A Treatise on Calico Printing, General Reflections, or Desultory Suggestions relative to Callico-Printing...

A Treatise on Calico Printing, VOL. I-II
Printed for C. O'Brien, Bookseller, Islington, and sold by Bew, Paternoster-row: Richardson, Royal Exchange: Murray, Fleet-Street: And the Booksellers of Manchester, Glasgow, Dublin, &c.


(1) What is it a certain senatorial Printer would not attempt, were he in a line of commanding a price? for who is more capable or spirited; is short, what is it any man would not attempt, whose maxim is, "A Man may be a Lord if he will?" — See the retrospect!

(2) The reign of Lewis XIV. has been deemed the third Augustan age; and in Lewis's splendidly despotic reign, so emphatically termed by Burke, Colbert had only to suggest, and Louis commanded it to be done. — See 5th note.

Voltaire makes four ages, i.e. of Alexander, Augustus, Medicis, and Lewis. — See likewise Gwin on design.

(3) See a French paper pattern of roses, (the writer thinks imported by Middleton,) which at a proper distance has the effect of a painting; — But when had cloth such an effect?

In France, paper printing, in many respects, throws English callico printing to a great disrance; but it is there made worth employing first-rate artists as designers. — See the advertisement at the end.

(4) His patterns for 1790 run chiefly on an imitation of sea weed, and in effect, at least, excelled what any other printer exhibited, and is particularly noted here, as being an instance of what might be done, were Printers not confined to a certain expence; for the cutting in them is such, that no other Printer could or would execute them; and no other Draper, but he for whom they were done, would have dared to engage them: in fact, strange as it may seem to many, and incredible to some, it is without flattery here observed, that out of the great number of Drapers in England, Scotland and Ireland, there is but that one who boldly ventures, in concert with the Printer above mentioned, to strike into unbeaten tracks, and consequently prevents that langour in exertion and sickliness of complexion which otherwise would be the case.

(5) They are carried so sar, that Dyers who prosess dyeing fast colours, are not allowed even to keep in their shops, the drugs used for false or fugitive ones. — See the end of the suggestions on Chymick Printing. And this by the way, may serve to justify what is advanced about Chymick Printing; on the necessity of some regulation on that point, as well as the apprehension of the consequences of an overflow of inferior and low priced work, though executed with fast colours.

(6) And why should not the Minister attend to a deputation from those who have the respectability of the business, and its advancement in point of execution, at heart, as well as giving an ear to deputations from others, who have only an idea of doing a great quantity, upon plans calculated for immediate emolument, however highly they may talk of sinking vast capitals, employing 5, 10, or 20,000 hands, forming extensive connexions, encreasing the revenue, &c. &c? for, annexing the writer's ideas of improvements to this political one, advancing the respectability of the business must advance the pecuniary worth of its operations; and by procuring new and more respectable openings for its reception, it would bear higher duties, compensating for what deficiences there might be in quantity of work, if that should be a consequence; which however, on the supposition of super demands only for what is super-excellent, would have little to do with what may be done, in common, as is at present.

Besides, as such an improvement would require the most respectable persons to carry it on, there would not be the probability of the Revenue being defrauded, as frequently done by indigent or desperate adventurers; and which many probably suppose is oftner the case than it is, when work is sold in the shops for hardly more than the primecost of the cloth, every one not knowing why it can be sold so.

(→ Whenever improvements are spoken of, it is begged to be understood that the usual course of practice should first be rendered certain.)

As to what is said of a Prime Minister's knowledge of trade (if such a topic may be here ventured on.) it can only be on a general scale, as he cannot know much of the minutiae of it, and much less of particular points, where, every individual is differently interested and circumstanced, from each other;* and in this case it will well: admit a query (some may think nor) whether those deputies from the country, when closeted with the Minister, a few seasons back, were as ready in explaining to him the nature and consequences of those practices that caused the Town-Printers to apply for a remedy,§ as they perhaps were quaint, fluent, diversified or energetic, on the injury they might receive from (innocently to be sure) printing a pattern likely to be construed a copy?

* It is just remarked, as apposite to this observation, as well as relative to the subject of this work, that, at the late trial about copying a Pattern, a common Putter-on must have smiled, at Mr. Erskine's atttmpt to inform the Jury how patterns were transferred to the block.

