Memorial Edition of The Life of Richard Trevithick [cover title].

Published via the Richard Trevithick Memorial Committee


Memorial biography of early 19th century British railroad and mining engineer, Richard Trevithick (1771–1833). The biography was published under the auspices of the Richard Trevithick Memorial Committee:

At a meeting of the Committee, held at the Institution of Civil Engineers on April 10th, 1883, it was—“RESOLVED to raise a fund for the erection of a statue to the memory of Richard Trevithick, and further to provide a Fund for the Establishment of Scholarships bearing his name, such Scholarships to aid in the Technical Education of Young Men to qualify them for the profession of Mining in the other Engineers.” And also that—“Employers of labour be requested to allow Penny Subscriptions from their workmen.”

The pamphlet contains four lithographed plates depicting the “Newcastle Upon Tyne Railway Locomotive” and other steam engines and a steam-powered dredging machine from 1803. Numerous illustrations throughout the text show various other early locomotive engines such as “Trevithick’s Second Road Locomotive” (1803) and his “Catch-Me-Who-Can” locomotive (1808), and other high-pressure steam engines. Also shown is “Trevithick’s Gun-Carriage and Friction Slides” of 1827.

Trevithick, Richard (1771–1833), engineer, was born near Carn Brea in the parish of Illogan, Cornwall, on 13 April 1771, the only son and youngest of the six children of Richard Trevithick (1735–1797) and Anne Teague (d. 1810). ... By 1800, in a profound departure from Watt’s reliance on low pressure, Trevithick had introduced his double-acting high-pressure steam engine, an innovation which opened the way for both the evolution of the Cornish engine and the invention of the steam locomotive. Although high-pressure engines were more expensive to build than their contemporaries, they were much more efficient in their use of coal—an important consideration in Cornwall, where fuel had to be imported from south Wales. Trevithick’s new engines were known as ‘puffers’ (to distinguish them from the noiseless condensing engines) and were probably first installed at Dolcoath to wind copper-ore to the surface.

...a new Trevithick locomotive, ‘Catch-me-who-can’, was exhibited in July and August of 1808 on a circular railway, or ‘steam circus’, near Gower Street in London. Rides were available at 1s. a head but the enterprise was not a financial success. It was brought to an end when the track again proved inadequate, resulting in a broken rail. Thereafter, having again successfully demonstrated the inherent capability of the steam locomotive, Trevithick seems to have lost interest in this particular project. However, his contribution had been outstanding. As early as 1805 his assistant John Steele had built a Trevithick-designed locomotive at the Wylam colliery in the north-east of England. It was in the north-east that further innovation was achieved, which led to the emergence of the ‘Newcastle school’ of George Stephenson and Robert Stephenson. ... At some time in the late 1820s or early 1830s Trevithick entered into an agreement with John Hall of Dartford, Kent, to carry out developmental work on a steam engine of Hall’s design. However, Trevithick fell ill and, after a week’s confinement in bed in his lodgings at The Bull inn in Dartford, he died on 22 April 1833 at the age of sixty-two. To avoid having a parish funeral for Trevithick, his workmates clubbed together to cover the funeral costs. Trevithick was laid to rest in an unmarked grave in Dartford on 26 April 1833. (ODNB)

Well-illustrated concise biography highlighting the technical achievements of a British pioneer of railroad engineering. Scarce.


Description: Memorial Edition of The Life of Richard Trevithick [cover title].

London: E. & F. N. Spon, 16, Charring Cross, 1883. 24pp. + 4 plates. Illustrations. 8½ x 5½ inches. Illustrated gray wrappers. Purple ink private library stamp of Coleman Sellers on front cover; likely Coleman Sellers II (1827–1907) noted American engineer and inventor. Very good.

[3724786]

OCLC (various accession numbers) listing 5 copies, but only 1 copy in America (University of Illinois).


Price: $50.00