Society of Arts, Mercury and Minerva Medal,
This is the first premium medal of the Royal Society of Arts and was awarded in gold and silver for work in arts, manufactures and commerce. It was designed by James "Athenian" Stuart.
The Archives record-"Account of the Preparation of the Hyacinthus Non- Scriptus, or Common Blue-Bell as a Substitute for Gum-Arabic. In a Letter from Mr. Thomas Willis of Lime Street, Communicated to Charles Taylor, Secretary of the Society of Arts",
Willis received the Society's silver award for Chemistry.
Willis recounts how starting in 1794, he had been collecting quantiies of the which was an extremely plentiful plant. Having had it dried and powdered initially he thought may be useful to add to food as a supplement.
By the spring of 1800 gum-arabic had become very expensive and appeared to going to continue that way.
Discussing the matter with Mr. Taylor of the Society, he explained that the same properties appeared to be evident in the bluebell as gum-arabic and the plant was then able to be turned into a powder.
The secretary advised him to send some of this to the calico printers in Manchester where it was successfully trialed, fixing the printers colours and also successfully acting as gum-arabic. Mr. Taylor received samples of these trials at the Society, which were tested in both hot and cold water successfully.
Mr. Willis also advised that if this idea was going to be developed a premium ought also to be offered to encourage the growth and development of the bluebell and to preserve it.
If you require further information on this item you can contact us in a number of ways. Click here to see our contact information.