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The Romance of the Brushmaker

This edition was pointed out to me by TATHS member and tool collector par excellence, Andy Brown. It's "The Brushmaker, and the Secrets of his Craft; his Romance" by William Kiddier.
brushmakers arms
It's an unusual book in several ways. First - its subject matter. As far as I can tell, there are very few books about brushmaking, just as there are very few surviving historic examples of the brushmaker's work. The TATHS library has only one book on the history of brushmaking. 
But also, there's that surprising word in the title - Romance. Really, for something as mundane as a brush?
Well, have a read and see what you think. Imagine yourself, sitting in a tiny workshop, dipping bundles of fibres into hot pitch and then poking them into holes in a bit of wood. It sounds like drudgery, despite the level of dexterity needed. But you could still dream of the far-off lands where those fibres came from - China, India, Mexico or the Russian Steppes where giant wild boar grew the longest, strongest fibres any brushmaker could want.
William Kiddier did not just dream and one of the most vivid sections of the book describes a trip he made to Poland and Russia in 1879 to see where the bristles he used came from, living among the peasant farmers and swineherds.
He describes in some detail the various processes in making different sorts of brushes. The brushmaker had few tools - "The men around the pan use no other means than their own skilled fingers, they have nothing in the nature of tools near them. They are as primitive men. God gave them hands, they are satisfied in using them." (page 43).
sash tool
The book is also interesting for its account of the early organisation of the trade, including the role of the Brushmakers' Societies in regulating the trade. There is a detailed description of the system of 'tramping' under which a member of the Society could walk from place to place seeking work, financially supported by his fellow members - provided he stuck to the prescribed route and correctly presented his membership record when he arrived at the next town. 
You can download it or read it online here: The romance of the Brushmaker
The book is not dated but appears to be from 1919. It was published in a series from Pitman's of Bath, "Common Commodities and Industries" and there is a long list of other titles in the advertisements at the end of the book. Many more of them are available at the Internet Archive, to download or read online. They can be quite detailed in their descriptions of the history and state of various trades, though illustrations of tools are not as frequent as you might hope. Titles that might interest TATHS members include Cordage; Gloves and the Glove trade; Iron and Steel; Timber, from the forest to its use in commerce; Straw hats, their history and manufacture; Stones and Quarries; Glass and glass manufacture; Wall paper; Carpets; and The Talking Machine. 
I'll leave readers to explore further for themselves - there are plenty more. 
Andy Tuckwell.

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