The IMechE Library provides members with access to key engineering resources. While today this is increasingly in the form of engineering databases or online journals and texts, the library has been providing an information service to members since at least 1877, even before the Institution moved into its current location in One Birdcage Walk. It still holds many early engineering works, most of which are now located on the galleries which surround the library room. This series of posts from the Library Gallery looks at the fascinating stories these works can tell about history of the Institution and the history of engineering.
Arthur E. Brown, Brick drying: a practical treatise on the drying of bricks and similar clay products (London: The Clayworker Press, 1902)
The words BRICK DRYING printed in gold across this book’s spine drew our attention to it on the gallery shelves. Cheaply produced and straight to the point, this handbook was produced as part of the British Clayworker manuals series, and likely issued alongside the journal of the same name, rather than as a standalone publication. It exemplifies a type of work which is scarce today because they were designed for extensive use rather than just consultation, and because they were not available for individual purchase. It is not surprising, therefore, that only other copies we can identify in the UK are held by the British Library and the Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales.
Why does it matter that such works survive? Beyond historical interest, engineers are looking to the past more and more to find sustainable solutions to the problems of the present and the future. This manual is heavily illustrated (as above) and featured techniques from the UK, Germany, the USA and beyond, so that the description of differing ways to dry bricks is not reliant on the text alone.
Features beyond the main can also make the book worth keeping. In this case, the book includes drying-related advertisements for products all over the UK, which is both excellent evidence for the state of the industry at the book’s publication date, and an insight into the marketing techniques of the early 20th century. Take, for example, Sutcliffe Ventilating & Drying Co, who use their fan to highlight the figure of a female model, without a brick in sight!