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January 27, 2017

John Phillips’s lithographic notebook

A full-colour facsimile of John Phillips’s lithographic notebook, edited by Michael Twyman, with a checklist of Phillips’s lithographic work up to the end of 1819, was published in December 2016 by the Society. The original document is at the Museum of Natural History in Oxford, and describes the young geologist Phillips’s early experiments with the lithographic process, made between 1817 and 1819. At the time Phillips was living with one of his uncles, the surveyor, engineer and geologist William Smith, known as the ‘father of English geology’. Smith made good use of the young Phillips’s precocious understanding of fossils, and must also have backed and encouraged his nephew’s experiments in lithography, partly for practical reasons. Thus it was that two of the most important nineteenth-century geologists became interested in printing from stone when the process was still very much in its infancy, at least in Britain. The young Phillips’s attempts to understand lithography were informed by a few sketchy published descriptions of the process and by tenuous contacts with practitioners, but above all by a series of systematically-conducted experiments with materials and procedures. The records of these experiments provide insights into the mind and working methods of a young scientist, while also revealing much about the state of lithography in Britain at the time.

This book, which runs to 104 pages, is available in small quarto (255 × 185 mm), full black cloth, with dust jacket, containing a full-clour facsimile and annotated transcription of the original 36-page notebook. The book can be purchased by members of the Printing Historical Society at a special price of £15, and by non-members for £30, by using the online order form or by contacting the Treasurer.

Posted by Francis Cave at January 27, 2017 10:42 PM