Untold lives blog

380 posts categorized "Work"

05 September 2023

Sanatorium for European soldiers in Western Australia

In 1859 a British Army medical officer, Henry Huggins Jones, published a booklet: Western Australia, recommended as a sanatorium, for the restoration to health and usefulness of European soldiers, prostrated by those diseases of India, for which the climate of the hill stations does not afford a remedy.

Title page of 'Western Australia, recommended as a sanatorium, for the restoration to health and usefulness of European soldiers'Title page of Western Australia, recommended as a sanatorium, for the restoration to health and usefulness of European soldiers

The ‘invaliding season’ in India started at the end of autumn.  Regimental officers put forward the names of men incapacitated for further Indian service.  The annual invaliding board then passed the men who usually went back to the UK.  If other men showed symptoms of needing a change of climate after the board had met, the army surgeon had no alternative but to carry on treating them unless the regiment was stationed within reach of a sanatorium.  Jones believed that men were dying unnecessarily and proposed that they be taken from India to Western Australia.  The voyage by steam vessel would be beneficial because of the ‘health-reviving influence of the S.E. trade wind’.

Jones criticised military hygiene – cramped living quarters, stinking urinals, ‘confined’ bathrooms, bad drainage, imperfect clothing, unfiltered water, badly managed cooking.  Western Australia offered a plentiful supply of fresh water, natural products and food crops.  It was free from epidemics which hit other parts of Australia.  There were few fever cases, and no syphilis.  Dysentery, diarrhoea, and liver disease were rare.  The climate was healthy: from mid-March to the beginning of November ‘not surpassed by any in the world’.  During April to October ’there is an elasticity of the atmosphere indescribably exhilarating, when nature allows a license to the European, denied to the resident of India.  Man feels intended not to die’.

The advantages of the plan were said to be:
• Many useful lives would not be lost in India.
• Soldiers might like Australia and take their discharge to settle there rather than be invalided to the UK.
• Once their health improved, soldiers could be dispersed throughout the colony to strengthen the military presence.
• If there was another uprising in India, an immediate large force would be available in Australia.

A principal hospital at Perth and convalescent barracks in different parts of the colony could be staffed with medical officers from India who had suffered from the climate.  Once recovered, soldiers could be returned to India in early November to avoid the hot season when temperatures could reach over 100˚F.  This heat caused lassitude ‘though totally differing from the same sensation experienced in India’.

Henry Huggins Jones had been born in India.  He was baptised in Calcutta on 8 February 1824, the son of John Benjamin Jones, a writer in Palmers & Co’s office, and his wife Frances.  He joined the British Army as a surgeon and served in both India and Australia.  In 1854 Jones married Frances (Fanny) Brockman at Gingin in Western Australia.  Henry and Fanny had eight children, born across the globe where the Army postings took them: Australia, India, Ireland and Gibraltar.

Jones was appointed to the rank of Surgeon Major in January 1869 on completion of 20 years’ service.  However he died on 21 May 1869 at his home in Bristol aged 46, leaving Fanny to raise their family, the youngest aged just eleven months.  Fanny did not remarry and died in Bristol on 21 February 1925.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Jones’s postings to different British Army regiments can be traced through the British Newspaper Archive – his name is often recorded as Henry Higgins Jones.

 

22 August 2023

The Hakluyt Society: Publishing in Wartime

In 1946, the Hakluyt Society published the last two volumes in its Second Series, The Suma Oriental of Tomé Pires, translated and edited by Armando Cortesão from Portuguese manuscripts in the Bibliothèque de la Chambre des Deputés, Paris.  Correspondence in the Hakluyt Society archive at the British Library reveals just how difficult it was to undertake ‘business as usual’ publishing for the Society during the Second World War, and how difficult it could be for individuals to undertake such work during wartime conditions.

Armando Frederico Zuzarte Cortesão (1891-1977) had been an Olympic sprinter for Portugal, who had then qualified as an agronomist and had worked as a colonial administrator on Sao Tome and Principe before overseeing the Agência Geral das Colónias.  Increasingly interested in history and cartography, Cortesão left Portugal in 1932 for political reasons and did not return until 1952, spending his ‘exile’ in England and France.

