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WORCESTER, Edward Somerset, second marquess of.

A Century of Names and Scantlings of such Inventions,

as at present I can call to mind to have tried and perfected, which (my former Notes being lost) I have, at the Instance of a powerful Friend, endeavoured now in the Year 1655, to set these down in such a Way, as may sufficiently instruct me to pu any of them in Practice.

London: Printed in the Year 1663. Reprinted, and Sold by T. Payne, 1746 Stock Code: 144848
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A most attractive copy of the second edition, considerably less common than the first of 1663. This is a fascinating catalogue of inventions, albeit eclectic and rather sketchy, by the ingenious Edward Somerset, second marquess of Worcester, which includes his self-styled "admirable and most forcible Way to drive up Water by Fire" apparently an early form of steam engine.

Worcester (d. 1667) served the king's cause during the Civil War and even while garrisoning Raglan Castle in the Welsh Marches found time to make experiments, employing the Dutch engineer Caspar Calthoff to assist him. ODNB refers to Worcester's "lofty, quixotic ambition which outran his powers of judgement. He was imaginative, perhaps even visionary in his patronage of hydraulic engineering, but was never able wholly to persuade the scientific community in his own age of his achievement. It was left to Victorian commentators to rescue his reputation as an engineer" (ODNB). At the war's end he was banished by the Commonwealth and his estates confiscated, but on the Restoration these were restored and he devoted his time to mechanical studies and further experiments, the most famous of which was his water-raising engine, built at Vauxhall and which "raised water to a height of 40ft (12m) An Act of Parliament enabling Worcester to receive the benefit and profits of his water-commanding engine for ninety-nine year did not restore his fortunes. Descriptions of this invention are so vague that it cannot be reconstructed" (Day and McNeil, Biographical Dictionary of the History of Technology, 2002, p. 1136). According to an intriguing anecdote in John Imison's The School of Arts (1796), the engineer Thomas Savery (1650?-1715), a pioneer of steam power, read Worcester's account and "to secure the invention to himself, he bought up all the marquis's books that he could find, and burnt them; and then gave it out that he discovered the method by accident". Among the other inventions included here are "an unsinkable ship", "a knotted String Alphabet", "an artificial Bird", "a Discourse woven on Tape or Ribbon", "a flying Man", and "a continually going Watch".

Provenance: early 19th century ownership inscription of James Coggan at head of title page and his anonymous bookplate to front pastedown (three ostrich feathers emerging from a helmet with open visor shown affronte, within a rococo cartouche); this is possibly Captain James Coggan, a former merchant captain who was Master-Attendant of Shipping at East India House at the beginning of the 19th century. Before the title page are three pages of manuscript notes recounting the Savery anecdote, although from a different source (William Coxe's An Historical Tour in Monmouthshire, 1801), with a similar note on the last page and a few late 19th century marginal pencillings identifying various inventions.

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Duodecimo (151 x 84 mm). Mid-19th century calf, spine with four broad raised bands, gilt lettered direct in second and fifth compartments, head and tail of spine and bands tooled with blind oval-and-star and milled rolls, large foliate motif filling each compartment, elaborate blind intersecting border to covers enclosing an ornamental lozenge, blind milled edge roll and turn-ins, brown paste paper endpapers.


Small recent armorial bookplate of John Maurice Hawkins to front free endpaper. Front joint partially cracked but sound, small area of worming at foot of rear joint, covers a little rubbed. A very good copy, complete with the terminal blank leaf [D12].


ESTC T153267 cites 15 locations among institutional libraries, with just three copies on auction records (2014, 1966, and 1956).


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