Not money, but it could be.
February 28, 2012 2:17 AM   Subscribe

Machinery Scans a showcase for some of the most detailed advertisement engravings produced. During the later part of the 19th century most machinery and equipment makers spent large sums of money to have their tool or piece of machinery converted into an engraving for advertising. The scans are of engravings produced from the 1850s-1890s.
posted by Mitheral (27 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Nice. My family has a handful of old hardware catalogs and such that must date from the 1890s into the early 1920s or so. You can kill a lot of time looking at all of these beautifully precise renderings of objects whose roles and functions often seem moderately to completely obscure.
posted by brennen at 2:27 AM on February 28, 2012

I'm in heaven.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:38 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

The boring machinery in particular is very exciting
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:44 AM on February 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

And who, I ask you, at one time or another, has not needed an Automatic Leaf Polisher?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:45 AM on February 28, 2012

The boring machinery in particular is very exciting

Indeed! I wasn't bored at all!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:47 AM on February 28, 2012

Great images, disappointingly low resolution scans.
posted by mvuijlst at 2:51 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Immediately soothes the weary brain!

It's been "cordially indorsed" by the Prince and Princess of Wales!
posted by dubold at 3:39 AM on February 28, 2012

In a later era they used photographs, but they used to airbrush them pretty thoroughly to achieve the same sort of effect, ie not that of a particular machine in the real world but the glorious perfect burnished platonic archetype of a machine.
posted by Segundus at 3:44 AM on February 28, 2012

Wow, that is an antique website.
posted by chavenet at 4:19 AM on February 28, 2012

Great, thanks!
posted by carter at 4:30 AM on February 28, 2012

Fantastic draughtsmanship.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 4:45 AM on February 28, 2012

Dr. Scott's Electric Hair Brush. A Marvellous Success.

Go on Dr. Scott, or should I say DR. VON SCOTT?!?
posted by Reverend John at 7:21 AM on February 28, 2012

There is a distinct rhetorical purpose to these illustrations. I heard a talk about similarly-detailed and beautiful medical illustrations from the same period, the point of which was to convey confidence in the new, modern miracles of medicine.

Similar, too, is the business of architectural modeling. My dad was an architect, and built his own models, but his friend was a dedicated architectural model buildier, producing amazingly-detailed little malls or nuclear plants or subdivisions, all to make a point, that the firm he worked for was, you know, really great. The National Museum of Art had an exhibit of models of castles and villas and cathedrals, built for the same purpose, 500 years ago. The exhibit pointed out that making beautiful models became a thing in and of itself, that the model-makers used exotic woods and construction details that would never appear in the final building, just to be impressive. They were some beautiful objects, for sure.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:23 AM on February 28, 2012

Oh, look, the old-school website is still up: The Triumph of the Baroque: Architecture in Europe, 1600-1750. Not just models, but plans and drawings and other neat stuff.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:31 AM on February 28, 2012

This is porn for me. I'll be in my room...
posted by mrbill at 7:56 AM on February 28, 2012

I want a planer... and the warehouse to put it in... 100 Ton Crane, Horizontal Lathe, Blast Furnace, Casting Pit, Hot Rolling Mill, Cold Rolling Mill... oh, and a 50,000 Ton Press would be nice too.

Ahh... to be Andrew Carnegie, and set up shop. ;-)
posted by MikeWarot at 8:20 AM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, this reminds me of the old McMaster-Carr catalogs my Dad would bring home from the QC shop. So many hours of browsing delight.
posted by Pliskie at 8:32 AM on February 28, 2012

Good stuff and reminds me, I need to go see this exhibit of patent models at the Smithsonian.
posted by exogenous at 8:34 AM on February 28, 2012

Very neat. A lot of these machines, like lathes, haven't changed much in design over the last century. Belt drives (for overhead power belts) were replaced by integral electric motors, but otherwise they're pretty much the same today. And a lot of them were built so solidly they just keep running for decades. (If you like big heavy old machines in action, check out the San Francisco Cable Car Museum next time you're here. It's actually the powerhouse and the machinery that moves the cable is in the basement; it's powered by new boring motors but the winding wheels are original and huge.)

19th Century engravings are wonderful, often much better than the photographs that replaced them in the early 20th Century. The engravers were able to emphasize certain details that make the concept more clear - every important piece is distinct and you can see how they work together - whereas in a photo it's all just gray metal. I've seen the same thing in engraved illustrations of lace and needlework where the path of each thread is clearly delineated, while photographs show a hopeless blob of string. Engravings are sort of a digital/binary representation (black or white) versus the analog shades-of-gray of a photo.

I've been thinking about doing an FPP about medical illustration, where trained artists offer the same sort of advantages compared to photographs. As Segundus said, artists can portray the Platonic ideal without the messy distractions of reality.
posted by Quietgal at 8:49 AM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Lots more great examples in the Smithsonian's Scientific Trade Catalogs digital collection, a part of their wonderful larger online trade literature collection.
posted by nonane at 9:55 AM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have an almost fetishistic need to see ginormous versions of these scans at high resolution. Anything less leaves me disappointed.
posted by redsparkler at 10:18 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Go to your local library. There are tons of these at the San Francisco library, seeing them on paper only makes them better.

Anyone knows a tattoo artist good enough at line drawing to interpret one of these?
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 10:55 AM on February 28, 2012

nonane, thanks for the Smithsonian link!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:56 PM on February 28, 2012

More on Dr. Scott.
posted by unliteral at 7:20 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm restoring one of these which isn't that different looking than this (mine even has a bench with a chiptray somewhat like that one), despite probably being more than 50 years more recent.
posted by DU at 10:17 AM on March 14, 2012

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