pieces by a Kind of Hammer this is called buckering the ore and is performed by Men Women and Children…”), and its attendant port. He returned back through Wrexham towards the West Midlands (noting, for example, the fields “manured with Bone waste … which the manufacturers at Birmingham &c. cannot make use of reduced by Mills to small Parts”) through Shrewsbury. He noted alterations to Wilkinson’s Willey works and at other industrial sites he observed the manufacture of goods from glass to cannon. He also now saw for the first time the newly completed icon of the industrial age:

“I now had an oportunity [sic] of viewing this celebrated structure the Iron Bridge … some people who have hitherto been used to see Bridges of a solid Massive appearance consider this as a Skeleton and too weak for the purposes intended but let them reflect on the Material it is constructed of, the Mathematical Truth of its Form, and the Mode by which the parts are connected and it will soon appear sufficient…”

In 1783 and 1784 More revisited both the West Midlands and Anglesey, noting, as always, new industrial developments, but also spent time at John Wilkinson’s estate at Castlehead, near Grange-over-Sands in historic Lancashire. The journey to Castlehead took him through the Wirral, past such remarkable natural curiosities as Llyn-y-Dywarchen with its floating island (“…it is only a piece of peat or turf broken off from the shore…”) and Morecombe Bay, and led him to explore the burgeoning industrial towns of the region (he records, for example, that at Wigan “I shewed my female Companions some Girls at work with that curious machine a spinning Jenny”). He describes the extensive improvements Wilkinson had made to the estate in typically enthusiastic detail, and also made trips within the region such as to Kendal and into the Lake District, where he notes that the countryside around Backbarrow is “very romantic and if in the hands of some person of Taste might easily be formed into a delightful spot”, and has recently been much improved “by the erection of a large Cotton Mill and many houses”.

More’s 1785 summer was spent in a different part of the country. He begins this journal with pride: “The Duke of Northumberland having invited me to accompany Him this Summer to Alnwick I sat out in his Chaise with His Grace attended by five Servants on Horseback on June 30th 1785”. The company paused for a week to take the waters at Buxton on the way north, where he took a number of day trips (including accompanying the Duke to visit Wedgwood at Etruria), and More made typically detailed notes of the towns and cities he passed through on his journey (such as observing that Durham merited its reputation for being rife with prostitution and, astonishingly, dismissing its Cathedral as “one of the most uncouth Buildings and the Tower the most clumsy I had ever beheld”), but from 12 July through to 24 September he was based at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland. This journal does not include the wealth of detail on industry that makes the others so remarkable; indeed, More describes here many elements of a traditional society centred around a local grandee – with its rhythm of fairs and “public days” – that the new industrialism would destroy forever. More kept himself busy in the quiet of Alnwick, spending his time variously observing the Duke’s cultivation of medicinal rhubarb, making observations on local monuments and antiquities, burying himself in the castle’s muniments, preparing his own historical account of Alnwick, recording details of bird life on the Farne Islands, experimenting with pumping steam through tin pipes to warm a hot house, visiting other important local families, chatting with kelp-makers on Alnmouth beach, and discussing Shakespeare with the Duke.

Although it is Samuel More’s remarkable first-hand and knowledgeable accounts of manufacturing during the Industrial Revolution that gives these journals their exceptional importance, they are charmingly wide-ranging and give a strong sense of More’s attractive character. His sociability, optimism, and infectious enthusiasm encapsulate many of the strengths of this remarkable historical period. He displays a knowledgeable interest in subjects from art (he notes that Wedgwood’s walls at Etruria are hung with paintings by Reynolds and Wright of Derby), to archaeology (he gives a lively account of the discovery of an ancient shield in a Welsh peat bog), to astronomy (when he sees a meteor he is quick to write with details to Sir Joseph Banks); although he is struck again and again by the beauty of the new industrial processes, he is also alive to the natural beauty of Coniston Water; he is as comfortable in conversation with a Duke as with a peasant girl gathering seaweed; he is happy to descend a mine and when he climbs the Wrekin in Shropshire he takes the short way down again (“…it is customary to set on the moss and slide down the Declivity…”). These were intensely social journeys: More is always in company, whether he is in Alnwick in conversation with the antiquary John Brand, who “gave his opinion of the vegetable Origin of Coal”, or at convivial gatherings of his industrialist friends. More was, above all, a careful and acute observer, from the fact that the poor of Wolverhampton formed a particularly melancholy sight (“…having very little to cover them and from the dark and dingy hue of their skins owing to the Coal Smoke they continually live in…”), to watching iron “boil” at Abraham Darby’s Horsehay ironworks:

“…immediately the Building was filled with Sparks of Liquid Iron forming the most beautiful Appearance of Stars that can be conceived … most of the company … decamped as fast as possible but seeing the workmen remain in the midst of the Explosion … I staid … to see the whole process. The workmen exerted themselves with great agility and Courage and by throwing Sand upon the Place from whence the Explosion arose in about two minutes effectually extinguished it but not before some of them had suffered severely by the Fire, This Mischief arose from some wet Clay or moist Stone being left in the way of the Metal…”