Book number: 94629 Product format: Hardback Author: JULIE HALLS

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Bibliophile price £10.00
Published price £19.95

In the heyday of British manufacturing, when Britian was the biggest trading nation in the world, inventors who wished to patent their designs had to submit two detailed drawings to the Patents Office. Professionals and amateurs were eager to contribute to the country's technological progress, and some inventions, such as the telephone and lightbulb, were more successful than others. This book's fascinating examples of Victorian ingenuity and eccentricity have been dug out from the National Archives to create an attractively produced volume. An intense interest in how things worked crossed all ages and classes. Gadgets for personal safety or appliances promoting increased health were extremely popular, though the author comments that many seem as perilous as the dangers they hoped to mitigate. Some designs are intended to alleviate dangers that have long since passed, for instance an overheated head in a top hat or a boot and shoe warmer for the days before central heating. Names are a source of interest, for instance the "somapantic" bath designed to maximise water coverage. The debate between a three or four-pronged fork apparently formed the subject of many a dinner-party conversation. The flush water closets popularised mid-century usually disgorged into the local river, leading to the pollution we are now experiencing once again, and there were numerous patents ensuring a more effective flush. The "omnidirective shower bath" of 1843 pointed to the future but for many years remained unheated. The "noiseless cornice-pole and ring" was presumably intended to eliminate the misery of a rattling curtain rail. Out and about there were numerous gadgets addressing the challenge of leaving the house, for instance a portable cooking apparatus, an anti-explosive alarm whistle, a tennis racket with ball-picker, and a currant-cleaning machine, not to mention an anti-garrotting cravat. The medical section includes some interesting paraphernalia to improve the childbearing experience, usually invented by men. 17.8 x 24.9cm, 224pp, drawings on every page.
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ISBN 9780500517628
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