A Catalogue of Commerce and Art: Bisset’s Magnificent Guide for Birmingham, 1808
Image: Title page of Bisset’s Magnificent Guide or Grand Copper Plate Directory for the Town of Birmingham
The contents are described as follows:
Comprising the Addresses of the most eminent Public Companies, Bankers, Merchants, Tradesmen and Manufacturers in the “Toy-Shop of Europe” alphabetically arranged in elegant and emblematic Engravings containing upwards of fifty superb Plates with Views of the Principal Buildings etc., exclusive of a view of the Royal Mint and Soho Manufactory.
Dedicated by permission to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales by J Bisset, Author of the Orphan Boy, the Converts and the Patriotic Clarion, etc., etc.
Price Five Shillings or with Proof Plates, Half a Guinea,
Birmingham, Printed (for the Author) by R Jabet, Herald Office, and sold by all Booksellers in the Imperial Kingdom, 1808.
Directories are a source of information about businesses. They list them in alphabetical order or under trades and provide a means of identifying individuals and their economic activities. Most directories for the late 18th or early 19th centuries have few, if any illustrations. One exception is Bisset’s Magnificent Guide or Grand Copperplate Directory for the Town of Birmingham. The Directory was first published in 1800, but the edition of 1808 was expanded with more engravings. A copy of the Directory is held in Birmingham Central Library.
By the early 19th century, businesses were using trade cards to advertise their work to customers. Using copper-plate engravings, the Directory provides a catalogue of collection of images creating a catalogue of Birmingham’s businessmen and women. Bisset’s contains several individual cards with only the names and addresses of professionals, traders, shopkeepers and manufacturers. Others are more elaborate. They are illustrated, often using classical or patriotic motifs, which indicate how the owners wished to present the culture of their business. Rural images also proliferate, frequently used by urban manufacturers. Many engravings present the urban landscape, individual buildings, industrial processes and manufactured products. They provide an insight into how artists presented Birmingham’s architectural and economic life at the start of the 19th century. Malcolm Dick has selected the engravings from Bisset’s Directory of 1808. The accompanying text describes, assesses and places the images in their historical and artistic context.Next in this section »
Continue browsing this sectionA Catalogue of Commerce and Art: Bisset’s Magnificent Guide for Birmingham, 1808 Frontispiece to Bisset’s Magnificent Directory Plan of Birmingham, drawn by J. Sherrif of Oldswinford, late of the Crescent Birmingham Birmingham Fire Office Bankers and Public Companies in Birmingham Physicians, Surgeons, Apothecaries and Chemists in Birmingham Attorneys at Law in Birmingham Sword, Gun and Pistol Manufacturers in Birmingham Mercers, Linen Drapers, Haberdashers, Hosiers and Lacemen in Birmingham J Taylor, Gold and Silversmith, Jeweller, Tortoiseshell and Ivory Box and Toy Manufacturer, Birmingham Cabinet Makers, Upholsterers, Gun Makers and Saddlers in Birmingham Birmingham in Miniature or Richard’s Magazine for the Manufacturers of Birmingham and its Vicinity Bankers in Birmingham and Businessmen adjacent to Birmingham Merchants in Birmingham Miscellaneous Businesses in New Street, Birmingham Miscellaneous Businesses in High Street, Birmingham Gun Makers in Birmingham Inns, Hotels and Taverns and Swinney’s Type Foundry in Birmingham Factors or Commercial Agents in Birmingham with a view of the Crescent and Wharf Miscellaneous Professions and Businesses in Birmingham with a View of St Philip’s Church Miscellaneous Professions and Businesses in Birmingham with Emblems of their Trade Henry Clay, Japanner, and Artists in Birmingham Sword Makers in Birmingham Brass Founders with a view of the Brass House in Broad Street, Birmingham and Miscellaneous Businesses Toy Makers in Birmingham with a View of the Navigation Offices Miscellaneous Professions and Businesses in Birmingham with a View of St Paul’s Chapel Japanners in Birmingham and a View of the Park Glass House Cards of different Professions and Businesses in Birmingham Miscellaneous Businesses in Birmingham with a View of the Town from the Warwick Canal Button Makers in Birmingham Miscellaneous Professions and Businesses in Deritend near Birmingham View of Matthew Boulton’s Soho Manufactory and Royal Mint Offices in Handsworth near Birmingham View of the Eagle Iron Foundry and Mr. Whitmore’s Engineering Works in Birmingham View of Lloyd’s, New Hotel and Hen and Chickens Inn, New Street, Birmingham Exterior and Interior View of Jones, Smart and Company’s Glass Manufacturers, Aston Hill, Birmingham Thomason’s Button and Toy Manufactory, Church Street, Birmingham View of the Westminster Life and British Fire Insurance Offices, Strand, London, with a List of the Directors. J. Gottwaltz, Birmingham Agent The Phoenix Fire Office, Lombard Street and Charing Cross, London, with a List of the Directors. J. Farror, Birmingham Agent. Two Manufacturers, a School, an Engineer and an Inn near Birmingham Blair and Sutherlands, Gun Makers, Brook Street and Harper’s Hill, Birmingham Button Makers and other Businesses of Birmingham View of Birmingham from Aston Wharf with the Names of various Businesses Miscellaneous Metal Manufacturers and other Businesses in Birmingham Toy Maker and Japanners in Birmingham Surveyor, Sutton Coldfield and Coach Spring Manufacturers, Birmingham A Bookseller and list of Appraisers and Auctioneers in Birmingham Merchants and Factors in Birmingham Hepinstall and Parker’s File Manufactory, Ann Street, Birmingham and Walsall, Staffordshire Miscellaneous Traders, Professions and Manufacturers in Birmingham Trade Cards for various Businesses in Birmingham View of Warstone Brewery, Warstone Lane, Birmingham, belonging to Alex Forrest and Sons Various Toy Makers and Jewellers in Birmingham Thomas Robinson, Chemist, and Roberts, Jeffery and Co, Button and Toy Manufacturers, Snow Hill, Birmingham
Sources and Further Reading
Adhémar, Jean, Graphic Art of the 18th century (London, Thames and Hudson, 1964).
Bisset, J, Bisset’s Magnificent Guide or Grand Copper Plate Directory for the Town of Birmingham (Birmingham, Printed for the Author by R Jabet, 1808).
Dodsworth, Roger, Glass and Glassmaking, (Princes Risborough, Shire Publications, 1982).
Godfrey, Richard T, Printmaking in Britain, a general history from its beginnings to the present day (Oxford, Phaidon, 1978).
Gray, Basil, The English Print (London, Adam and Charles, 1937).
Hopkins, Eric, The Rise of the Manufacturing Town: Birmingham and the Industrial Revolution, (Stroud, Sutton, 1998).
Hutton, William, An History of Birmingham to the End of the Year 1780 (Birmingham, Pearson and Rollason, 1781).
Mason, Shena, Jewellery Making in Birmingham 1750-1995 (Chichester, Phillimore, 1998).
McCalman, Iain, ed., An Oxford Companion to The Romantic Age: British Culture 1776-1832 (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999). Chapters by Roy Porter, “Consumerism” and David Blindman, “Prints”, are especially useful.
McKendrick, Neil, Brewer, John and Plumb J H, The Birth of a Consumer Society. The Commercialization of Eighteenth Century England (London, Hutchinson, 1983).
Porter, Roy, The greatest benefit to mankind, a medical history of humanity from antiquity to the present, (London, Harper Collins, 199