First page of typed letter from Cortesão to Edward Lynham, 1 October 1940

Second page of typed letter from Cortesão to Edward Lynham, 1 October 1940Letter from Cortesão to Edward Lynham, 1 October 1940 - Mss Eur F594/6/3/5 f.11r & f.11v

In 1938, Cortesão was working on his transcription of the Tomé Pires codex, alongside translator Margery Withers, and by May 1939 he hoped to have everything ready for publication in early 1940.  The war obviously changed all that.  In September 1939 he informed the Hakluyt Society that he would have to put his work for the Society on hold as he was working both for the BBC and for the Ministry of Information, splitting his time between London and Evesham.  The Society was understanding: 'I fully understand your position and when you began your book nobody foresaw this war' wrote Edward Lynam, although the Council was worried about its ability to produce the books that its members were expecting in return for their subscription.  Letters from both Cortesão and Lynam in October and November 1940, the height of the Blitz, refer to falling bombs and blown out windows.

Despite the practicalities and the call on Cortesão’s time, by the end of 1943 the manuscript was complete, with only Appendices, Foreword, and some notes on maps outstanding.  The Society was writing to publisher Cambridge University Press and casting about for a printer.  CUP couldn’t give any promises due to contract work for Naval Handbooks and with work for HMSO.  Printers Robert Maclehouse and Co. had available paper (the Hakluyt Society had no regular paper ration), but they also had no way of knowing whether they would have available manpower.  Emery Walker agreed to print the plates 'subject to our being able to obtain the paper'. 

First page of typed letter from printers Robert Maclehose & Co, 28 March 1945
Second  page of typed letter from printers Robert Maclehose & Co, 28 March 1945

Letter from printers Robert Maclehose & Co, 28 March 1945 - Mss Eur F594/6/3/5 f.36r & f.36v

The Hakluyt Society was surprised at the length of Cortesão’s notes and asked him to reduce them substantially.  He replied: 'I am tired… I think that the notes cannot bear further cuttings, and I hope that the Council will now find that they are within the limits of reason and that I have done my best to please every body'.  A compromise was reached, and the rest of 1944 was taken up with typesetting and preparation.   In March 1945, the question again arose of the availability of paper for the print run; the book was longer than expected and Cortesão had requested an additional 50 copies which he would pay for.  Maclehose managed to find a few reams of paper from another publication, which caused further issues as it was a different thickness.  At the same time, the Ministry of Supply were insisting that Maclehose reduce their electricity consumption to 75% of their weekly total, while also under pressure to print University Examination Papers 'at the same scale as in peace time'.

Hakluyt Society minutes state that the binders promised delivery of the book by April 1946.  Despite their wartime delay, the volumes were deemed to be the Society’s 1944 publication and distributed to subscribers who received them by June 1946.

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further Reading
Hakluyt Society 2/89: The Suma Oriental of Tomé Pires / An Account of the East, from the Red Sea to Japan, written in Malacca and India in 1512-1515 / and The Book of Francisco Rodrigues / Rutter of a Voyage in the Red Sea, Nautical Rules, Almanack and Maps, Written and Drawn in the East before 1515 / Translated from the Portuguese MS in the Bibliothèque de la Chambre des Deputés, Paris, and Edited by Armando Cortesão. Containing the translated Books I-IV of the Suma Oriental (Hakluyt Society, 1944).
Hakluyt Society 2/90. The Suma Oriental of Tomé Pires … Vol. II. 1944. Pages 229-578 + 10 maps, 5 illustrations. Book VI of the Suma Oriental, together with a translation of Rodrigues’ ‘Book’, the entire Portuguese texts, and a letter from Pires to King Manuel, 1516. (Hakluyt Society, 1944).
Mss Eur F594/6/3/5: 'Pires Voyages in the China Sea', Apr 1938-Nov 1945.
Mss Eur F594/1/2 Hakluyt Society Council Minutes, 18 Jul 1923-7 Jan 1965.

