Abstract This note describes how James Whatman II, the pre-eminent British paper-maker, was the expert witness at the Old Bailey on 26 July 1783 when William Wynne Ryland was indicted for ‘having in his custody and possession, a certain bill of exchange, purporting to bear date at Fort St George in the East Indies’ for £200. There were seven further counts in the indictment, specifying intention to defraud and naming the various parties concerned, the most important being the East India Company. At this trial Whatman provided key details about the practices in his mill and his business dealings with London stationers. James Whatman II, the pre-eminent British paper-maker, was the expert witness at the Old Bailey on 11 September 1771 at the trial of Edward Burch and Matthew Martin for forgery.1 Whatman's evidence contained important details about the size of paper, the practice of ‘blueing’ in order to solve the problem of ‘a very yellow cast’, the differences in the wire patterns of paper-making moulds, and the number of people he employed. There was also precise information about the different watermarks he had used and the dates when these had changed―key information for bibliographers for the dating of Whatman papers. Whatman's testimony, which led to the convictions of the two accused and the death sentence, was set out in full by Thomas Balston in 1957 and an extract was printed in Papermaking and the Art of Watercolour in Eighteenth-century Britain: Paul Sandby and the Whatman Paper Mill in 2006.2 What has not been noticed is that Whatman appeared again at the Old Bailey twelve years later in a rather more celebrated case, when on 26 July 1783 William Wynne Ryland was indicted for ‘having in his custody and possession, a certain bill of exchange, purporting to bear date at Fort St George in the East Indies’ for £200. There were seven further counts in the indictment, specifying intention to defraud and naming the various parties concerned, the most important being the East India Company.3 At this trial Whatman provided further key details about the practices in his mill and his business dealings with London stationers. Ryland was a successful engraver who had initially learned his craft at the St Martin's Lane Academy under Ravenet before going to France to study under Boucher and le Bas.4 Having engraved the full-length portraits of the Prince of Wales and Lord Bute by Allan Ramsay he was, when he presented the first copy of the engraving to the prince in 1761, appointed engraver to the king for a period of eight years with a pension of £200 per annum. Two years later, his engravings of the new king and queen in their coronation robes led to a further yearly pension of £100 from the queen. He set up a print shop in partnership with Henry Bryer in 1765 and was so successful that he was authorized to buy art-works on behalf of the king. A calamitous business deal in 1771, when he and his partner appear to have guaranteed a fifty per cent profit to a group of seamen who had been engaged to transport a cargo of pictures to India which failed to sell, led to bankruptcy. Ryland made good use of his connections to resuscitate his career and from 1772 until 1781 devoted his efforts to engraving the works of Angelica Kauffman. This project was immensely successful both in Britain and on the continent: Timothy Clayton observes that ‘Ryland interpreted Kauffman's designs with sensitivity and improved her draughtsmanship in the translation’. Kaufmann left England in 1781 and Ryland closed his print shop, though he continued to work on a small number of important engravings. His financial circumstances at this point are unknown, as are the reasons which led to his indictment. Whatman's evidence at this trial, as in that of 1771, was crucial. He was evidently well aware as the expert witness that his testimony would determine the fate of the accused, and came fully prepared. Documentary evidence of paper-making in the eighteenth century is rare: paper-makers were highly secretive about their work, particularly in areas which might be held to be commercially sensitive. During his examination and cross-examination Whatman provided highly specific evidence of the working practices of what was the most important paper-mill in the country. When he had been sworn in, Whatman was initially questioned by Mr Rose, one of the prosecuting team of lawyers: What are you by profession. – A paper maker. You have been a long time I believe in that line of business? – Upwards of twenty years.5 Look at that paper; from