Page images
PDF
EPUB

Sèvres. We have long been contented with commoner, but more useful earthenware. While their gilding and painting have been admired in palaces, our plain white plates and dishes have had the greater honour of bringing cleanliness and comfort into cottages under every degree of latitude. All the names of which they boast in their royal ovens could not compose one só great, so beneficent, as that of Wedgewood.

A substance which has very much contributed to the luxury, the comfort and the knowledge of the moderns, is glass; the influence of which upon social life is now most extensive.

The art of making this substance was known in very ancient times, though perhaps not quite so remotely as many writers assert. It is certain that the Romans possessed it in the reign of Tiberius. The remains of Herculaneum show it applied to many uses; but the ancients were far from being acquainted either with its most agreeable or its most useful purposes. In the present condition of the world glass is a substance which embraces the widest range of application, from the extremes of luxurious to those of necessary and of scientific industry. It may be questioned whether iron, the most useful of all the metals, that which the most completely belongs to our civilization, properly so called, has a larger domain; for if, on the one hand, it is found in every art that is useful, in every domestic, in every great employment, its presence is much more circumscribed on the side of luxury. A fair criterion, then, of the social condition of nations, and of their relative prosperity, may be found in the uses to which they apply this substance. Savages delight in wearing beads of glass as an ornament in dress; more refined luxury fashions it into beautiful furniture; intellectual civilization directs it to the firmament.

According to Bede, artificers in glass came into England in the year 674; according to others in 726. But glass windows were a rarity and a mark of great magnificence until 1180, at which time they were introduced from France, she herself having received the boon from Italy. Venice was, for a long time, the sole proprietor of this art; and the village of Murano furnished Europe with the most beautiful mirrors. In 1557, glass was manufactured at Crutched Friars and in the Savoy-house. In 1635 it was much improved, and coal was used instead of wood to fuse it.

But the greatest progress was not made till 1673, when the duke of Buckingham encouraged it, and engaged some Venetian artists to settle at Lambeth.

Hitherto mirrors, which may be reckoned as the most luxurious production of the glass-house, were made by blowing nearly in the same manner as those of inferior quality are still manufactured; but an improvement, which gave a decided superiority over all

preceding

preceding processes, was invented by the French about the year 1688.

The manufacture of glass had long been practised by that nation. The Venetian modes of fabrication were introduced during the reign of Henry II. about the same time as in England; and Henry IV. gave them fresh vigour by repeated encouragement; Richelieu and Colbert promoted them by every means in their power; but, about the year 1688, Abraham Thevert conceived and executed the project of casting glass, like metal, into plates of almost any dimensions. The experiment was made in Paris in the presence of skilful witnesses, when he absolutely melted sufficient matter, in one furnace, to cover a surface eighty inches long and fifty broad, and of a suitable thickness. When his success was acknowledged, he received the royal sanction, and a manufactory was established at St. Gobin, in Picardy, where plates of no less dimensions than sixty inches by forty were allowed to be made, as smaller sizes would have interfered with the rights of other establishments. From that period the art of casting mirrors has flourished in France; and may be considered as a branch of industry in which that country stands the most prominent.

This example remained unfollowed by England for almost a century; for it was not till 1773 that a company was incorporated there for the same purpose. If mirrors were an object of necessity, or even of comfort, it is probable, not only that so great a lapse of time would not have intervened, but even that England would have been the earliest to succeed. But she had other wants, more imperious than this; and, while the inventive powers of France were turned in the direction of luxury, she was meditating upon a more noble application of the same material.

The use of fint glass in optics and astronomy, in geometry and navigation, appeared to the English a much more worthy object than the decoration of palaces, or the fabrication of mirrors for self-admiration. Fifteen years before the establishment in Lancashire, 1773, an English artist, who, like many other English artists, was a man of genius and learning, resolved the great problem despaired of by Newton, of refracting the solar rays without decomposing them. The advantage which optics, with every art and science depending on distinct vision, derived from the discovery of Dollond, is incalculable; and, before the epocha of our acknowledged superiority, brought back a better return to England than did the plate-glass manufacture to France. The direct amount of the general consumption, at home and abroad, might perhaps have been greater in French looking-glasses than in British achromatic telescopes. But what an influence had not the

latter * M. Dupin seems to have been much irritated by some strictures published in a con, temporary journal, upon the Comparative skill and industry of England and France,' (Edin. Rev. No. LXIV.) and among a variety of errors points out the mispelling of Mr. Dollond's name : “ L'auteur ne sait pas même exactement le nom du plus célèvre opti. cien de l'Angleterre, qu'il appelle toujours Dollund. It would be rather extraordinary if neither the writer of that article nor the editor of the Edinburgh Review should have known how to spell a name so celebrated, and which daily stands before their eyes so many shapes. But it never occurred to M. Dupin that this might be a fault of printing.

our

[ocr errors]

latter upon our commercial, upon our nautical, upon intellectual condition ; upon the science which guides our merchants and our heroes through the ocean, and which, as it were, brings down the heavenly bodies into the astronomer's observatory? Surely, even supposing the cash received at the counting-house of the cast plate-glass manufactory of St. Gobin to have far exceeded that produced by the sale of English telescopes, M. Dupin would not found, upon such a fact, any part of the claim which he advances in favour of the past superiority of France. Admitting that the images of the French princes and courtiers of the ages of Lewis XIV. and XV, were more gracefully reflected by a well-polished, well-foiled cast mirror, than those of English tories in the striated specula, blown and whirled into shape according to the Venetian process, we see little disgrace to England in that. But what will M. Dupin think-if he thinks fairlywhen we remind him that, during the latter portion of our alleged period of inferiority, every one of his countrymen, who looked at our fleets, our shores, our armies, during the war which was concluded by the peace of 1763, and long afterwards, who surveyed the heavens or the earth-nay, who went to the opera—had his eye fixed in a spy-glass on which was engraved the then uncounterfeited name of Dollond.*

