Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Well Done

A reader (whose name I will withhold to protect his privacy -- if you want to have this find attributed, please let me know) recently contacted me about a book that he had found among his things, called the Encyclopedia of Practical Receipts and Processes.  (find it here)  In short, this is a book from the 1870s which details a huge variety of chemical and industrial processes for all kinds of products from soap to electroplating.  In short, a snapshot of what pre-modern industrial technology was like.  (One caveat, of course, is to be sure to investigate the safety of any chemicals and processes before using them and to abide by all applicable laws)

Finding this kind of work is of great important to the purpose of the Leibowitz Society, for obvious reasons.  After the collapse, communities are not going to be able to pick up the phone and call the chemical supply house, or pharmacy or hardware store for the things they will need.  What new materials they have are going to have to be made by hand or possibly traded for, and it seems implausible to assume that there will always be the option to trade.
The primary intent of the Leibowitz Society has always been to store humanity's accumulated knowledge and use it to rebuild on the other side of what is increasingly seeming to be a certain collapse of the modern industrial world.  No one really knows what form rebuilding is going to take, nor if people will be any wiser or more moral once that rebuilding begins, or even if it would be possible to exceed or approximate what has been done in the last century and a half. 

At the same time, it's clear that once the dust has settled, people are still going to have a need to pick up the pieces and try to create a functional world, whatever form it takes.  A significant part of that is going to be works like this which allow people to have at least some idea what direction to take, even if there are many other gaps to be filled in.  Again, thanks to the reader who tipped me off to the existence of this historical work.


  1. Wonderful! I am ordering this book now.

    Thank you!

  2. Readers may also want to check out When Technology Fails by Matthew Stein. It's designed to be a manual of useful information for surviving the long descent.

    (I had some concerns about the chapter on alternative medicine, but the rest of the book seems quite good.)

  3. Thanks for the tip on Matthew Stein's book.

    I have always had concerns on medicine, among other things,when putting together the materials for the Leibowitz Society. No one wants to screw up and do something that would further damage a person's health, but no one also wants to watch a person get sick and die due to something that could easily be prevented with proper care. In the end, I guess the best compromise is to make the information available, then put a big asterisk behind it that says "for informational purposes only" or "use at your own risk - we accept no responsibility," and hope that people can still maintain some form of real medical training between now and then.


  4. Books of this type (long out-of-print "old technology") have been available for several decades now from "Lindsay Publications": http://www.lindsaybks.com/
    Many of the books are very good and you can learn much about; machining, blacksmithing, tanning leather, building steam engines, converting a car alternator to provide AC electricity, and on and on. I have many of their books, and no, I am in no way connected to or profiting from Lindsay Publications.

  5. Curt,

    Thank you for the information.

    By the way, I have no objection to anyone mentioning a business or product they're connected to on this blog. I'm not running it for profit, but rather for an exchange of information and an attempt to get the word out about saving important knowledge. So far, it seems to be serving that purpose, especially when people are gracious enough to post sources for that kind of information as you just have done.


  6. A scanned copy of Encyclopedia of Practical Receipts and Processes can be found at www.archive.org - as well as plenty of other treasures.