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INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION: A DOCUMENTARY HISTORY
Series One: The Boulton & Watt Archive and the Matthew Boulton Papers from Birmingham Central Library

Part 2: Muirhead I - Notebooks and Papers of James Watt and family

The material in Part 2 is a rich source for Watt’s developing interest in steam power including details of his experiments. Particular highlights include:

  • Four notebooks cover his early notes on this subject and there is also a substantial section of correspondence, for the period 1778-1785, between James Watt and Joseph Priestley, Joseph Banks, Mr de Lue, Joseph Black and Mr Kirwan concerning various experiments with air, conversion of water to air and the composition of water.
  • Notebooks and other papers also contain much material on his
    canal surveys. 
  • Early negotiations with Roebuck and Boulton 1772-1774.
  • Papers on his engineering work for Greenock Harbour and Waterworks,
    Port Glasgow Dry Dock and Harbour, Ayr Harbour, Hamilton Bridge, Rutherglen Bridge and numerous River Surveys.
  • Material on Watt's Engines in Cornwall and throughout England and Scotland.
  • Notes of Watt’s journeys to London, Cornwall and Scotland.
  • Substantial documentation on the Soho Manufactory and Foundry including materials for new engines, wages for workmen, pricing policy, a plan to establish watchmen at the Soho Manufactory (1801), visits to various mines and engines in the north of England (Manchester, Bradford, Newcastle, Durham, 1798), visits to the collieries and iron works of South Wales, and a notebook containing a geographical list of engines and mines (1808).
  • Printed ephemera including Directions for Erecting and Working the Newly Invented Steam Engines by Boulton and Watt (annotated copy 1779), memoirs of James Watt, and an account of James Watt’s Improvements upon the Steam Engine.
  • Notes of experiments with steam boat engines.

There are also some documents relating to his early life, family matters, to his father, James Watt, and also to the death of his first wife, Margaret.

Two boxes of material relate to his son, James Watt, Jnr. These include a diary of a journey to visit mines in Germany and Bohemia (1787), his travels in France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany (1792-3).

James Watt

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