We cannot help remarking here the characteristic fact that, while magnificent mirrors were fabricated for luxury, the glasshouses of France, which furnished nothing to science, contributed less to comfort than those of England. The drinking-glasses which were served upon the tables of their rich, fifty years ago, would not, even then, have been admitted into an English hovel; and were worthy companions of the knives which figured on the same board.

Having found in this manufacture but little to support the assertion of M. Dupin, we shall turn to another trade connected with science; and inquire into the condition of chronometry during the period to which he alludes. Various and many are th

ages and persons that claim the merit of having constructed the first machine which measured time by means of gravitating bodies as the moving and regulating

powers.

powers. Germany, however, certainly is the native country both of clocks and watches.

In 1544 a corporation of clock-makers was established in Paris, who secured to themselves a complete monopoly. They effected little indeed toward the improvement of their instruments; neither did any important change take place until Hooke, an Englishman, and Huyghens, a Dutchman, about the year 1658, introduced some valuable innovations. Since that time the art has been approaching to its present accuracy, as well in France as in England; and the encouragement held out by the governments of both countries excited a laudable emulation.

The exact measure of time is the object of horology. This it is which constitutes the chief utility of the art in civil life, and still more for the purposes of science. Now this is the branch to which the attention of the English has been particularly turned ever since they engaged in it; and as we really have not time to prosecute the inquiry now, we must throw back the onus probandi upon the person who first put forward the assertion of the superiority of one nation to the other fifty years ago. We wish to be understood by M. Dupin. We do not deny the merit of the French in their attempts to determine the longitude by chronometers. We value highly the artists who fourished in their country before 1770. But we assert, that the merit of the English during the same period, their efforts, their success have been four times as great in quality, and in quantity forty times; and that the number and value of our artists exceeds, in a like

proportion, all that they could adduce to refute us. We defy M. Dupin to prove the contrary.

Two remarks, however, we must make as characteristic. The mode of reckoning time in which the French persist,—that is to say, of admitting into its exact computation the daily variations arising from the obliquity of the ecliptic, and the eccentricity of the orbit of the earth-must render superfluous a very steady march of the machines which measure it. A chronometer adjusted to apparent time on November 2, would, if rigorously invariable, appear to have lost 30° 50“, February 11; whereas in England the variations of the great luminary which separates day from night are reckoned once for all. In this case the accuracy of the instrument is immediately perceived and valued; while, in the former method, it is useless, as the thing to be measured has no settled dimensions.

To correct the apparent errors of a chronometer supposed invariable, two methods exist; the one is to do as the English have done, to correct the errors of time; that is to say, to suppose a mean sun which shall be invariable. The other is to make the

machine

SETON HALL UNIVERSITY
MCLAUGHLIN LIBRARY

SO ORANGE, N.).

machine follow the errors of time; but this method complicates and loads the works, and is never perfect. Equation watches, showing the difference between mean and apparent time, were originally made in England, but were soon abandoned as inadequate to the end proposed. But the French have persisted in the worst method of correcting the error; and some of their most eminent artists, as the Le Roys, Le Bon, Enderlin, Passemant, and Berthoud have squandered away as much talent in devising methods of marking both mean and apparent time by the same instrument, as if the ends of navigation or the perfection of chronometry could be promoted by success. The utmost that could be gained would be to save to those who can pay for such machines, the trouble of calculating the daily apparent variations of an instrument too accurate always to be true.

The second remark is : in the year 1676, Barlow of London astonished the amateurs of that city by his invention for making clocks and watches repeat the hour at pleasure; and some of his countrymen improved it. But, when the novelty had subsided, few British artists of eminence occupied themselves about it; while, in France, it became a study among the most ingenious and philosophical watch-makers; and they who have excelled in chronometry are they who have done the most to improve repeaters. Hence, then, two English inventions in horology, the one useless, the other luxurious, were soon abandoned in their native country as not congenial with the demands of society, and were seized upon with avidity in France; while here, the philosophic branch of the art has been most unremittingly and successfully cultivated.

In treating of telescopes and chronometers, we have perhaps stept a little out of the circle in which M. Dupin intended to tread; and have been led by the nature of our subject from what is generally termed industry to science. But by extending our limits we only give him a better chance of extricating himself. Hitherto, indeed, his case does not seem to be a very strong one, even in the scientific manufactures, and we shall now return into the proper sphere of general industry. It is impossible, in the limits of a review, to sift the subject to the very bottom; but as we contrasted wool, cotton, linen, and silk, as examples of necessary and luxurious industry, in the arts which clothe mankind; in metallurgy, iron with gold and silver; in the works of the glasshouse, achromatic telescopes with mirrors; in horology, chronometers with equation and repeating watches; so shall we now select two cases which we think bear more directly upon our subject than all that we have yet stated; and which indeed constitute the very pith and marrow of our whole discussion.

Of

« PreviousContinue »