The Trial of a Cause instituted by Richard Pepper Ardern, Esq; his Majesty’s Attorney General, by writ of Sciere Facias, to repeal a Patent granted on the sixteenth of December 1775, to Mr. Richard Arkwright, for an invention of certain instruments and machines for preparing silk, cotton, flax, and wool for spinning…

London: Printed for Hughes and Walsh… 1785

Folio, 191 pages, large folding engraved frontispiece with detailed drawings of machine parts. Original boards (neatly rebacked), uncut. Offsetting on the frontispiece and lower margin of title and a tear in the engraved area repaired from behind without loss, foxing on the endpapers, binding worn but the text very clean. Provenance: contemporary signature of W. Henton at top of title; Kinsham Court, later home of the Arkwright family (sale at Bonhams, London, 12th October 2022).

FIRST EDITION. The principal contemporary printed source for one of the most important figures of the Industrial Revolution. Richard Arkwright revolutionised the textile industry with a series of machines that completely mechanised the process of cotton spinning, and replaced the use of domestic hand labour with the factory system. In 1769 he patented his spinning machine and in 1771 he built the first mechanised spinning mill at Cromford, using water to power it. He then proceeded to mechanise the preparatory processes of carding and drawing, running the machinery off the original spinning frame and taking out a further patent in 1775. “While each separate machine was in itself a remarkable trial of inventive skill, the construction of the whole series, and the adaptation of each to its individual function in the continuous succession of operations, must be regarded as an almost unique achievement in the history of invention” (DNB). However, these developments were not achieved without considerable difficulties and opposition from other textile manufacturers. In 1781 Arkwright successfully sued nine firms for infringement and in 1785 won a further case validating his 1775 patent. Since by then there were about 30,000 infringements, several manufacturers grouped together and obtained a writ for a new trial to repeal the patent. The present book is a verbatim report of the trial proceedings. Arkwright lost the case, but his achievement of changing the cotton industry from domestic production to a mechanised industry has never been in doubt.


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