§ It can be said, that those whom such practices have particularly injured, are not solicitous about what printing is done in the country, so it were but done upon that principle of honour which ought to actuate Tradesmen as well as any other class; and as a proof of thet above suggestion, it is on record, that on the late trial, Lord Kenyon paid high compliments to the honourable behavior of the Prosecutor, on the conciliating compromise that previously took place between the parties; evincing that the Plaintiff only wished his "exclusive right" to be legally ascertained.

Note, It is begged to be observed, that it is not because the practices often alluded to, are evecrated, at done by this or that particular person in tie country; since the first Printer, Draper, or any Other concerned in the business about town, would have been treated just as freely in a similar ease; for whether in Town or Country, he only is pointed who spiritedly and honorably holds his situation as a Tradesman, or as dustardly and disreputably contaminates it. Sheer necessity may perhaps plead for indulgence, and on that soore pity is due rather than indignation, and pity is bestowed. — See note 51 to Colour-making. And well would it be for many, into whose hands these suggestions may fall, if they prevent their being added to the list of those active or passive uaderrainers and debasers of that respectability in operation, and that liberality in dealing, which is the proper foundation and prop of any profession, trade, or manufacture whatever.

Of piratical or invasive depresations, the late ad judicated repulse (see note to the retrospect) adds to the triumph of legitimate exertions; and genius and industry may look forward with a hope of proper encouragement and protection; for in this case it may on antequitable principle be said (and Lord Kenyon's oral testimony {see note 9) was to that effect) patterns should be considered like literary property.

* It it said: attempted because all have not succeeded The firm of Livesy & Co. must never be forgotten, and as yet may be ranked; first among monsters of this kind; being equivocal in its generation, mishapen at its birth, irregular in its accretion, and premature and insectious in its dissolution. — See this retrospect.

(20 [8?]) It it known such work is done on the Continent, that, accordmg to the price of labour here, would require 12 or 15 shillings, or more per yard, to execute, if it even could be done;* but many Drapers look now more for profit from bargains than from a regular custom of giving so much for printing, and advancing it on the buyer; and as this is an irregularity that must be removed, before an improvement can take place, it would be beginning a new æra in trade, and new modes of conducting it: and possibly, notwithstanding what is said note 51, some Drapers, in their connections with some Printers, would not wish work always to be so well done, as not to have occasion for a Damage-book. — See the last note but two to Putting-on.

* It is particularly in the article of pencilling that the best Continential work excels ours (see Pencilling, Vol. 1) but why the cutting and printing should, if not so clear; some late efforts, however, show emulation is not wanting, but to effect an equality; the tyranny of the market must be crushed in certain cases, as above alluded to.

The above is applicable to paper printing on the Continent, (as beforespoken of) but what is imported not being under a marketable controul, no more than Foreign prohibited Chintz, it can command a proper price, and is therefore in request by the opulent.

(9) This it is granted it so in this sense, but then the consequence is lowering the price of the articles, which (as often particularly dwelt on) strikes at the, very root of that respectability which only can render Callico-printing more worths the notice of the opulent and fashionable.* But according to the writer's idea of improvement, totally the reverse of that mentioned above, the consequences would be a greater demand for works of genius, an increase of mechanical and manual operation, and a more extensive request for utensils, drugs, &c. with a sufficient inducement for men of scientisic knowledge, to make proper experiments on articles not in common use, at least in printing (see the notes at the end of the account of Colouring Drugs, and the end of the Retrospect) for thus it was, by calling forth the powers of Philosophy and Genius, in conjunction with the knowledge of the mere Practitioner, that the illustrious Patron and aggrandizar of the arts, above spoken of, so advanced the art of dyeing, as to give France that pre-eminence in it which she even retauu to this day.

* This destructive principle, the writer is sorry to say, seems to crush any further progress in that elegant improvement, copper-plate printing. — See, note 10 to the retrospect.

(21) See Delaval on Colours. — Berthollet on Acids — Bergman on Indigo — but see especially the annals of Chymistry.

