Dyer's Record Book, 1820–39
Label: leather binding, pen and ink on paper pages, printed cotton samples. Museum purchase through gift of Jaques Séligmann. 1950-99-1.
What is this?
Record book of dye recipes kept by the textile printer Edmund Barnes that was started in Bury, England in the late 1820s. The printer brought the book with him to Dover, New Hampshire in 1829 when he began working for Dover Manufacturing Company, later known as Cocheco Print Works. Barnes continued to add to the notebook through the early 1830s.
The small book contains samples of printed cottons with handwritten dyestuff recipes, dyeing processes and finishing techniques. A small bill loose in back of book bears the name: William Barnes. Book bound in marble paper sides and leather back.
Why is this important?
This record book was the personal property of Edmund Barnes, a textile dyer and printer from northern England. Barnes was working at an unspecified print works when he began recording his dye recipes, probably in the early 1820s. The inside cover has an inscription: “Blackford Bridge near Bury,” which is near Manchester, England – an area known for its leading role in the development and industrialization of textile printing processes.
Barnes worked in the period before the development of synthetic dyes. Cotton could be resistant to the many natural materials that readily dyed fibers like silk and wool. Barnes’ recipes include dyestuffs like cochineal, madder and logwood, along with alum, dung, lignin, pipe clay, prussiate of potassium, and chromate of potash. Some of these ingredients are mordants-- metallic salts that help dyes to bond effectively to cotton fibers.
Study of Barnes’ book reveals that at some point in late 1820s, he left England for New Hampshire, where he was employed by the Dover Manufacturing Company to teach American apprentices the practice of “steam printing,” a process used to produce colorfast fabric. His first entry there is “Dover Nov 18th 1829," and he continued to add recipes and swatches until the early 1830s. “Providence” is inscribed on the inside back cover of the book, and research supports the idea that Barnes left New Hampshire for Rhode Island; another of his record books is in the Museum at the Rhode Island School of Design.