 

20 July 2023

Women’s football in the 1880s

As the Women’s World Cup opens in Australia, here are two newspaper items about women’s football from the 1880s which show the kinds of prejudice that the sport has had to overcome.

In June 1881, the Huddersfield Daily Chronicle reported that an evening match had taken place at the ground of Cheetham Football Club between two teams of eleven women from England and Scotland.  The players, dressed in a costume 'neither graceful nor very becoming', were driven to the ground in a waggonette, and were followed by a crowd composed  mainly of youths eager for 'boisterous amusement'.  Very few people paid for admission but many gathered outside and tried to see what was going on.  Police constables were there to maintain order whilst 'the so-called match' was being played, but after about an hour they lost control and the ground was overtaken by a mob.  The women, fearing that there would be a repetition of the rough treatment they had met with in other parts of the country, ran back to the waggonette.  They were immediately driven away amidst jeers and disorder.

'The lady footballers at play’ at the north versus south match at Crouch End in 1895'The lady footballers at play’ at the north versus south match at Crouch End - Daily Graphic 25 March 1895

In April 1887 a letter was sent to the editor of the Wakefield and West Riding Herald about 'the exhibition in the Thornes Football Club field'.  The correspondent stated: 'The sight of women so far unsexing themselves as publicly to wear the dress of men, and play a game we are accustomed to regard as a purely masculine sport, is not easily reconcilable with our ideas of the fitness of things'.  The 'athletic and inspiriting game of football' played by men was a pleasurable amusement for spectators of both sexes.  'Delicate susceptibilities' were seldom wounded by unseemly remarks made by bystanders when watching young men play football.  But at the women's match the 'few respectable persons whom the novelty of the thing induced to see and judge for themselves the propriety or impropriety of the proceedings, were speedily driven from the ground by the disgusting remarks they could not avoid hearing, as well as by their individual reprehension of the whole affair'.

The correspondent believed that 'this unpleasant exhibit' was one of the last ways in which 'womanly women' would want to earn money.  His disgust was mingled with pity 'as the unavoidable feeling arises that the barriers of modesty and self-respect must have been largely broken down before such a way of life could have been decided upon’.  The letter ends with the call to oppose anything 'that has a tendency to lessen or destroy the innate delicacy of the female character'.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive (also available via Findmypast)  - Huddersfield Daily Chronicle 23 June 1881; Wakefield and West Riding Herald 23 April 1887.

 

11 July 2023

Request for help in returning to India

On 25 January 1893, the India Office in London received a letter from James Irwin residing in the Garden Hospital, Dublin requesting help in returning to his home in India.  James stated that he had been born in Poona and that he had travelled to Ireland with an ‘invalid gentleman who died in three months time after embarkation in the year 1891.  I have since that time been very bad suffering from a very severe attack of fever & ague, but thank God I am quite recovered and able to proceed home’.  James went on to say that, his wife had died from smallpox in June 1889, that he had four little children in the Byculla School at Bombay, and that he wished to return to them.  He claimed that his friends would be able to obtain employment for him as a guard on the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, as he had previously worked for the Railway before leaving due to illness.   A second letter from James was received on 3 February, reiterating his situation.

Letter from James Irwin to the India Office received 3 February 1893Letter from James Irwin to the India Office received 3 February 1893 IOR/L/PJ/6/337 

The letters came across the desk of the Political A.D.C. at the India Office, Sir W.G.S.V. Fitzgerald.  As it happened, his nephew Edward Macartney-Filgate was in Dublin and was given the task of investigating James’s story.  Investigations disclosed that the Garden Hospital was a portion of the South Dublin Union Workhouse.  Macartney-Filgate was at first refused admission when he went there, it being a Saturday and not visiting day.  On explaining that he was on business from the India Office, he was allowed in and was able to talk to James.  He claimed he was born in India to English parents, that he had been a soldier, and then worked on the railways.  He came to Dublin as a servant, got out of employment and fell into poverty. 