Mr. Delaval' s doctrine is, that colour is produced by light transmitted through transparent particles, from its reflection on a white ground or medium. — In Berthollet's memoirs, are particulars respecting the dephlogisticated marine acid, of wonderful efficacy in solutions, Bleaching, clearing the ground after boiling off, a test of the fixity of colour, &c. &c. — It is however as yet little used in England, in fact, a Revenue concern, that formidable Remora, is against it. (See likewise Nicholson's Elements.)

Of the discoveries respecting air, much surely (as observed in the article of Maddering) might be turned to advantage. Fixed air having the property of renovating certain vapid liquors, of keeping meat sweet a long time, giving water a sparkling appearance and a most lively taste, as well as superlatively purifying it. (To convivialists it may not be inexcusable to add, that the beverage of punch is much improved by it.) The inserence, however, to the Callico-Printer is, that water any how purified and joined with salts equally pure (note 36 to maddering) must be incontestably advantageous in colour-making, as the water likewise must be in bringing up colour. And every Printer has by him, the principal ingredients, wz. chalk and vitriol.*

* It has been mentioned how needful a stil would be in a colour-house. Chemists in their processes are particularly careful in this respect and why not callico-printers, dyerts, &c.?

*#* An odd idea is adopted by some, that the Indian fast colours are raised by sand; some add the sun; of this, the writer has often enquired, but what be has heard is too absurd to repeat. — In truth, the principles of Indian fast colouring processes are like ours, for no other is known; and as they have existed some thousands of years (note 40 to colour-making) so there is no appearance of their ever being otherwise. A deal too is vaguly said of all the colours being put in with pencils. But this will be discussed in a history of Callico Printing.

(22) Sir Richard Arkwright is said to have cleared 50 or 60,000l. per annum by his Cotton Mills; but how fared it with the hundreds "turned over to Providence" by the invention?

N. B. A work is just published on the subject of granting patents.

What was it the ever to be execrated Firm of L_y, H_e, A_e, S_h and _ll, wished to do with machine printing? (note 11 to the Retrospect.*)

* One execrable attempt (rather extraneous here) not universally known, was to drawn a certain Printer in Surry (see note 4) into their connection, not a month before they failed! It was however treated deservedly with the highest disdain. — Lay and Adams offered the same person 500l per annum to draw for them just before their failure: — Was this folly or any thing worse? — See note 50 to colour-making.

(25) By Cylindrical printing. The report of a Patent for printing green (as has been mentioned) has caused a ferment among Pencillers: and so might the new mode of Bleaching above spoken of, from the idea of its rendering watering, &c. unnecessary, have some effect on Fieldmen. — See similar thoughts where speaking of chemick printing in, the section of colour-making.

Of the disturbances above alluded to, (allowing, the above cause as some extenuation of them) it is just said here, (see note 10 to the Retrospect) while funds are supported, and the distinction of fair and foul shops retained; while different Masters have different interests, and some actually benefit by the divisions, it is impossible to conceive any end but a self-destructive one, or until the members clearly see the evil consequences, as above referred to, or at least hinted at, or when it is taken up by the legislature, in an alarm for the revenue.

([2?]4) As for instance, will not a merely practical Dyer rather turn to the translation of Hellot by Haigh, a professed dyer, than to a late excellent one where the translator avows his ignorance even of common technicals? — See likewise Dr. Eason's paper on bleaching. Vol. II. Manchester Phil. Trans.

(25) A premium coming from a Royal source, and adequate to the expence of the attempt, would go much further towards improvement than the premium for patterns. For one excellency there, is adapting them the best to the present restrained mode of execution; but as this would much improve that mode, drawings would not he under the restraint they now are. — (See the end of note 9 to the retrospect) and then English Artists, in their designs, would find inducement to emulate French ones. In fact, restrain in this first stage precludes excellency in the succeeding ones. (See notes 3 and 20 to this section) and until it be remedied, English Callico-printing will ever be behind that on the Continent, especially what is now (1791) attempting at Juoy, near Verseilles in France.
...and various articles allied to it; which may be considered either as improveable hints, monitory effusions, or mere occasional observations.

