It is possible to think that, for a man of his importance, surprisingly little has
been written over the years about the achievements of Matthew Boulton. Maybe this
represented a hangover from the Victorian prejudice against those who engaged in
trade and manufacturing - ignoring the fact that trade and manufacturing were precisely
those occupations which generated the wealth of the country - or maybe it was that
metal-bashing was simply not exciting enough in an era of rapidly developing technology
and personal leisure.
But be that as it may, the availability of the Boulton papers, and collections of
Soho products around the world, have made the investigation of the Boulton enterprises
far more possible than those of, say, John Wilkinson, or Thomas Williams. Changes
of attitude to industrial history, and the Bicentenary of Boulton's death in 2009,
have also resulted in a welcome increase in the profile of both Boulton and Soho,
and the list of titles has grown correspondingly.
We can now know more than ever before, not only more, but more accurately, about
what Boulton did and when, and we are beginning to appreciate, in many instances,
why he did what he did. For students and collectors, this has to be a good thing.
The titles featured in the Library are are intended to suggest suitable further reading.
Not everything is in print, but books which are out of print can probably be obtained
from the second-hand trade without too much difficulty - except, perhaps, for those
from the 18th and 19th Centuries which will require perseverance and money! Papers
and articles may be more problematic, however, unless you have access to an academic
Choose which section of the Library you would like to visit, and go straight there.
But remember, it’s a quiet zone!
● Thanks to the work of Nick Molyneux, George Demidowicz, Rita McLean and Shena Mason,
we can present an extremely extensive listing of books, papers, and articles which
have appeared, since Boulton’s own time, dealing with our subject. Go to General
Bibliography to browse a remarkable collection
● The cataloguing of the provincial coins and tokens started while the pieces were
still in regular use. Though lacking the rigour of a modern work, that of James Conder
set the path for many who came after. The entire text of his ‘Arrangement of Provincial
Coins, Tokens and Medalets’ is available as a download in the 18th Century section
of the Library. Samuel Birchall of Leeds was not far behind Conder; his work is
similar in many ways, and is also available for download.
● The Bicentennial of Boulton’s death, and the events commemorating it, have produced
a number of new books of the highest quality. Illustrated descriptions can be found
in ‘New & Recent Books.
● Three works currently appear in the 19th Century section of the Library.
Available for download are the full texts of the Earl of Liverpool’s famous work
of 1805, A Treatise on the Coins of the Realm, and the Supplement to Rev Rogers Ruding’s
Annals of the Coinage of Great Britain and its Dependencies, from 1819, both of which
examine the Coinage Crisis from a contemporary viewpoint.
A later work of a completely different character is The Lives of Boulton and Watt
by Samuel Smiles. Only peripherally numismatic, this is a very full biography of
the central figures in the story of the Soho Mint.