Letter from Macartney-Filgate to his uncle about his visit to James Irwin, dated 20 February 1893Letter from Macartney-Filgate to his uncle about his visit to James Irwin, dated 20 February 1893 IOR/L/PJ/6/337 

Macartney-Filgate’s opinion of James was mixed, he believed James to be ‘plain pure and simple an Englishman’ but admitted that he showed ‘accurate knowledge of India as far as I was able to sound him’.  In the end, Macartney-Filgate thought, ‘His story may be true or not, I really could not form any definite opinion.  I do not believe many people but he seemed to withstand questioning.  On the other hand, as he has been in this workhouse since 1889 he may have simply raked together the whole story from some other inmate’.

Cover of India Office file on James IrwinCover of India Office file on James Irwin IOR/L/PJ/6/337 

Although Fitzgerald noted that this seemed to be ‘an unhappy case’, he thought that it was not one in which the India Office should interfere.  A letter was sent to James on 3 March 1893 stating that the Secretary of State was unable to assist him.

Letter from James Irwin to the India Office 2 May 1894Letter from James Irwin to the India Office 2 May 1894 IOR/L/PJ/6/372

A year later, James tried again, sending two letters to the India Office in April 1894.  He claimed that he had been given a promise of doing something to send him back to India, although he now wrote that he had two little children in the Byculla School in Bombay.  He asked for the boat fare to London so that he could have a personal meeting with the Secretary of State.  The India Office noted: ‘This man’s case has already been fully considered’, and a further letter declining to help was sent to him.  In reply to this, James wrote a final letter to the India Office expressing his disappointment and requesting help in obtaining employment on a P&O ship.  An instruction was written at the bottom of this letter to resend the previous letter declining to help.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Application from Mr James Irwin for assistance to return to India, 23 January to 15 February 1893, reference: IOR/L/PJ/6/337, File 146.

Application from James Irwin to be sent back to India, 13 April 1894, reference IOR/L/PJ/6/371, File 627.

James Irwin; request for assistance in returning to India, 2 May 1894, reference IOR/L/PJ/6/372, File 778.

South Dublin Union Workhouse.

Dublin Workhouses Admission & Discharge Registers 1840-1919 on Findmypast.co.uk

 

06 July 2023

The Emperor of China’s Sauce

In 1839 The Emperor of China’s Sauce was introduced in England.  Newspaper adverts said that the sauce was originally prepared by an eminent English physician living in India.  It was remarkable for its richness, fullness, piquancy, and strong digestive properties.  In India ‘it maintained a celebrity previously unknown among Sauces, and was there considered indispensibly requisite with every kind of fish, meat, game, made dishes, or curries’.  Bon-vivants at London West End clubs declared it to be ‘the finest in the world’.  It could be taken to promote digestion - half a wine glass full should be drunk an hour before dinner.

The sauce was manufactured and sold wholesale and for export by David Morse who lived with his wife and family at Cullum Street in the City of London.  Morse had paid a large sum to secure the recipe.  The public could buy the sauce from respectable chemists, grocers, oilmen and fruiterers throughout the UK, including Fortnum and Mason, and the Dundee Marmalade Warehouse in Regent Street.

Advert for Emperor of China's Sauce in the City Chronicle 12 October 1841Advert for Emperor of China's Sauce City Chronicle 12 October 1841 British Newspaper Archive

By 1841, adverts for The Emperor of China’s Sauce included endorsements from a number of publications.  The Conservative Journal described it as ‘particularly palatable’ and said its only fault was that it made you eat more than you would without it.  The Age reported that Sir Charles Metcalf had remarked in 1839 that the sauce was the best he had tasted since his return to Europe from India.

The Emperor of China’s Sauce was just one of David Morse’s business interests.  He was a tea dealer and the publisher of a weekly newspaper City Chronicle, Tea Dealers’ Journal and Commercial Advertiser.  First published in May 1840, the City Chronicle aimed to advocate the rights of traders such as tea dealers, tallow chandlers, cheesemongers and hop merchants, but published articles on a wide range of topics – politics, law and crime, sport, and fashion.

In 1840 Morse advertised in the City Chronicle for a youth wishing to perfect himself as a man of business.  He offered the opportunity of gaining practical experience of the different properties of tea and a general knowledge of all colonial produce, hops, tallow etc.  The premium for one year’s placement was 100 guineas.