As one excitement to forming the whole of this work, was the disagreeable reflection of many being at the head of the business treated of, little competent to the management of it, even in its present state; so the writer would be happy to see every Callico Printer, what he ought to be, a man of genius, as well as a man of business, or any other quality; as emulation would undoubtedly be one consequence, and the effects of emulation among men of genius, no one can be ignorant of, is aiming at superior excellence over each other, or the exaltation of their respective prosessions; for supposing, instead of two or three Printers maintaining a respectability, because it is certain the majority of them cannot reach it, that the performances of every one were equal to the best now done; what is it those very few who are at the top ot the prosession would not attempt in order to retain their pre-eminenvy? (i) and what is it that might not further be done for furniture; hangings, ornaments, and other appendages of Opulence and Taste, were Callico-printing countenanced (to carry on this illusion) as the great Colbert, under the auspices of the great Lewis, countenanced the art of dyeing? (2) and what advantages would not attend it in various cases, were it rendered as much an object of the Great and Refined, as many articles of fashion, taste, and luxury are, though of less intrinsic value? as nature, by exquisiteness of execution, might be more closely imitated, and fanciful designs farther assisted, than they can possibly be by the common modes now in practice; but, at present, persons of taste and judgment in drawing, painting, ornament, &c. (if uninterested in the business); rarely find any thing worth their notice in the best execution of the best full chintz pattems, as being far behind a tolerably decent imitation of nature, either by painting, tapestry, weaving, needlework, or even paper printing (which by the way is now in a rising state) (3) even the necessary out-line is a sufficient bar; and to instance an essential part of such patterns, a rose, how little like nature in shadow, folding, shape and colour, is the best three red rose that ever was, or even can be, printed in the usual course of executing patterns! perhaps the nearest approaches to nature in drawing, as far as cutting would allow, and in colour, as far as three reds, three purples, busts, olaves, and so on would permit, have been in various patterns of Kilburn's; (4) and particularly so, in respect to drawing, in his late excellent dark ground tinted plate patterns; but how soon was one shabbily imitated, and undersold? (see note 9 to the retrospect) as has been the case with many of his coloured patterns; and what is disagreeable to mention, when speaking of such exertions, probably the retailers' ends were better answered; hence, how can persons of taste, fashion or opulence be expected to countenance a business, while (by way of instance) for what such persons would willingly give five or six shillings a yard, their very servants can have an imitation of, or what has nearly the effect, for two or three? and what stimulas has genius and in dustry to exert themselves, when exertions are liable to be quickly imitated, most commonly in a slovenly manner, and shamefully undersold? this alone is enough to quash the spirit of exertion; therefore the writer confidentially says, if any regard be due to the improvement of a prosession, requiring genius and a philosophical understanding to conduct, it has a claim on the attention of the highest legislative powers, that such a distinction and regulation be established (beyond the meaning of the late act), so as to annihilate such practices; but this can only be done by preventing that confounding of the excellent and execrable, where inferior work, whether original or imitative, chymick or fast, answers the general marketable purpose as well as, or better titan, the best. — See the retrospect.

In whatever light this suggestion may be looked at, by those whom it concerns, or those to whom it is immediately directed, it is affirmed; that the great Minister just mentioned, as he deemed the art of dyeing worth his endeavour to fix on an establishment, which comprehended such a distinction and regulation (confirmed since his time) (5) would no doubt have extended his wishes to this object; and the rather, as Callico Printing, by exhibiting figures, flowers, and fanciful objects, on certain articles, instead of merely colouring them, is indisputably a great improvement on dyeing. - See note 49 to colourmaking, — and from such considerations, however presuming it may appear to direct any thing like dictation to a Premier, he is not withstanding here told, that though an interested individual may naturally enough say, 'What value I the disrepute attending my productions, or even the execrations of my practices by posterity, so I gain my peniary ends? yet a Minister, from his situation as a general Guardian of Manufactures, is bound to take the matter up on a more liberal scale, and to regard the reputation and prosperity of the rising generation, as well as the present; therefore, pressing forward the immediate of these suggestions, before the Minister is again applied to by deputations (6) from town or country Callico-Printers, for partial or other illaudable purposes, let him be here informed that a profession, which is a great source of revenue, instead of being properly nurtured, is not only kept back from gaining maturity but even its present scarcely budding state, has been and is attempted * to be nipped and debased, by certain individuals, in view of making that profit in a few years, which ought to be a patrimony legally descending to after-ages; as well as preventing it from rivalling most other professions depending on the exertions of genius, by bringing it entirely under marketable constraint:(7) let him likewise be told, it was undoubtedly in this light that the great Colbert would have viewed it (making allowance for local and temporary circumstances) since he acted not as if he consulted a few interested individuals, or as to throw immediate riches into the Treasury, much less as if he wished to force unnaturally any art to its highest state, for the pride of beholding it so himself, no matter how soon after bis time it withered; no, that admirable man was satisfied with the dawn of such a prospect; he was content to plant the arts in such a soil, that the roots might take firm hold, and the growth be natural, though it might require ages to bring the fruits to their highest state of cultivation; or before individuals, the nation in general, or the world at large received emolument or pleasure from them.

