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THORNTON, Joseph Patrick.

The International System of Garment Cutting,

for Coats, Trousers, Breeches, and Vests, including Diplomatic, Naval, Military, Livery, clerical, Juvenile, sport & Hosiery Outfits, with diagrams and Full Instructions for Block Pattern Cutting and Pattern Gradation. Dealing with all Forms of Disproportion.

London: The Thornton Institute, c.1924 Stock Code: 139135
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"Neither in tailoring, nor in legislating, does man proceed by mere accident"

Seventh edition of this title, with relevant contemporary annotations, following and much expanding upon Thornton's earlier Sectional System (1901). This is an uncommon and attractive work offering detailed insight into this misunderstood and under-appreciated art. Under 20 copies of various editions dated between ?1885 and 1935 have been located through Library Hub, and it is equally uncommon in the commercial record.

This edition is dated to 1911 by Seligman but placed in 1924 by the Fashion Institute of Technology, NY, and this latter date is supported by internal evidence with reference the "New RAF Outfits" and regulations of March 1920. Overall, the attributions of editions and dates are somewhat confused in the record, and could only be settled by close examination of the text.

This copy with a manuscript tailor's price list mounted on the front pastedown; loosely inserted 1930 solicitation for advertising from The Pall Mall Fashions Publishing Co. of Derby noting the "improvement in trade conditions", together with a halftone plate, slightly tattered at the edges, of a composite group portrait of some of "J.P. Thornton's 40,000 pupils and students"; a scatter of minor annotations to text and plates, particularly concentrated in the trouser section, which is notably more fingersoiled; and a business card for Mr. M.W. Buxton of Sparks & Dickinson, Merchant Tailors of Manchester.

"It is now over thirty years since the author ventured on submitting his first system of garment cutting to the trade, and it can safely be asserted that he had at the time little idea it would ever command the extensive patronage which has been bestowed upon it. The author - a system maker - was an untried man. He had to compete with numerous works of many men who, in trade circles, had a world-wide reputation. He had, of necessity, to strike out upon new lines, and demonstrate his capacity in a field of research that had been exhaustively furrowed. To ensure success it was essential that the work should be more comprehensive in scope and practical in treatment than any work of the kind then before the trade. And success was ensured, for no work of the sort was ever so warmly welcomed... The principles upon which the system is based are unimpeachable. they have stood the test of time, and have been approved by many of the most successful and famous cutters" (Preface). Thornton unsurprisingly draws his epigram from Carlyle's Sartor Resartus, "Neither in tailoring, nor in legislation, does man proceed by mere accident".

Despite the enduring influence of Minister's Cutting Academy, where Thornton was long-time director and teacher, and of his own Thornton Institute on Castle Street East, later Eastcastle Street, off Oxford Street, the man himself remains elusive. Craft skills were kept close, and the texts containing them cherished, but in many cases used to destruction. Joseph Patrick Thornton was born in Lambeth in 1882/3 - his father, also Joseph, was a silversmith - and he died in Brixton in 1935, aged 54; his profession is given in the 1901 census as "tailor" and in that of 1911 as "pattern cutter". He certainly seems to have done much to establish this latter fundamental skill on a sound basis, and to disseminate knowledge of it through his publications and the courses at the institute. Coco Chanel said of Balenciaga, celebrated as a brilliantly innovative pattern cutter; "Balenciaga alone is a couturier in the truest sense of the word. Only he is capable of cutting material, assembling a creation and sewing it by hand, the others are simply fashion designers". It all depends on the cutting. Uncommon and attractive, offering in-depth insight into this misunderstood and under-appreciated art.

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Quarto. Original purple pebble-grained cloth, title gilt to the spine and in large display type to the front board, ornate panels in blind to both boards.


Portrait frontispiece and 186 full-page plates, numerous large illustrations to the text. Contents and technical matter in English, French and German.


Inevitable signs of use, rubbed and lightly soiled on the boards, sunned on the spine and at edges of the front board, cloth of front joint split, but the joint sound, hinges a touch loose and the text-block consequently mildly shaken, front free endpaper creased and dust soiled, some marginal fingersoiling, 2 leaves - pp.377-80 cancelled and cancels present, slightly smaller in size, overall remains very good.


Seligman 1911.13, "Direct measure system; clear instructions and diagrams. Many black and white plates of current styles".


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