1877 · France [Lyon?]
Highly curious manuscript on silk manufacturing, unsigned but written in a neat, easily readable hand, containing colorful samples of woven silk tipped in. The manuscript deals with all aspects relating to silk weaving and contains many samples of woven textiles, in many different colors and patterns, each explained in detail. Chapters are arranged as follows: "Notice historique sur la soie," "Decomposition," and "Faconnes." The work contain illustrations and descriptions clarifying the weaving of intricate patterns. These chapters are supplemented with physical examples, many of which resemble colorful computer punch cards.
Of particular interest to us is the chapter concerning the Jacquard Loom process ("Mechanique Jacquard"). The Jacquard Loom was the most complex programmable machine then in existence, for which thousands of punched cards were employed as automated weaving instructions to a mechanized loom. The incredible potential of Jacquards punched card system, with its binary data and disarmingly modern input / output capabilities, was seized upon by English visionary Charles Babbage (1791-1871), who integrated the process into his theoretical Analytical Engine. James Essinger argues convincingly that the Jacquard Loom was pivotal in the in the development of computer science (see Jacquards Web: How a Hand-loom led to the Birth of the Information Age, 2004). It is of the greatest significance that present manuscript precedes the celebrated "Livre de Prières tissé" (1886-87) by almost 10 years (sic) which is justly considered to be the "first computer generated book. With uncanny prescience, the data input mechanisms and intricate algorithms that were responsible for creating the present volume prefigure modern computer automation and computer programming.
The Jacquard Loom process is described in the last chapter ("Faconnes") which is divided thusly: "Faconnes," "Mechanique Jacquard," "Operations relatives au tissage sur le metier a la Jacquard," "Empoutage," "Colletage," "Pendage," and "Appareillage." Then follows a section on the "Mise en carte" (transferring the design to ruled paper) and 10 fantastic actual examples of designs on ruled paper with the finished design realized in woven silk.
Our attention is drawn to an extraordinary article in the 1836 "Mechanics' Magazine and Journal of the Mechanics Institute" (vol. 7, pp. 304-305) which contextualizes the present manuscript: "There is a school of design at Lyons. The young artists have, since the discovery of the Jacquard particularly, turned their attention to the mise en carte. There has been every augmentation of such young artists; indeed, there were no such artists before; for it was found requisite to set up Jacquard machines in the school of design. This lasted two or three years only, as they now obtain the required knowledge of the loom out of the school. The discovery of the Jacquard loom infinitely multiplied the number of young artists, who devoted themselves to the mise en carte. In France, in ordinary cases, our artists receive six months' instruction in the theory of the manufacture, before they are called into the field of practice, after they have been instructed in the school of design at Lyons; or artists, during their instruction, must pass two hours a day to understand the theory of the application of the design relative to the machine. There are private instructors who give those lessons in the school of design at Lyons; they also give instructions in the mise en carte, making their talent practical."
It is very possible that our manuscript was created by one of the Lyonnais silk design students.
This manuscript is a joy to behold and must be seen to be fully appreciated. (Inventory #: 1706)