Within the Edinburgh College of Art Rare Books collection are a number of manuals or instructional books which were published for the purpose of encouraging good design practice in both artisan and industrial production. This is not surprising when we consider the history of the college. Established as the Trustees Drawing Academy of Edinburgh in 1760, the purpose of the college was to provide train designers working in the manufacturing industry, such as pattern designers or engineering draughtsmen.
In the 19th Century there was a concern that the mechanised manufacturing processes which contributed to the industrial revolution were having a negative impact on the artistic quality of design for industry. This resulted in the publication of numerous books and journals providing guidance and inspiration for designers. Two books, The Glossary of Ecclesiastical Ornament & Costume and The Art-Workman show the different approaches authors and publishers took.
The Glossary of Ecclesiastical Ornament & Costume was written by architect Augustus Welby Pugin who at the time was Professor of Ecclesiastical Antiquities at St Maries College, Oscott. The book draws on historic sources to provide an A-Z of good practice in ecclesiastical design. Entries include ANGELS, AGNUS DEI, FRONTAL and IMAGES. The books has an elaborate frontispiece (pictured below) as well as colour plates illustrating good practice.
Pugin’s Glossary is a very prescriptive work, with strict rules which designers must adhere to. The Art-Workman in contrast is intended to inspire ‘artists, artificers and manufacturers’ to introduce art in to everyday life through the application of good design. The journal, of which we have Series III and IV, contains detailed engravings of a variety of objects including book bindings, wallpaper, upholstery, furniture, jewellery, crystal and a harp.
The Edinburgh College of Art Rare Book collection is fully catalogued and can be found on the main library catalogue with shelfmarks beginning RECA.
Fran Baseby, Service Delivery Curator, CRC