[SOMERSET, Edward, 2nd Marquess of Worcester]

A Century of the Names and Scantlings of such inventions


London: Printed in the Year 1663. Reprinted and Sold by T. Payne, in Round-Court in the Strand. 1746.

Second edition. 12mo. (152x90mm). pp. xxx, 31-94, [2, advertisements]. Contemporary boards, backed in calf and with contemporary marbled paper pasted onto the front and rear endpapers. Somewhat worn but this, as will be seen, is a much used book with a fascinating history and provenance.
On the upper cover is written, in a contemporary hand "Marquis of Worcester's, his Invention". The title page has the ownership inscription "Richd Samuel" and a blank preliminary leaf has the inscription "John Pitt his book made a present to him by the Rd. Mr Gainsborough of Henley upon Tames in Oxfordshire 1772". Gainsborough is, unquestionably, Humphrey Gainsborough (1718-1776), a non-conformist minister at the Independent Church in Henley. He was also an engineer and inventor who designed bridges and locks in and around Henley and influenced James Watt in his work on the steam engine. He was also the brother of the painter Thomas Gainsborough. One of Gainsborough's engineering projects was a bridge taking the Henley to Wargrave road over "Happy Valley". The designer of the bridge was the brother of William Pitt. John Pitt was the son of William. Born in 1756, he would have been sixteen when Gainsborough gave him this book. It is just the sort of book that would be given to an intelligent sixteen year old.
Edward Somerset's most famous invention was his "Water-commanding Engine" which was a prototype for what would become the steam engine. This would certainly have appealed to Gainsborough and provides a nice link between the two men.
The book is annotated throughout (we think by Richard Samuel) with a few little drawings in the margins. One comment is particularly amusing: after describing an engine which he called "a Semi Omnipotent Engine" Somerset writes "[I] do intend that a model thereof be buried with me". The manuscript note reads: "if so, the grave should be robbed". A later (unidentified) owner has written (on the blank preliminary) an entertaining note describing Somerset's engine and how it was copied by Thomas Savory who then bought up and destroyed as many copies of Somerset's book as he could find and claimed the invention as his own. A fascinating little book, annotated throughout and with an interesting (and scientifically important) provenance.

Recently viewed