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WOOD, Nicholas.

A Practical Treatise on Rail-Roads,

and interior communications in general; with original experiments, and tables of the comparative value of canals and rail-roads.

Published: London: Knight and Lacey, J. and R. Akenhead, Westley and Tyrell, Dublin, 1825

Stock code: 111980

Price: £2,500

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First edition of this foundation work on railways, scarce in the original boards and in such exemplary condition. Nicholas Wood (1795-1865) was a civil and mining engineer who was a colliery manager at Killingworth, Northumberland, when his book was published, which coincided with the opening of the Stockton and Darlington railway. “George Stephenson was also at Killingworth at that time. He was fourteen years older than Wood, and the two were soon drawn into a lasting friendship by their common interests and ambitions. It was a tribute to Stephenson’s opinion of him that his son Robert was apprenticed to Wood from 1819 to 1821 at Killingworth. Wood assisted Stephenson in the development of his safety lamp, which was first tested in 1815. He was closely associated with Stephenson in his experiments with steam locomotives, and in 1821 accompanied him to Darlington, where they met Edward Pease and discussed the projected Stockton–Darlington railway line. As a result of his experience and observations Wood was able to publish in 1825 A Practical Treatise on Rail-Roads, and Interior Communication in General, a classic work of early railway literature, in which he discussed the various types of ‘motive power’ then in use: self-acting planes, fixed steam-engine planes, horses, and locomotive steam engines. The work appeared in three subsequent editions, in 1831, 1832, and 1838, considerably enlarged and brought up to date. In 1827 Wood’s reputation in railway matters was such that he was invited to give evidence before committees of both houses of parliament on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Bill. In 1829 he was one of the three judges for the Rainhill locomotive trials on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, won by the Stephensons’ Rocket. In 1845 he joined the ‘battle of the gauges’, taking sides with the Stephensons and the ‘narrow-gauge’ lobby” (ODNB).

Octavo. Original drab brown boards, paper spine label, uncut. Engraved folding frontispiece of a locomotive, 5 other engraved folding plates by Fenner after Johnson or Read after Galloway (2 of locomotives, two of track, another of winding gear). Front joint cracked but sound, a little loss of surface paper around spine, light bump at head and tail. An excellent copy, crisp and clean, with the 8pp. of publisher’s preliminary advertisements.

Bibliography: Dibner, Heralds of Science, 182; Roberts & Trent, Bibliotheca Mechanica, p. 358 (citing the third edition of 1832).

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