Being on this of improving the profession treated of, it is intimated, that some years ago, an artist of repute (Mr. Edwards, F.S.A.) was employed in painting flowers, &c. as patterns for working furniture, &c. for the Queen; now here, looking forward in an effervescence of hope for the exaltation of Callico-Printing, what would not a high price (suppose it is said 30 or 40 shillings per yard) enable an ingenious Printer to perform, by using, a greajer number, of shades of colours, more blended, or less abrupt in their gradations and transitions, with the pencilling applied to more advantage in attempting to imitate, on various materials, patterns so drawn and coloured? it is surely to be inferred, he could do something that the first Artist in the kingdom would applaud for its effect; and a suggestion is presumed on, that Royalty only waits to knew something could be done for furniture, ornaments, &c. to match these paintings; which being known and noticed, no one will dispute the influence such notice would have on the subordinate degrees of rank and fashion; and then (still indulging a delusive hope) from such an operose mode of execution, elevated degree of effect, and proportionate value of the performance, the Artist above-named, and others of acknowledged capability, would have that justice done to what he or they could produce, not possible to be obtained by the present highest efforts then would the usual uncouth imitation of nature, the restricted display of fancy, the unmeaning appearance of what are even called; good patterns, and that criterion of excellency by what will suit the market, be superseded by performances, that in effect, would be compatible with nature, taste, and propriety, and accordingly would be judged by a standard just, and immutable, totally distinct from that of the market, or the caprice of the day ! and then would commence an æra in the history of Callico-printing, honourable and celebrious to the commencers, and super-eminently reputable to every one concerned in the operation, or in the disposal of what may be performed!

Before the closing of this digression, it may be mentioned that an eminent Printer (Arbuthnot) aid a pattern cut for Queen Caroline, but though elaborate and well executed, it was in the common stile of effect, with 3 reds, 3 purples, an outline, and so on, and produced by the usual and uncertain course of process; but this the writer cannot help saying is what remains, not only to be rendered more certain in operation, but, to be exceeded in effect; and must be exceeded before Callico-printing can approach to even a very humble degree of perfection.

But, notwithstanding what has been said, it is too obvious, that the settled œconomy of the market, which says nothing beyond such a price will sell, is the most insurmountable ob struction to any considerable improvement in execution and effect, or even to equaling what is done on the Continent; for the most elaborate of our work, that, as the phrase is, will pay, is only an approach towards the excellency of our neighbours. (8)

Another impediment results from the common idea received among many Printers, that rendering operations cheap, easy, and expeditious, are the only points proper to be deemed as aiming at improvements, from being of immediate pecuniary consideration (9) besides, it is a very difficult matter to get journeymen out of an old track.

In another light, a great hindrance lays in the lukewarmness with which Government listens to proposals of countenancing any art, unless they tend to an immediate increase of revenue, or at least do not interrupt the channels of it.

From these considerations, enthusiastic as the writer may be in his wishes for the exaltation of the profession in which he has a concern, it is feared that what has been advanced must remain an ideal prospect little likely ever to be substantiated; or be considered as an airy excursion, productive only of a delusive hope, or an imaginary advantage; and as those who are particularly cramped and injured by piratical and debasing practices, can do little more than complain, so in respect to improvement, whatever may be said for bringing the usual courses of operation into more certainty of effect, the business must nevertheless remain in this restrained and imperfect state; which strictly speaking, is, that two or three can command a price to enable them to execute decent work (which is only so in a comparative view,) and the rest fill the Market as well as they are able; and thus, season after season, Calico-Printing retains the same complexion, only the features are now and then a little altered, and frequently distorted.

