Explanation or Key to the Various Manufactories of Sheffield with Engravings of each Article designed for the Utility of Merchants, Wholesale Ironmongers and Travellers
 
Published and sold by Joseph Smith, Sheffield, 1816 (Generally known as "Smith's Key")
 
smith key title page Copy
 
 
 
Smith's Key was a very early illustrated catalogue of the tools and cutlery made in Sheffield. The earliest edition was published in 1816 and is a very rare book. There was a reprint forty years ago from the Early American Industries Association. The reprint included a price list and an explanatory essay by John S. Kebabian, linking Smith with the Lancashire toolmaker/seller Peter Stubs and Sheffield manufacturer James Cam. This reprint is itself now rare and expensive. 
 
Fortunately the armchair tool collector can refer to a very well produced colour scan in the BNF (Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the National Library of France) to enjoy the list in all its finely-engraved glory. 
 
The list itself is fascinating for all sorts of reasons. Like so many old catalogues, it shows a range of grades and sizes which would make modern accountants turn grey. It shows details of tools which will provoke questions and discussions. (Were all "Italian Chisels" made in Sheffield? Why could nobody get the perspective right when drawing a plough plane? Why were brass ink-stands so tall?)
 
saws Copy
 
 
There are illustrations of light and heavy edge tools, garden tools, builder's tools, joiner's tools, a bewildering range of cutlery and a small selection of grisly surgical instruments. Personally, I'm hunting for the combined knife, comb and six inch rule, so if you spot one, please get in touch.
 
pocket multi knives Copy
 
NB The link given above leads to an overall view of all the pages, which lets you select any one and zoom in to an impressively high level of detail. To download a page, click on the image of an arrow pointing down into a tray. To download the whole book, select "telecharger… le document entier." 
 
 trepanning Copy

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