'Lamp lighter', 1808.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Hand coloured aquatint from 'The Costume of Great Britain', a book containing 60 images of people at work and scenes of everyday life. The image shows a lamplighter up a ladder, holding the lid of a street lamp in one hand while pasing the centre of the lamp down to a small boy carrying a jug. British streets were lit by oil lamps until the introduction of gas lighting by German entrepeneur F A Winsor in around 1807. William H Pyne (1769-1843), the son of a London weaver who became an artist and writer, was commisioned to write and illustrate the book by the publisher, William Miller of Albermarle Street, London. The first edition was printed in 1804, but the edition from which this coloured plate was taken was published in 1808. The illustrations are particularly notable as they portray British life on the eve of the Industrial Revolution.