([Paris: Académie Royale des Sciences], 1762-63). 413 x 286 mm. (16 1/4 x 11 1/4"). 1 p.l., 46 pp.; ix, [i], 86 pp.; 1 p.l., 42 pp.; viii, 124 pp.; 1 p.l., 11 pp. Five works bound in one volume. FIRST EDITIONS.
ESPECIALLY ATTRACTIVE CONTEMPORARY MARBLED CALF, raised bands, spine heavily gilt in compartments with unusual centerpiece composed of shell forms and drawer handles, and with intricate volute cornerpieces, red morocco label, blue paste paper endpapers. WITH 18 OFTEN VERY PLEASING ENGRAVED TECHNOLOGICAL PLATES: four in the first work, six in the second, two in the third, five in the fourth, and one in the last. Brunet II, 618-19. Covers with minor worm damage, otherwise VERY FINE, the binding lustrous and scarcely worn, the margins very ample, and the text and plates especially clean, bright, and fresh.
These works cover a wide range of topics, from the soft (making chamois leather, dyeing delicate silks, tooling leather with silver and gold) to the hard (working with iron and making anvils). The academicians who prepared the articles for "Arts et Métiers" worked closely with artisans and manufacturers who had first-hand knowledge of the processes described, and the section on dyeing silk demonstrates the necessity of such consultation. In addition to explaining the basic process--which includes the environmentally unsound practice of washing the colored cloth in a river--the author outlines the complicated techniques employed to produce various colors. The pre-treatment and coloring process varied depending on the hue desired--it was far more complicated than just pouring in a bottle of commercial dye at the right moment. Black was especially difficult to get right, and nine pages are devoted to outlining the procedure used by the most prominent workshops to produce a rich, dark black. This is part of the "Description des Arts et Métiers," a series of 75 treatises published in more than 100 parts that, together, formed the outstanding 18th century work on handicrafts. Issued over a period of almost three decades, these works contain often splendid engravings of the industrial contexts of artisans making paper, candles, hats, playing cards, iron, sugar, wool, and many other products. Published at roughly the same time as Diderot's great "L'Encyclopédie," these volumes are larger than those making up that better-known publication, and the cuts here are even more striking that those in the Diderot, which includes some plagiarized illustrations taken from the present series. This ambitious undertaking, sponsored by the Académie Royale des Sciences of Paris, "constituted an effort to present a scientific picture of all the industrial processes employed in France in the 18th century. Since no corresponding survey was carried through in any other country at so early a date and since this one in France anticipated but briefly the industrial changes commonly associated with the phrase, 'the industrial revolution,' these volumes are worthy of particular notice. In a sense, they portray the maxima of skills attained at the end of a social period, the age of the handicraftsman." (Cole and Watts) Work on "Arts et Métiers" was begun under the auspices of scientist René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur (1683-1757) and was brought to publication under the editorship of the multitalented French physician, botanist, and naval engineer Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau (1700-82), who also contributed a number of articles. (ST12366d)
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PJP Catalog: SE18BF.006