Anyone who has worked in the building trade will be familiar with the idea of a price  book.
It’s a list of standardised materials and components, showing the usual list prices for them. Working from a list of the quantities required, and knowing any trade discounts that apply, it becomes a simple clerical job to calculate the cost of materials for any job, sufficiently accurately to tender for it. The idea is not new, and several well-known names that are still in business such as Spon’s, Laxton’s or Griffiths can trace their history for a century or more.
 
In the specialist field of tool production, cartels of manufacturers produced their own standard lists. The Sheffield List set prices for a wide range of tools and has been featured already in this series. There were other local lists too - 
Birmingham and Wolverhampton published a magnificent illustrated list of over 800 pages in 1873. 
 
Our offering today is on a more modest scale, but still fascinating. It was published in Llandovery in 1832 and claims to list “articles manufactured in London, Birmingham, Bristol, Wolverhampton, Sheffield &c”  It does; but being only 112 pages long, it can hardly be considered a comprehensive list. My guess is that it was copied from an assortment of already printed trade price lists – why else would it include price-free entries such as “Lancashire screw plates of all kinds” or a list of gimlets only showing the sizes? A note at the beginning clarifies that it is intended to be useful to “Merchants, Factors and Ironmongers” and it’s easy to imagine that it would have been handy for a shopkeeper to be able to look up the prices for ordinary stock items and rarer ones that customers might come in and ask for. 
 
butler title page 606x1024
 
 
What it does cover is a splendid assortment of things from the end of the Georgian period. Some are easy to understand – saucepans in all sizes, coffee pots, fish kettles – but others are not so obvious – what was a “Digester” – available in sizes from four quarts to ten gallons or more?  Which of us could tell a plain porringer from the “Porringers, New Pattern”? Out of context, could you work out whether to buy a
 
porringers 1024x204
 
“snapper” a “bastard” or a “bastard, with best pipes” and what size to go for? (The answer is on page 30.)
 
snappers bastards 1024x660
 
The sections on tools, even without any illustrations, give information about the range of sizes, their relative prices, and an indication of how many options were available. There is nothing new in the idea of offering a basic tool at a low price, with a range of options as long as the purchaser’s pocket. The section on rules, for example, shows a price range for the two foot folding rule ranging from the common item at six shillings per dozen up to the top of the range with large arch joints, iron caps, brass pin holes,  improved wood slides and scantling tables, at forty shillings a dozen. 
 
planes 674x1024
 
 
The list of planes is useful as an early example and for me at least, provided some puzzles. Salaman’s Dictionary explains what was special about a “Cornish cove and bead” plane or a “necking plane,” and John Whelan has the answer to the “common spring plane,” which I’d not noticed before. Has anyone yet identified the “chair foot plane” which is included here?
 
There are intriguing looking lists of nails, screws, hinges, saws and plenty more, ready to be searched for answers to historic puzzles or a few new ones. 
 
Which sort of tool could be divided into the categories: “best bright house” “best bright ship” “best bright eyed” and “long longs”?  
 
The original copy of this book is in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. It was scanned by Google and the detail of how to download it will vary according to the device and software you use. If you start here:
 
 
you should be able to read it online or download it as a pdf  - you may need to click on a red “read ebook” button and follow further instructions. 
 
hobs tough hurdle 1024x587
 
Thanks to Andy Brown for suggesting this title – if you know of any other suitable books, do email me, or news@taths.org.uk ;