[ARMS INDUSTRY IN 19th CENTURY BRITAIN] Four autograph letters signed “Joseph Whitworth”, English engineer and inventor, to col.-lieut. Said Pasha, including the significant details of weapons and machines ordered by the Ottoman Empire in 1864

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WHITWORTH, JOSEPH (1803-1887).

Joseph Whitworth & Co., Manchester, 1864.

COMPLETE TITLE: [THE WEAPON INDUSTRY IN 19th CENTURY BRITAIN / BRITISH - OTTOMAN RELATIONS] A group of four autograph letters signed “Joseph Whitworth”, an important English engineer and inventor, addressed to colonel-lieutenant Said Pasha (Eginli), including the significant details of weapons and machines ordered by the Ottoman Empire after the Crimean War.

Four manuscript ALSs in black ink on laid papers. 32x20,5 cm (paper sizes), one sized 25x20 cm. All in English. Handwritten texts on [21 p.] of [44] p. “Letters on business with the Firm please address Joseph Whitworth & Co, Chorlton St. Portland St. Manchester” letterheads, with blind stamps of “Joseph Whitworth & Co., Engineer, Manchester” on papers.

Historically significant and content-rich four autograph letters signed by Whitworth including the important correspondences of the details about weapons and machines ordered by the Ottoman Empire, addressed to Said Pasha (Eginli) (1830-1896) who was responsible for the business on behalf of the Ottoman War Ministry in 1864. 

After the Crimean War (1853-1856), the Ottoman Empire, which was in decline, realized that it was inadequate in terms of military technology. The Crimean War is often seen as the first modern war, involving such pioneering sciences as railways and telegraph communication. The Empire wanted to overcome this weakness by ordering weapons from England, which had completed the Industrial Revolution and reached an advanced level in engineering, weaponry, and arms industry.

Thus, Said Pasha, who was promoted to the rank of major and then lieutenant colonel in 1862 and joined the Ottoman Naval Forces, was sent to Europe by Tophane-i Âmîre two years later to purchase weapons. He had already been sent to Great Britain in 1853 to receive higher education in engineering, graduated from Edinburgh University in 1860 and returned to Istanbul. Apparently, Whitworth was contacted by the Ottoman Imperial Ministry of War through Said Pasha during these years, and the following details are included in response to a series of letters seemingly written by Said Pasha.

The first letter dated 31 August 1864 reads:


We have now (as requested by your favor 4th August) the pleasure submits our tender for the supply of machinery for making the steadiest Ordnance.

The price is including packing cases and Delivery at stull.

The machines would be made with our usual workmanship and would be specialty adapted for the peculiar purpose required.

The weight of each machine is given approximately in the tender and all the large tools are of extra strength and weight meet the increasing dimensions of large Ordnance.

The steel cutting tools, templates etc. we have omitted from the tender, it being impossible to estimate the cost accurately unless we knew what construction of rifled Ordnance was intended to be adopted. The strapping is also omitted, but a separate specification will be sent possible.

For the sake of future reference, we have numbered the items of the specification from No. 1 upwards.

We beg to refer to the following items 27 to 29. The extra slide rests are omitted, as they do not appear to be necessary in the coil Lathes and we did not find them in use at Woolwich, they can however be added if you still require them.

Then he gives details of the situations and constructions of some numbered items much heavier than the machines in use at Woolwich and how they can be calculated.

This letter ends with this information:

" With reference to the time of completion we think it would take from 18 months to two years to complete the whole." and a payment update will be sent.

Another document dated 31st August 1864, including an account and a table of a long list of the weapons and machines accompanies the letter reading:

Joseph Whitworth & Co. Tender for machinery for making the heaviest Ordnance as per detailed specification submitted to them by Lieut. Col. Said Bey, London, on the 4th August 1864:

[With number of items, approximate weights, titles, and amounts, prices in Pounds]:

“Six heavy gun boring machines, two selfacting [sic. self-acting] gun boring machines, two rifling machines, one smaller rifling machine, one set of hydraulic fireing [firing] pumps, one machine for capping out, of grinding, two very strong lathes, adapted for guns, two very strong special lathes, three special lathes, for rough turning, three special lathes, for (?) prices, two special lathes, for turning tube, one special lathe, to have end of (?), three special coil lathes, four special lathes, for small coils, two vertical boring machines, for coils, two single boring machines for trunnions, four trunnion lathes, two special trunnion shaping machines, two (?) machines, adopted for guns, two (?) cutting lathes, ten special building up lathes, in one 30 feet bed, 30 inch centres, in one 30 feet bed, 24 inch centres, in one 30 feet bed, 20 inch centres, in one 25 feet bed, 18 inch centres, in one 25 feet bed, 15 inch centres, in one 25 feet bed, 12 inch centres, forty four sets of countershaft brackets, one breeching lamp rotting machine, one boring machine, for breeching lamp, drilling machine, two sighting machines, one machine, and chill fine holes in (?), one (?) cutting lathe,…”

92 items in the list, with the last two paragraphs ending the document:

The whole of the foregoing machinery to be of the first quality both as regards (?), soundness, correct fitting, materials, and general (?), in all respects first class. The prices include packing cases and delivery free on board ship in Hull [underlined], and are to be to the entire satisfaction of Lieut. Col. Said Bey, or such officer as he may appoint for inspection previous to leaving the premises of Joseph Whitworth & Co. Terms, net cash [underlined], the third payable at the time of order, and the remainder on delivery at our works.” All items cost 58909 GBP according to the total.