Advert for Anti-Slavery Sugar Company in Morning Herald 15 August 1840Advert for Anti-Slavery Sugar Company in Morning Herald  (London) 15 August 1840 British Newspaper Archive

Morse was Secretary to the Anti-Slavery Sugar Company founded for the cultivation of sugar, rum and other crops by free labour in British India.  The Company was raising capital in 1840 and Morse undertook to supply prospectuses to potential investors.

However it appears that Morse’s business ventures did not progress smoothly.  At the time of the 1861 census he was working as a daily labourer.  The London Gazette of 8 November 1861 announced his bankruptcy – David Morse, late of 14 Little Tower Street, City of London, wholesale tea dealer, now of 3 Amelia Place, New Cross, out of business.

David Morse’s wife Charlotte died in 1870 and the 1871 census records him as a pensioner living at Morden College, a charitable institution in Blackheath.  Morse died in Peckham in 1880 aged 78.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive  also  available via Findmypast e.g. Weekly True Sun 1 December 1839; City Chronicle 1 December 1840, 12 October 1841; Morning Herald 15 August 1840.
London Gazette 8 November 1861.

 

04 July 2023

Charles Daniels – an ex-soldier sent adrift upon the world

In late May 1839 a former East India Company soldier, weak from hunger, applied to Bow Street magistrates for assistance.  Charles Daniels, described as sickly and emaciated, said that he had served as a private in the Company’s Bengal European Regiment for sixteen years and seven months.  He had been declared unfit for active service and sent home to England, arriving at East India Docks about twelve days earlier.  To corroborate his story, he produced his discharge certificate showing his good character and reporting that the vision in his left eye was impeded and he had an enlarged liver and spleen.

Charles Daniels's application to Bow Street magistrates London Courier and Evening Gazette 30 May 1839Charles Daniels's application to Bow Street magistrates London Courier and Evening Gazette 30 May 1839 British Newspaper Archive

Having no relations or friends to help him and with no money for a night’s lodging, Daniels had gone to East India House to enquire whether anything could be done for him, and whether his service entitled him to a pension.  He was given three shillings ‘marching money’ and told that nothing more would be forthcoming.  The workhouse in the parish of St Giles in London, where his father had lived for many years, had turned him away.

Magistrate Mr Thiselton expressed surprise that the East India Company had sent Daniels adrift upon the world, with a constitution broken down in its employment.  He directed that a letter should be written on Daniels’ behalf to the overseer of St Giles and granted him a small sum from the office poor box to tide him over.

Charles Daniels enlisted in June 1822 at Westminster, aged 20, and arrived in India in January 1823.  After serving with the Bengal European Infantry, he was sent in 1829 to join the European Infantry Invalids at Chunar.  He was afterwards stationed at Buxar.  In October 1838 the Bengal Army decided to send him to Europe, and he was not recommended for a pension.

Entry for Charles Daniels in the Bengal Army muster rolls 1837-1838Charles Daniels in the Bengal Army muster rolls 1837-1838 British Library IOR/L/MIL/10/159


On 4 June 1839, Daniels wrote to the East India Company asking for relief, ‘having no prospect of supporting himself’.  He wrote again on 6 November 1839 requesting that he be allowed to rejoin his regiment as he was now ‘in perfect health and a ‘fit and able soldier’.  Both petitions were rejected.  In June 1840 he applied for prize money and was granted 4s 11d for the Burmese Campaign.

What the newspapers and Company documents fail to tell us is that Charles Daniels had left a wife and children in India.  He married Catherine Griffiths, a pupil of the Lower Orphan School, on 23 May 1825 at Fort William Calcutta.  Catherine was born on 25 April 1810, the daughter of Morgan Griffiths, a soldier in the Bengal Artillery.  The couple had at least four children: William (born 1830, died 1832); Charles (born 1834, died 1842); Sarah Maria (born 1837, died 1838); Margaret (born 28 February 1839).

