The Patent Gymnasticon

1798 in London
J Walker
Francis Lowndes
Richard Phillips

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Print entitled 'Patent Gymnasticon or, Machine for Exercising the Joints & Muscles of the human Body. Invented and Sold by F. Lowndes, Medical Electrician St. Pauls Church Yard' engraved by J. Walker and published by R. Phillips St. Paul's Church Yard, 1798. It shows a fashionably dressed gentleman sat facing left within a large machine operating leavers attached to wheels with his arms and legs. Inscription below.

This print was published in the 'Monthly Magazine' in 1798. It advertises an exercise machine invented by Francis Lowndes, two years after Lowndes had been granted a patent for this invention. The accompanying text advised ‘The merchant, without withdrawing his attention from his accounts, and the student, while occupied in writing or reading, may have his lower limbs kept in constant motion by the slightest exertion, or, by the assistance of a child.’

The image explained the machine to the magazine’s readership, emphasising that it could be used by the scholar or man of business, even while reading and writing. This was exactly the kind of gentleman who might visit the St Paul’s Churchyard area of London where both Lowndes and his publisher Phillips were based, as this was the capital’s publishing centre in the 18th century. The 'gymnasticon' could also provide physical therapy to some people with disabilities, a kind of technology that would become popular in the nineteenth century. The Monthly Magazine of 1796 had also advised that the gymnasticon could be ‘highly useful in female boarding schools [and] to the paralytic, the gouty, and the rheumatic’.


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ink and paper (fibre product)

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