MANUSCRIPT GUIDEBOOK FOR BRUNEL'S PIONEERING THAMES TUNNEL, 'THE EIGHTH WONDER OF THE WORLD', SEEMINGLY DERIVING FROM HIS WORKSHOP. A handsome manuscript version of Marc Brunel's popular publication.
Despite the proliferation of printed editions of Brunel's guide to the Thames Tunnel project, we have hitherto traced no other manuscript version of the guidebook. Printed guidebooks were produced from early 1827, in order to keep the project in the public eye over the long construction period and also to raise money from visitors to the works, and ran to some seventeen editions over the next thirty-five years, the last appearing in 1863 (for a detailed bibliography see Chrimes, Elton, May & Millet, The Triumphant Bore: A Celebration of Marc Brunel's Thames Tunnel, James Howden, [n.d.]). Marc Brunel himself was responsible for the composing the text, and the engraved plates were taken from drawings supplied by his workshop. Julia Elton in her essay 'The Tunnel in Print' notes that the first edition of March 1827 consisted of plates only, the text and introduction appearing the following August with the title as per our manuscript, Sketches and Memoranda of the works for the tunnel under the Thames. Regular updated editions followed, including translations in the major European languages, with the text constantly rewritten and updated. A month after our version, in February 1828, the printed book had a new title Sketches of the Works for the Tunnel under the Thames which it retained until 1830.
Our fine manuscript version would seem to sit between the printed editions of December 1827 (cat. no. 58) and that of January 1828 (cat. no. 59), incorporating several amendments to the text made after 1827 - for example the reference to 'Mr Brunel' in the 1827 Introduction becomes the more formal 'M.I. Brunel Esq. F.R.S.' in both our version and the printed 1828 edition, as well as incorporating extra descriptive text, which might at first suggest that ours is a copy of the later edition. However, the possibility that ours came after the 1828 edition is ruled out by comparison of the meticulously executed illustrations. On comparison, it is noticeable that our drawings are largely unpopulated apart from the figures of workers in the shield. A recognisable top-hatted figure appears in two of the engravings but not in our drawings, that of the brick shaft and again in the longitudinal section of the tunnel, where the same figure observes the work from a niche in the tunnel wall. Similarly, the figure with the pickaxe is absent from our drawing of the shield, as are the figures and carriages from the plan showing the long transverse section of the tunnel. Our exquisite drawings would seem to bear more relation to the originals produced in the workshop (sold in these rooms, 15 November 2017, lot 78) where there is also favourable comparison of the handwriting here to that on a plan ascribed to Brunel's chief engineer, Joseph Pinchbeck. The paper bears the watermark 'F & Z', which is also seen on German paper of the same period.
We are grateful to Institution of Civil Engineers Library and archives for their help in cataloguing this lot.