Catherine Daniels stated that she was a widow when she married John Shillcock, a pensioned Company sergeant, at Buxar on 3 January 1843.  It seems that they had two children, Martha and Henry, who both died in infancy.  John Shillcock died at Chinsurah in September 1855 aged 54.

The last mention I have found of Charles Daniels dates from 6 May 1842 when he received a duplicate discharge certificate from the Company.  I don’t know what happened to Catherine and her daughter Margaret. Can any of our readers help?

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive e.g. London Courier and Evening Gazette 30 May 1839.
Service records for Charles Daniels: British Library IOR/L/MIL/9/41; IOR/L/MIL/10/146-160; IOR/L/MIL/17/2/287.
Discharge certificate for Charles Daniels British Library IOR/L/MIL/10/301.
Petitions of Charles Daniels to the East India Company: British Library IOR/L/MIL/2/92, 98 & 106.
Marriage of Charles Daniels and Catherine Griffiths: British Library IOR/N/1/13 f.591.
Baptism of Catherine Griffiths: British Library IOR/N/1/8 f.292.
Marriage of Catherine Daniels and John Shillcock: British Library IOR/N/1/64 f.118.
The baptisms. marriages and deaths referred to in the story can all be found in the IOR/N/1 series which has been digitised by Findmypast.

 

29 June 2023

Harvey's pneumatic dusting machine at the India Office Library

In August 1904 the India Office Library in London took delivery of a pneumatic dusting machine from Charles J Harvey of Kidderminster.  Thomas Walker Arnold, Assistant Librarian, urged the Clerk of the Works to sanction the purchase of Harvey's machine in time for the cleaning of the Library scheduled to begin on 1 September.

Harvey's pneumatic dusting machineHarvey's pneumatic dusting machine from Frank James Burgoyne, Library Construction, Architecture, Fittings, and Furniture, Volume 2 (London, 1897)

Arnold put forward three points in support of the purchase.
• The machine would prevent the enormous amount of damage being done to the bindings of books by the cleaners and messengers banging the books together to get the dust off.  The annual bill for binding was ‘considerably swollen’ because of this.
• The ordinary method of dusting with a cloth caused coal dust to be smeared over the bindings and made the books impossible to clean properly afterwards.  The dusting machine used suction and would prevent vellum and other light-coloured bindings from being spoiled.
• The machine would allow for the removal of dust and dirt from the shelves.  Current cleaning methods merely transferred the dust from one part of a room to another as very little dirt was carried away in the dusting cloths.

In September, the purchase of the pneumatic dusting machine was agreed at a cost of £6 6s less a 5% discount.

Charles J Harvey had registered the patent for the dusting machine.  His notepaper shows his address for telegrams as ‘Inventions, Kidderminster’.  The machine removed loose dust by suction and sent it to a calico bag.  A lever worked the bellows (labelled E on the drawing above).  Air suction was created at a nozzle (A) and a flexible tube was fitted to this. Differently shaped cleaners or brushes could be attached to the other end of the tube depending on the surface to be dusted – table tops, shelves, the tops of books.

The India Office Library was not alone in its concern about dusting large numbers of books.  In 1901 the librarian of Aberdeen University wrote a report on the systematic dusting of books, having corresponded with several of the older libraries in Britain.  Some  librarians believed that cleaning could do more harm than good, especially to old and fragile bindings.

The British Museum had a staff of twelve employed entirely with dusting books.  It took two years to complete a circuit.  Each book was brushed with a damp cloth and then wiped with a dry cloth.

The Bodleian Library at Oxford employed a special staff of six men once a year to dust the books most exposed to dust.  It had used pneumatic dusting machines but found they offered no advantage.

At Trinity College Dublin one man dusted books continually, with a tour of the library taking a couple of years.  A pneumatic brush had been tried there but something stronger and more durable was needed for a collection of 250,000 volumes.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/SUR/6/11/12 Purchase of a pneumatic dusting machine for the India Office Library.
Frank James Burgoyne, Library Construction, Architecture, Fittings, and Furniture, Volume 2 (London, 1897).
The Aberdeen Daily Journal 20 December 1901  - British Newspaper Archive also via Findmypast.

