Jar “Glauber Salt”
This item is part of the contents of the workshop that Scottish engineer James Watt developed at his home, Heathfield, at Handsworth, Birmingham. Although Watt is best known for his work on the steam engine, his workshop contains a wide variety of objects from many different projects, from chemistry to sculpture-copying.
The description of the item was written by Edward Collins, the land agent responsible for Heathfield when the workshop was given to the Science Museum in 1924. Collins could not always identify what he was looking at, but always described what he saw clearly. This has allowed his descriptions to form the basis of subsequent research. In 1780, Watt patented a letter-copying press, the first practical ‘office machine’. It was so popular that its sales kept Boulton & Watt in profit for several years, but its success required practical chemical experiments. The substance in this pot was used by Watt to develop the special copying ink required.