ACCUM, Fredrick. A Practical Treatise on Gas-Light: Exhibiting A Summary Description Of The Apparatus And Machinery Best Calculated For Illuminating Streets, Houses, A….

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Improved lighting and the risk of coal gas

ACCUM, Fredrick. A Practical Treatise on Gas-Light: Exhibiting A Summary Description Of The Apparatus And Machinery Best Calculated For Illuminating Streets, Houses, And Manufactories, With Carburetted Hydrogen, or Coal-Gas: With Remarks On The Utility, Safety, And General Nature Of This New Branch Of Civil Economy. R. Ackermann, 1818.

Royal 8vo. Later half brown calf, marbled boards, spine with raised bands, gilt rules and lettering; pp x + [6] + [xi] - xviii +194 + 6 [publisher's catalogue], hand-coloured plates of which 3 are aquatint, including the folding frontispiece, the remainder engraved; occasional browning but overall a bright, fresh copy. Provenance: ffep with blind ownership stamp of Derek Gair Gibson (1935-2021), pioneer of echocardiography and an important collector of architectural books
Fourth edition, enlarged and considered the best.
Freidrich Accum (1769-1838) was born and raised in Westphalia, training as a chemist before leaving in 1793 to work at the London branch of Brande, apothecary to George III. As a result of the popularity of his various publications Accum enjoyed financial and critical success for a number of years, but in 1820 he was accused of mutilating books in the library of the Royal Institution. The publicity surrounding the case forced Accum back to Germany where he spent the remainder of his life, accepting professorial posts at the Royal Industrial Institute and the Royal Academy of Construction in Berlin.
One of Accum's most influential books, and one which, with its proposals for the greater adoption of gas street lighting, dramatically changed the appearance of the streets of London and other cities, here and abroad. Accum notes in the Advertisement to this edition that "The reader need not be informed that the progress of the new mode of procuring and distributing Light, has, within the last six months, been uncommonly rapid. A large part of this metropolis is illuminated with Gas-Light, more than 4000 Argand's lamps now burn coal-gas, in this metropolis, and arrangements are making to extend rapidly the application of the new lights with a zeal and industry which does signal honor to the promoters of the Gas-Light illumination. The total length of main pipes deposited in the Streets of London, for conveying carburetted hydrogen gas, exceeds twenty-six miles".
The elegant hand-coloured plates depict the coal furnaces for generating the gas, the gasometers for storing it and the pipes for conveying it. In addtion three plates show a selection of light fittings designed in the Greek and Roman style. The author also details, with attendant prices, the components required to initiate a gas-light system for interiors.
Accum was keenly aware of the pollution caused by coal gas production and was so concerned by the dumping of tar, ammonium and sulphur compounds into waterways that he demanded legal measures to prevent it. He was, unfortunately, met by a wave of political and industrial apathy that is sadly familiar to modern eyes.
Abbey Life 436.

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