Cataloguing Tools and Implements

General Information

The scope of the collection
is broad, including hand tools, implements, devices, instruments, and supplies used in the exercise of any craft or trade practiced in America since Colonial times. Complex machinery has in general been excluded, as have implements dependent on chemical changes, such as explosives, reagents, anesthetics, or fuels.

The character of the catalogue's users, actual, intended, or potential,
together with character of the material, define its structure. The intended users of this catalogue include most people with an historical interest in tools and technology:

Many of the familiar bibliographic access points
become problematic when applied to hand tools.
  • Tools seldom sport a title page, o
  • or any readily ascertainable title,
  • or author,
  • or date of manufacture. Their
  • design is often traditional, little modified through centuries,
  • but sometimes novel and patented.
  • They are frequently modified or customized or altered from their original state.
  • They may be commercially manufactured or hand made.
  • Very detailed physical description may be required, and yet may be inadequate for distinguishing one tool from another of the same general type.
  • And subject access becomes a struggle to establish meaning for the item in a set of contexts, rather than an answer to the question "what is it about?".

Tools are signicant only when connected to the contexts
that give them meaning. E.g.:
  • The trade or craft that employed them.
  • The manner in which they are to be used.
  • The task for which they were designed.
  • The physical location in which they were to be found when in use.
  • The material that they were designed to manipulate. A pipe wrench is meaningless without pipe.
  • The manner of their operation (sawing, boring, piercing, slicing, splitting, applying leverage or torque or pressure, containing, grasping, abrading, etc.).
Bear in mind that these connections may overlap and contradict one another. Three steel 14tpi 20cm frame saws of identical manner of operation, manufactured by the same company in the same town in the same year, and all used by practitioners named Bob, nevertheless occupy very different places if one cuts bone in the hands of a surgeon, another bone in the hand of a butcher's boy, and one veneer in the hands of a cabinet maker. Two froes of identical appearance may be distinguished as belonging to a chairmaker and a barrel maker, though probably each could get by with the other's; two sets of one-piece shears of identical appearance distinguished as grass shears and sheep shears. As the 1889 Sears Catalogue warns, the customer should not try to use the former to do the job of the latter.

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