the knowledge which you have of paper, and the making of it, can you tell us when that paper was made? – This paper I will venture to say, is of my manufacturing; I beg to look at some memorandums made by myself. When was that paper first made? – I have carefully examined my books, and the mould in which this sheet of paper was made, was received at my mill on the 25th of February, 1780; they were not made use of for making of paper till immediately after the Christmas holidays of that same year; but the day they began, was the 28th or 29th of December, 1780, after the Christmas holidays, when they were first applied to making paper; they were worked with from that time to the 27th of April, 1781, having then made 955 reams.6 When was the first paper sent out? – The first paper sent out by me to London, of these particular moulds, was the 27th of April, 1781. Look at this bill? – I have very carefully examined it twice yesterday, with very great attention. And this bill was from the paper made by that mould? – Certainly, I undertake to say so; the mould during that parcel was in a good state, and had not received any injury, which I can prove by the samples now in Court, by a sample which I have now in my pocket of the second parcel;7 the parcel made from these moulds, which was begun to be made the 14th of January 1782, and finished the 16th of March following, having then made 572 reams;8 the first of the second parcel, out of which I take upon me to say this bill was part of, was sent to London the 3d of May, 1782, by this sample sheet now in my hand, in my clerk's own writing, who likewise made the sheet of paper, it appears by his name being here, he is here in Court;9 this sheet of paper was made at the mill, on that particular mould, it has a defect on it; on the 21st of January, 1782, of the same mould of which this note is now shewn me, I made this sheet of paper; there is a defect of the mould, either by an injury it has received, or in consequence of the quantity of paper made on it, the bill has the same defect; and there is likewise a defect which the bill has not, so that the sheet of paper on which the bill was written, was made from that mould. This could not happen in the same places, and situations in any two moulds; this is a sample made by my clerk for my inspection. Prisoner's Council. It happens to be torn at the places where the defects are?10 – Yes, but they are very fair for all that, the watermark is so exactly similar in this bill, whether it is forged or not, I know it is so truly similar to the sample sheets that I have, that I can venture to say with confidence, that it was made of that particular mould; there is not the smallest variation in any turn or twist of the wires, which were all turned by it. You have not two moulds alike? – I never saw one;11 and on this particular occasion, I have taken uncommon pains, as you may suppose I would. Court. Was that date of the second paper, the time of its setting out, or arrival at London? – It goes first in my own waggon to Maidstone; then I put it on board a brig afterwards, and loaded in a hoy.12 Court. What came of it from Maidstone? – It was put on board a brig, from the brig into a hoy, from thence conveyed into a wharf in London, and by the carts to the wholesale stationers; I send it to three stationers, to Mr. Alderman Wright, Messrs. Fourdrinear, Bloxham and Co. and Mr. Woodmason, of Leadenhall-street,13 they take all the paper I manufacture. Court. Which is the usual time of the conveyance from your house to London? – Every Friday constantly, they sometimes are stopped a day or two by floods, and it is sometimes a week, and sometimes a fortnight, or three weeks. Court. Which parcel do you suppose this paper was from? – The second undoubtedly. You have a third, in which there is still a greater defect? – There are still greater defects in the third and fourth. The importance of Whatman's evidence was emphasized by Mr Rous, one of the prosecuting counsel, in his opening address to the jury, and was also central to Mr Justice Buller's summing up. The key detail was the impossibility of the paper on which the bill had been made out havong been in existence by the date on the bill. The jury took just thirty minutes to come to a decision. Ryland was convicted and sentenced to death. He appealed for clemency, an appeal which, given his connections with the royal family, might have been thought to have had a chance of success. It was rejected. As Clayton records, ‘On 29 August 1783, after a delay caused by a thunderstorm, Ryland was executed at Tyburn, together with a horse-thief, several robbers, and a man who had impersonated a sailor to get his prize-money’. Footnotes 1 ‘The Proceedings of the Old Bailey London's Central Criminal Court, 1674–1913’, from https://www.oldbaileyonline.org, ref. no. t17710911-64, accessed 17 January 2017. 