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plan of the brass foundry

Art of Converting Red Copper into Brass
by means of Calamine Stone

Authors: Galon and Duhamel du Monceau
Editors: Woolrich and Den Ouden

The original publication, l'Art de Convertir le Cuivre Rouge ou Cuivre de Rosette en Laiton ou Cuivre Jaune au Moyen de la Pierre Calamine appeared in the Descriptions des Arts et Metiers, the famous series of technical textbooks published by the Academie Royale des Sciences of Paris in 1764.

The present book is a fully annotated integral English translation of the original French text. Galon described the brass foundries, battery and wire drawing works in the Namur (Belgium) region which he visited and studied in the late 1740s. At that period this region was world leader in brass technology, exporting in particular finished brass ware (vessels and utensils) and hard wire for cards.

Added to Galon's text are two shorter articles (on brass battery processes in France) and a glossary of technical terms, all by co-author Duhamel du Monceau. These are also translated and annotated in the present book. Appended to the original publication was also an extract of Swedenborg's De Cupro (1734). This has not been included.

The main topics covered are:

  • History of brass battery in the Namur region
  • Privileges accorded in 1726 to three Master Brassworkers in the region
  • Calamine mining
  • Ore preparation by crushing and bolting
  • Smelting of the calamine ore in the brass foundries
  • Casting slabs of brass
  • Hammering to reduce the thickness of the slabs
  • Hammering hollow ware in battery mills
  • Repairing battered wares by insetting and soldering
  • Polishing the finished products
  • Brass wiredrawing

The text gives much fascinating detail of plant and tools used, and of working methods, recipes, know-how, suitable materials, crucibles, etc. All the excellent original engravings are used in the text, most of them have been enlarged to ensure that all details are as clear as possible. The modern material, added to assist comprehension of the more obscure technicalities, will further help in understanding the finer detail of the work. Throughout the text, economic data are sprinkled, such as cost of raw materials and other requirements, labour cost, selling prices of finished products and half-products, and profits raised by the Master Brassworkers. There is no proper cost calculation given, but sufficient details are given to make one.

A final chapter describes what remains of the mines and plant described by Galon. This chapter is based on recent fieldwork. The mine sites can still be traced, although not much remains of surface plant. Still, some obscure points in Galon's description are made clear. More remains of one of the battery mills (one without a wire-drawing mill, alas). This provides information on the layout of the pond, leats, weir, etc., details of which Galon says: so well known as to need no further description, a statement which unfortunately is no longer true in our days.

Part of our Metallurgical Reprint Series


eerste uitgave / first published type medium dim. omvang / extent binding prijs / price
1749 / 1764 vertaling / translation boek / book A5 xxxviii+126 pp - 118 illus paperback € 25,00
  hardcover € 35,00