This is the first book on coopering by a cooper—a name perpetuated in the surnames of many people throughout the world. With its beginnings in prehistory the making of barrels, except for spirits, is virtually at an end in Britain, and wood has been replaced by glass and metal.
Mr. Kilby comes from a family of coopers in Bedfordshire. He was apprenticed to the trade, served in it for many years, and finally abandoned it for teaching. His book is divided into two parts. The Life of a Craftsman, partly autobiographical, deals with materials, tools and techniques and discusses the roles of the white cooper, the dry cooper and the various kinds of wet cooper. The second part of the book deals with organization and conditions of work and the social history of coopering from early times to the twentieth century. The present state of this proud and honoured trade can be judged from the words of the Secretary of the South Wales Coopers’ Union: We are now down to seven members knocking down casks.”
This is a fine story, vividly told. It is fully illustrated with 56 pages of plates and 87 drawings, and there is a bibliography for each chapter.