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The Royal Society

Wenceslaus Hollar. Prospect of ye inner part of Tangier, with the upper Castle, from South-East. Etching, 17th century

Founded in 1660, the Royal Society had expansive interests ranging from the new optics and astronomy to agriculture and new manufactures. The Society’s committees on mechanics and the history of trades produced reports on contemporary products, including luxury goods. They explicitly aimed to improve such industries by consulting foreign manufacturers and domestic artisans.


Between 1660 and 1670, papers in the Society’s Philosophical transactions addressed how to make silk, porcelain, varnishes, masonry, paper, leather, tapestry, parchment, enamels, engravings, and red glass. Many of these methods were observed while these men traveled across the globe securing trade agreements and importing new goods and were tweaked for the English market.


Henry and Charles Howard, grandsons of the earl of Arundel, were members of the Royal Society, helping to connect the new institution with networks of exchange in Europe, the New World, Africa, and India. In 1668, Henry Howard undertook a mission to Tangier for Charles II to negotiate a commercial treaty with the King of Morocco. For the Society, this mission was an opportunity to learn, explore, and bring back ancient manuscripts and new goods.


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Developing New Trades


The Royal Society's committee on the History of Trades produced reports on contemporary production of luxury goods. Some of the papers that were presented to the Society included, 

  • dying cloth
  • making felt
  • constructing watches
  • crafting candlesticks
  • building chariots
  • working leather
  • producing porcelain

The Society displayed a continuing interest in producing porcelain. And in the early volumes of the Philosophical transactions, Henry Oldenburg, presented "An intimation of a was found in Europe to make China dishes."


Porcelain had been imported to England from the East as early as the 1620s, but it was only later that England attempted to produce it domestically.

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