An 18th century Prussian Cloth Manufacturer's Handwritten Pattern Book

[Weaving patterns]. Busse, Johann Friedrich, clothmaker (fl. ca 1772). "Ein Muester-Buch vor Johann Friedrich Bußen. Berlin den 20ten October 1772". The hand-drawn pattern book of a Prussian cloth-maker.

Berlin, ca 1768-1789 (with a few addenda to 1893).

4to (ca. 167 x 200 mm). German manuscript on paper. 64 ff. (including 2 blanks) with a total of 19 large (full-page) and 2 smaller patterns in red varnish, as well as 6 large and ca. 100 smaller black-and-white patterns in ink. Contemporary red half vellum.

An extensive and uncommonly early handwritten pattern book by Johann Friedrich Busse, a clothmaker who thrived in the Berlin of Frederick the Great. The designs are drawn in brown and black ink, but also in a glossy red, showing a plethora of weaving patterns: diagrams identified as "Rieg" or "Boden" as well as presentations of the finished motifs in their horizontal and vertical grid of warp and weft. Many patterns bear flowery names such as "Tulip and Eyes", "Star and Eyes", "Ducat and Window Pattern", "Brambles and Clover", "Colourful Wreath", "Redoubled Clover", "4 Hearts with Wreath", or "Wreathed Rose" (as they might be translated) and include technical commentaries as well as instructions regarding material and colours in a generally well-legible German script: "Ketten-Muster 20 schaftig", or "Die Kette zu diesem Boden mus mit 14 weisen und 1 blauen Faden gestochen [werden], sie müßen auf den Hinterschafft kommen". An extensive recipe ("Schön Roth zu Ferben Auf ein Pfund Wolle") provides practical instructions for dyeing wool red. Interspersed are notes on orders and commissions, some written in a private cipher of digits and letter codes, as well as private details such as the names of children who took First Communion in 1768-69 and, added by later owners, the dates of family weddings, births, and deaths from 1841 to 1893.

The patterns are not dissimilar to their counterparts in contemporaneous printed collections, all of which today are of the utmost rarity (the best-known early publication of this type is likely Marx Ziegler's "Weber-Kunst- und Bild-Buch" from 1677). Even later editions of such books have proved almost unobtainable, as they typically remained in heavy workshop use, often for more than a century, until they literally fell to pieces. Thus, it is all the more surprising to find a manuscript specimen in such good overall condition, aside from the quite heavy fingerstaining, particularly as this, too, clearly remained in use within a family of weavers for more than 100 years. Although Johann Busse so far could not be traced, it is almost certain that he was related to the far-flung Busse family of clothmakers based in Luckenwalde and well established both in Berlin and Brandenburg at least from the early 19th century onwards (known representatives include the manufacturer Christian Gottlieb Busse, 1769-1841, the dyer Johann Andreas Busse, born 1768, and the cloth finisher Georg Busse). The fine calligraphic title as well as the pious inscription underneath suggest that the writer enjoyed some degree of education: "Nichts daß ich erfunden habe oder Möcht vollkommen sein, ich jage ihn aber Nach daß ich es ergreiffen Möchte, oder ich vergeße alles waß dahinter ist u. strecke mich nach dem daß da vornen ist. Drum auch Jhesu du allein, soll mein ein und Alles seyn. An Gottes Seegen Ist alles gelegen. Alles mit Gott biß in den Todt. Friedrich Busse".

Only a few decades after Busse drew up the present collection of weaving patterns, the French weaver Joseph Marie Jacquard would develop his programmable loom which used punch cards to compose the same kind of textile designs mechanically - an invention that would prove to have paved the way for the computer when the English mathematician Charles Babbage realized that such a programmable machine could be fed punch cards to execute complex calculations rather than weaving patterns. And yet even Busse had been fully aware of the fundamental importance of mathematics for the art of weaving. On a separate page near the end of his manual he includes a discussion of the basic arithmetic operations necessary to his profession: "Wer die Edle, und allen Menschen sehr Nützliche Rechen Kunst recht Gründlich aus dem Grunde Erlernen will Derselbe muß auf Fünfferley Art und weise mit den Ziffern oder Zahlen Umzugehen wißen. Den er muß lernen Erstlich die Ziffern recht Lesen Schreiben und aussprechen. Zweytens viele Zahlen zusammen zu zehlen oder in Eine gantze Summe zu bringen. Drittens Eine kleine von der größern abzuziehen. Viertens Eine Zahl mit der Andern zuvermehren oder um so viel mahl zuvervielfältigen. Fünftens Eine Zahl durch die andere in so viel gleiche Theile zu theilen. Diese Fünf Arten Nennet man die fünf Species der Rechen Kunst, Alß: Ersten Numeriren, Zweytens, Addiren, Drittens, Subtrahiren, Viertens Multiplicatio, Fünftens Dividiren".

Binding rubbed and bumped; covers and spine chipped. Interior shows marked thumbstaining and occasional ink bleeding to versos; some leaves warped by shrinkage of the red varnish. An extraordinarily rare survival.