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The History of Industries and Toolmaking in United Kingdom

  The Circle of the Mechanical Arts by Thomas Martin, 1813




The work now presented to the public, in its complete form, will, it is presumed, recommend itself to general attention, as well from its novelty as from the importance of the subjects of which it treats. Of all the numerous Dictionaries of Arts and Sciences published in this country, there is no one that bears any resemblance to "The Circle of the Mechanical Arts."

In France, indeed, there have been works of the same kind, but they are all executed on too large a scale to become generally useful; and, by their price, they are necessarily confined to the libraries of the rich, or to the repositories of the learned, which have been founded and maintained at the public expense.

Those for whom such works are chiefly adapted, can rarely obtain even a sight of them, and they are thus almost entirely destitute of that utility in improving the arts and manufactures, for which they were naturally designed.

Hence has arisen the difficulty and those obstacles which the editor of this volume has met with in seeking information on the various topics that have come under discussion.


In almost all instances he has found persons engaged in trade extremely unwilling to communicate the processes and manipulations which distinguish their several arts; and, in the course of his inquiries, he had frequently to regret that those who were most disposed to afford him assistance were, from want of all literary habits and practice, utterly incapable of rendering him that aid which he could have hoped for by the communication of their ideas in writing.

Many persons refused him help lest they should be thought to betray the secrets of their trade, and others were equally reluctant to enter into the nature of their profession, fearing that a free communication of their own thoughts would expose their ignorance of its principles, or would prove that its excellence did not depend upon any thing secret, or that could be concealed.

Without, however, troubling the reader with a further enumeration of the difficulties which have beset the editor in his pursuits, and impeded his progress in the attainment of a practical knowledge, he will proceed briefly to state some peculiar features of the work which he has, notwithstanding the hindrances thrown in his way, at length, accomplished.

The "Mechanical Exercises," published by Moxon, more than a century ago, have become exceedingly scarce.

In some respects, it has been the wish of the editor of the "Circle" to follow the example set him by his precursor, yet he has been ambitious of surpassing him in the extent and variety of information contained in his book. Mr. Moxon treated almost exclusively of the arts and trades connected with building ; the editor of the Circle, disdaining so limited a plan, has taken a much more extensive range, and included, in his work, practical treatises on a great variety of other manual arts, trades and manufactures.

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