The second letter dated 10 Sept[ember] 1864 reads:

“Lieut. Col. Said Bey,


We now beg to submit the accompanying specification of machinery for making the heaviest ordinance as tendered for by us on August 31st.

We are sorry so much delay has intervened sending the specification but (?) it has not caused you any inconvenience.”

And the very long addendum including striking account of the weapon industry in Britain and 93 items ordered by the Ottoman War Ministry through Said Bey [Pasha] including machines specifications, features, factories they are produced, etc. are described meticulously:

[.] 1. Six heavy gun boring machines similar in Arrangement those in the Royal gun factories Woolwich, but of dimensions not less than 50 ft in length, uncapable of boring guns 16 ft in 9th of bore, boring bar to have a quick motion both for advencing and retivering in addition to the selfacting boring machines, also the levers and handles for manipulation are to be in close vicinity to the muzzle of the gun. The bed adopted for bolting to Stone foundations...

[.] Two rifling machines, similar in arrangements to those in the Royal gun factories, but adopted for guns 16 ft in length of bore proportionate diameter on the extremity of trunnions capable of rifling guns on any principle shunt or plane as desired. The bed adapted for fixing...

Sir Joseph Whitworth, 1st Baronet FRS FRSA (21 December 1803 - 22 January 1887) was an English engineer, entrepreneur, inventor, and philanthropist. In 1841, he devised the British Standard Whitworth system, which created an accepted standard for screw threads. Whitworth also created the Whitworth rifle, often called the "sharpshooter" because of its accuracy, which is considered one of the earliest examples of a sniper rifle, used by some Confederate forces during the American Civil War.                           

Whitworth was created a baronet by Queen Victoria in 1869. Upon his death in 1887, Whitworth bequeathed much of his fortune to the people of Manchester, with the Whitworth Art Gallery and Christie Hospital partly funded by Whitworth's money. Whitworth Street and Whitworth Hall in Manchester are named in his honour.

Whitworth's company merged with the W.G. Armstrong & Mitchell Company to become Armstrong Whitworth in 1897.

Said Pasha (1830-1896) was an Ottoman military engineer schoolteacher, politician, and Naval Minister. He was nicknamed "Englishman" because he studied higher education in England/Scotland knew English very well and was politically close to England. He was instrumental in Britain's occupation of Cyprus (The Cyprus Convention of 4 June 1878) and later, under British pressure, a new peace conference was convened in Berlin and the Berlin Treaty was signed, as the Treaty of San Stefano on March 3, 1878, after the 1877-78 Russo-Turkish War.

The Whitworth Rifle:

The Whitworth rifle was designed by Sir Joseph Whitworth, a prominent British engineer and entrepreneur. Whitworth had experimented with cannons using polygonal rifling instead of traditional rifled barrels, which was patented in 1854. The hexagonal polygonal rifling meant that the projectile did not have to bite into grooves as was done with conventional rifling. In 1856, that concept was demonstrated in a series of experiments using brass howitzers.

Whitworth believed that the same type of system could be used to create a more accurate rifle to replace the Pattern 1853 Enfield, which had shown some weaknesses during the recent Crimean War. Trials were held in 1857 to compare Whitworth's design against the Enfield. The Whitworth rifle outperformed the Enfield at a rate of about three to one in the trials, which tested the accuracy and range of both weapons. Notably, the Whitworth rifle was able to hit the target at a range of 2,000 yards (1,800 m), whereas the Enfield was only able to hit the same target at a range of 1,400 yards (1,300 m).

While the trials were generally a success for the Whitworth rifle, the British government ultimately rejected the design because the Whitworth's barrel was much more prone to fouling than the Enfield, and the Whitworth rifle also cost approximately four times as much to manufacture. The Whitworth Rifle Company was able to sell the weapon to the French and Ottoman armies, and the Confederacy during the American Civil War. (Wikipedia).

Overall, this small collection of autographed material written by a famous British engineer sent to Said Pasha provides invaluable insight into the weapon industry in Britain in the 19th century and Ottoman–British relations. By online research, all kinds of autograph materials by Whitworth seem to be extremely rare in the market and auction records.

Provenance: Ali Çubuk (?-2020) Collection, including mostly rare books, manuscripts, maps, and portolans, in the navigation category. Collector’s wife is the great-grandchild of (Eginli) Said Pasha.