2 Thomas Balston, James Whatman father & Son (London: Methuen, 1957), app. II, pp. 147–48; Theresa Fairbanks Harris & Scott Wilcox (ed.), Papermaking and the Art of Watercolor in Eighteenth- century Britain: Paul Sandby and the Whatman Paper Mill (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006), p. 84. 3 Old Bailey (as n.1), ref. no. t17830726-1. 4 Biographical information on Ryland in this paragraph from Timothy Clayton, ‘William Wynne Ryland,’ in ODNB. Whatman's involvement in the trial may have been overlooked because Clayton notes: ‘it took a papermaker's evidence to prove that one of the bills was false’, without naming the maker. Additionally, the Old Bailey records in the Ryland case spell the name ‘Watman’. 5 Whatman had taken over his late father's Turkey Mill on the River Len, east of Maidstone, on 28 September 1762, at the age of 21 (Balston, James Whatman, p. 17). 6 From 28 December 1780 to 27 April 1781 there were 103 working days, assuming no paper-making took place on Sundays or Good Friday (13 April in 1781). Whatman's workmen were then producing paper at a rate of over 9.3 reams a day, which was rather better than the industry average. 10 Anne c.19, ‘An Act for Laying several Duties upon all Sope and Paper made in Great Britain’ (1712), appended a table recording the quantity of paper ‘commonly reckoned a Day’s Work’, which listed Crown, Printing Fools Cap and Writing Fools Cap as sizes of which 8 reams were the usual daily rate, with the added note, ‘In some Mills they make nine Reams in a Day’ (see facsimile in H. Dagnall, The Taxation of Paper in Great Britain 1643–1861 (Edgeware: for the Author, 1998), p. 17). 7 Whatman had also furnished himself with samples at the earlier trial. 8 This is an even more remarkable work rate. In fifty-four days (Good Friday 1782 fell on 29 March) Whatman's workmen produced 572 reams―over 10.5 reams per day. The Whatman mill's dominance in the market was reinforced by the combination of exceptional output and reputation: ‘James Whatman I and II succeeded in making the name “J WHATMAN” world famous as a byword for paper of the highest quality’; Fairbanks Harris &Wilcox, Papermaking and the Art of Watercolor, p. 137. 9 Whatman's clerk/papermaker was not called to give evidence. 10 There was a high rate of defective sheets in the process of hand-made paper. Joseph Moxon, in his Mechanick Exercises on the Whole Art of Printing (ed. Herbert Davis & Harry Carter (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962), pp. 320–21), notes that ten per cent of paper bought by printers was made up of ‘torn, wrinckled, stained, and otherwise naughty Sheets’. The defective sheets referred to in the trial were clearly kept back. It is evidence of Whatman's efficient organisation that he dated such samples. 11 At the earlier trial Whatman's evidence had centred on the fact that no two moulds were identical. In his evidence then he had been able to date with similar precision the use of the key mould. 12 A brig is a small vessel equipped both for sailing and rowing (OED s.v. ‘brigantine’) and thus ideal for manoeuvring along the River Medway at Maidstone. A hoy was used for short distances along the sea-coast. The transfer would have taken place at Sheerness. 13 Thomas Wright, wholesale stationer, was at this date trading as a partner in Wright, Gill, son and Dalton at 30 Abchurch Lane. One of the most successful stationers, he was said to have been as rich as his then partner, William Gill, who was believed to have been worth £300,000. An alderman of the City of London, 1777–98, Wright was lord mayor in 1785. Henry Fourdrinier I was at this date in partnership with Bloxham and Walker next to the post office in Lombard Street. The Fourdrinier family, in various partnerships, traded successfully from 1753–1840. James Woodmason, stationer of 149 Leadenhall Street, traded from 1773–95. See Ian Maxted, The London Book Trades 1775–1800: A Preliminary Checklist of Members (Folkestone: Dawson, 1977), pp. 255, 90, 84 and 253. © The Author 2018; all rights reserved This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
The Library – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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