However, according to the mode the writer affects of bringing what he advances, to a point,* (* See the ends of the first and second volumes.) so here it may be said that

The improvement of any profession depends on a knowledge of its principles, and the application of them to practice.

Increasing the respectability of any prosession increases its intrinsic value.

Under-working, under-felling, and piratical practices, are, on the contrary, destructive, or subversive of it; and this consideration comprizes, the usual consequences of adopting cheap and expeditious modes of operation.

Turning new to the treatise itself, the writer is aware it may be said by some, that what he has proposed (and what he may offer) is unattainable by the generality of those to whom addressed: and even romantic in some cases; or else that it does not give information such as many expect, who think nothing but practical directions can or ought to be spoken of: - to the first remark he can only say, he certainly attempts to go out of a beaten track; to the other, (as often repeated) it is as little in his inclination, as in his power, or perhaps any other persons', to exhibit such directions; his intention being to pursue a middle course, offering the chief of what he says, not to amuse novices, deceive the credulous, or oppose the reasonable, but as almost mere matter of reflection, to those who are in a certain state of practice; as well as earnestly recommending it to those who may be inclined to enter into the business, to consider the nature of it; or if determined to enter, to be equally aware of the difficulty of conducting it.* (* See note 7 to copper work.)

Whether what he advances under either idea is equal to the intention or not, he will not use any thing like the insipid hacknied apology of "leaving it to a candid Public to determine, but he will venture to say, that as his highest idea of the usefulness of this work, is the probability of its rousing reflections on the principles of Callico Printing, which otherwise might have lain dormant, his views must appear as tending ultimately to encrease it in beauty, taste and expression. This however, it is enforced, cannot be attained till a philosophic spirit is roused and diffused among Callico Printers in this country, (which if these humble efforts may any way assist, the writer will be amply consoled for any treatment they may meet with) and as he thinks he could point to two or three, whose latent powers only want rousing, it is here distinctly intimated* (* It being only catually mentioned in this work.) that if modern philosophy be called in to aid what is already known and performed (21) it will appear it does not only establish theory on grounds more directly applcable to practice, but to render practice itself more simple and efficacious; and not only detects and removes im purities and imperfections in articles that oppose the severest common tests; but analyzes, rectifies and applies them beyond conception or belief: In short, it rivets speculation with practice, and the agreeable with the useful.

But while thus paying tribute to the exertions of philosophy, may the writer just glance at consequences which philanthrophy, however it may admire those exertions, cannot but deplore? namely, the depriving many of their (perhaps) only means of subsistence, and exciting them to acts of turbulence and desperation(22) and is the rather mentioned, as the present disturbances in the Callico Printing business are partly owing to such causes.(23) Hence, at any rate, in order to compensate, in some measure, for such partial injury, by instituting something generally advantageous (as often enforced) the improvement of effect, and procuring new and more respectable channels for disposal, in all possible cases, should be always kept in view.

May it likewise be observed, though dwelt on elsewhere, that, as merely practical men in extensive businesses, are more alive to immediate "Loss and Gain," (like Ministers to certain sources of Revenue) than to distant advantages, which require deviations from established modes of practice or supplies, the greatest discoveries sometimes produce only a transient blaze, and are, alas consigned to oblivion, unless accommodated in some degree to what is already in practice. In short, as the mere practitioner cannot understand the language of theory, till by gradual information his doubts and prejudices are removed, it is an oversight in scientific writers (with trepidation it is said) to publish researches only as theoretical; greater, if announced applicable to practice with no practical matter incorporated with them; but greatest of all, openly to avow a total ignorance of the practice of what they are offered to improve; as that at once precludes further notice from the merely practical man, who looks for practical information. (24) But, notwithstanding these and all other impediments, and surely it is but fair to state ithem; if a proper emulative spirit be but once raised, the writer still hopes, delusive as he may represent his hopes, he shall see London Callico Printers' names in the list of the Royal Society, as well (with some little reproach to London Printers be it said) as there are two or three country ones in that of the Manchester Philosophical Society. — That he shall see practice grounded on philosophical principles; and consequently rendered more certain and of better effect. — That he shall see this combination of Theory and Practice patronized by a Premier and vivified by Royalty (25) and that then he shall see England, as she excels all other nations in arms and commerce, likewise excel, among other arts, all other nations in

The Art of Callico-Printing

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