 

20 June 2023

Charles Tuckett junior - bookbinder, inventor, author, researcher and … bankrupt

What did one have to do to succeed in Victorian London?  On the evidence of the life of bookbinder Charles Tuckett junior, versatility, luck, talent, intellect and an engaging personality were not enough.  Despite publications and patents to his name and esteem from both his British Museum Library colleagues and his trade society (the Bookbinders’ Pension Society), Charles died in 1875 at the age of 54 after a long illness, bankrupt, with his teenaged son Frederick as chief mourner.  However the Hampstead and Highgate Express emphasised that ‘affectionate respect was sincerely and mournfully given’.  Many important figures attended the funeral.

A bookbinding workshop in Victorian LondonA bookbinding workshop in Victorian London from A Description of Westleys & Clark's Bookbinding Establishment, 1845

The Tuckett family comprised father Charles, sons Charles, Robert Daniel and John.   The surname was synonymous with bookbinding; notably at the British Museum, and at their own business nearby in Bloomsbury.  They were also official binders to the Queen and Prince Albert.  Charles Tuckett senior managed the Museum workshop for 40 years and Charles junior worked there too.

Plate from Tuckett's Specimens of Ancient and Modern Bookbinding showing the cover of Il Petrarcha published in Venice  1521Plate 3 of Specimens of Ancient and Modern Bookbinding showing the cover of Il Petrarcha (Venice, 1521). 

Photograph from British Library’s database of bookbindings of Il Petrarcha  published in Venice  1521Photograph from the British Library’s database of bookbindings on the same book, Il Petrarcha (Venice, 1521)

Charles junior was devoted to raising the profile of books and bookbinding.  In 1846, he published a book titled Specimens of Ancient and Modern Bookbinding Selected chiefly from the Library of the British Museum.  He subsequently organised displays at locations which would attract the interest of influential members of society, for example the Society of Arts.  Tuckett’s book reviewers encouraged him to extend his study of bindings by issuing more volumes, including a wider range of styles, but it was not to be.

Review of Tuckett’s Specimens of Ancient and Modern Bookbindings from The Bookseller 26 April 1861Review of Tuckett’s Specimens of Ancient and Modern Bookbindings from The Bookseller 26 April 1861, p. 213.

Charles junior’s interests were wide ranging, though books were central to his concerns.  He was keen on practical experimentation.  His 1860 patent recorded ‘an improved method of ornamenting book covers, which is also applicable to other purposes’ received much publicity in the newspapers.  It incorporated a new way of adding or changing colour on the surface of leather.

Detailed account from Tuckett’s new dye process patent 1860Detailed account from Tuckett’s new dye process patent, No. 2408 of 5 October 1860.

The year 1865 proved to be a turning point in the fortunes of the Tucketts.  There was a serious workshop fire in the Museum.  Tuckett senior was held responsible and dismissed.  The capable Tuckett junior assumed his father’s post of Museum Binder.  He oversaw a team of experienced binders including Stephen Would and Joseph Darby.

The Trustees and the august and knowledgeable Keepers of printed books and manuscripts relied upon Tuckett to preserve their fragile collections, maintain the workforce and balance the budget.  Additional stress and calls upon his time were caused by the family business as well as his other occupations.  The 1871 census, lists Tuckett as the supervisor of 55 men, three boys, and fifteen women.  His family home was at 7 Maitland Park Villas, Haverstock Hill, an up and coming area.  A household of his second wife, seven children under the age of thirteen and five servants must have been extremely expensive to maintain.

Perhaps Tuckett over-extended himself: the London Gazette recorded his bankruptcy under an act of 1869.  After years of ill health, which may have impacted severely on his work output, Tuckett died in October 1875.  He predeceased his father, who died five months later in March 1876.

P.J.M. Marks
Printed Historical Collections.

Further reading
Tuckett (C. , Junior ) Specimens of Ancient and Modern Bookbinding. Selected chiefly from the Library of the British Museum . (London , 1846)
The American Bookmaker (August 1894).

 

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