Out of an edition of three, the sole surviving example of With Hidden Noise, assembled sometime in 1916 by Duchamp--and the only one with a secret object placed inside--is in the Arensberg Collection at Philadelphia. The two other pieces have been lost. Duchamp's idea in executing three sculptures was to issue the minimum number to qualify the edition as having been "mass produced." In his notes on With Hidden Noise, in the catalog of London's 1966 Tate Gallery exhibition, Richard Hamilton represented the painted letters properly, with blank spaces, accents, and commas, although he mistakenly capitalized the "c" of convenablement in his transcription of the inscribed "clue" sentence; yet, Hamilton did explain the approach to mass production:

Three examples of With Hidden Noise were made in 1916. Three means "number" for Duchamp. One is unique, two is a pair, three approaches many. To make three of a thing was to mass-produce it--as important a decision as that of isolating one example of a mass-produced object to call it art.

[ Richard Hamilton, The Almost Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, Tate Gallery (Arts Council of Great Britain), London (1966), p. 55. ]

In this same spirit, Duchamp had earlier "mass produced" a run of three for the "rectified Ready-made," Pharmacy (1914), of which again two examples have been lost, just as with the 1916 sculpture. In this context, let us note one of the definitions of a Readymade many writers like to quote, but which first appeared in André Breton's primier essay on Duchamp, "Lighthouse of the Bride" (1934-1935):

manufactured objects promoted to the dignity of objects of art through the choice of the artist.

[ An English translation of Breton's essay appeared in the 1945 special Duchamp issue of View magazine, reprinted in Lebel, p. 89. ]

According to one school of conventional historical wisdom, the idea of mass-production was born in England at the beginning of the nineteenth century. When eighteen years old, Henry Maudslay, who had been employed as a smithy at the Woolwich Royal Arsenal, became apprenticed as a locksmith to Joseph Bramah, designer of what remained for forty years a pick-proof lock. In 1797 Maudslay made some design improvements on the lathe which made mass-production of the Bramah lock possible. But when Bramah refused to raise his thirty shillings a week wages, Maudslay left to establish his own firm.

The principle of the screw--already mentioned in conjunction with the four threaded nuts and bolts of With Hidden Noise--is an idea central to the history of mass-production and the long process that is known as the Industrial Revolution. A Frenchman, Antoine Thiout, had designed a lead-screw device, mounting a cutting blade on a threaded base, which proved accurate enough to be used in the manufacture of clockwork. Maudslay's lathe incorporated a blade of crucible steel (developed by the English clockmaker Benjamin Huntsman) mounted on accurately-planed triangular beams; this allowed work to be done on a large scale while retaining the locksmith's or the clockmaker's precision. By 1808 Maudslay, together with the Frenchman Marc Isambard Brunel, had established the first real mass-production unit at Portsmouth turning out wooden rigging blocks used in hauling and, in particular, aboard naval ships for moving guns rapidly into position for firing. A vessel of only the third class, with 74 guns, required 1400 blocks to operate, all of which had to be made by hand; but then the machines of Brunel and Maudslay could produce 130,000 a year.

[ This account is paraphrased from the story more fully told by James Burke, Connections, Little Brown, Boston (1978), pp. 140 ff.]

The British were slow to apply the lessons of mass production to industry at home, but the success of cannon mounted on ships of the Royal Navy provided the effective basis for establishing a global empire in the nineteenth century. The strategic concept of seapower insured Britain's role as the leading military nation until surpassed by the United States and its superior program of military airpower begun during World War I. The intimate relationship between military funding and the idea of mass production offers a sobering perspective for people today trying to figure out how we can evolve politically to a world beyond war. The popular historian James Burke hints at the inescapable connections between war and the national economy in his sketch of the background for the American System of Manufacture:

In the middle of the eighteenth century a French gunsmith called Honor le Blanc had worked out a system for making gun parts to a standardized pattern, so that if a part broke, it could be replaced by another part that would fit the gun exactly. Since up to that time the manufacture of muskets had been in the hands of craftsmen, these latter were unwilling to adopt new methods that would reduce their status or employment. So Le Blanc turned to Thomas Jefferson, the American Ambassador to France, with the idea. Jefferson saw at once that such a system would rid America of her dependence for arms on those states with which she had been and might again be at war. He tried and failed to persuade Le Blanc to go to America. But he wrote enthusiastically to the Secretary of War about the idea, and when he returned to America he set about persuading Congress to adopt the principle in the nation's armouries. He had an ally in George Washington, and by 1798 a contract had been given to Eli Whitney, the self-styled inventor, for 12,000 muskets made by the new system--a method which, by the way, Whitney claimed for his own. Whether Whitney was the first even in America to copy Le Blanc's idea is a matter of doubt. There were two other gunmakers, John Hall and Simeon North, producing guns by the same method at the same time. Be that as it may, Eli Whitney continues to be known as the inventor of the system, because there is a need for heroes. The machines operating in the armouries produced parts that were standard enough to be interchangeable, and by 1815 Congressional contracts stipulated this quality in the muskets, pistols and rifles they paid for. During the next fifty years the factory system of Lowell and the interchangeable parts of the armourers combined in the American System of Manufacture, with factories beginning to turn out quantities of goods made of interchangeable parts, such as sewing machines, locomotives, bicycles, and the product of much of the bicycle manufacturers' experience--the motor car. Cadillac was first a bicycle, then a car.

[ Burke, Connections, p. 150 f. ]

The Boston financier Francis Cabot Lowell, for whom the system was named, began exploiting unskilled female labor and polluting the waterways of New England with the effluent of textile factories in 1813 at the Boston Manufacturing Company in Waltham, Massachusetts.


One of Marcel Duchamp's earliest elegant, dramatic gestures in the Readymade genre was the Bicycle Wheel (1913). The artist himself identified this sublimely simple piece, with its disarmingly disjunctive proto-Surrealist quality, as the first Readymade, "so much so that at first it wasn't even called a Readymade." Richard Hamilton's comments help us to appreciate the audacious nature of this initial Readymade in an historical context linking it to With Hidden Noise:

The bicycle wheel was obtained and set upon a stool at a time when not even Duchamp would have dared to state that this was art. It was two years later, in New York, that he identified the act as such and another year before he filed his claim by exhibiting "ready-mades" at the Bourgeois Gallery, New York (April 1916).

[ Hamilton, The Almost Complete Works, p. 43. ]

Already with Duchamp's Bicycle Wheel (1913), we detect a typical embodiment of his sophisticated, radical attitude toward mass-produced articles. With this aesthetically revolutionary approach--very much counter to the generally pervasive FINE arts spirit of idolatry at the time--Duchamp might be seen as a cultural hero in retrospect, having courageously recognized the previously disparaged (or, anyway, unsung) manufactured treasures of the Industrial Revolution. However,

he did not select a bicycle wheel as a beautiful modern object, as a Futurist might; he chose it because it was commonplace. It was nothing but a wheel, like a hundred thousand others, and in fact if it were lost it could soon be replaced by identical "replicas." For the moment, resting upside down on a kitchen stool as a pedestal, it enjoyed an unexpected and derisive prestige which depended entirely upon the act of choosing by which it was selected. It was a kind of sacralization.

[ Lebel, p. 35. ]

In fact, the fate of the sculpture unwound precisely in accord with Lebel's suppositions. The initial piece, with a white stool of originally unrecorded dimensions, was unsigned and undated. It, too has been lost. A second version made by Duchamp in 1916 for his studio in New York also disappeared. A third version, said to be a replica of the lost original, was made for Sidney Janis in New York (1951), and (at a later stage) was signed and dated by Duchamp, in green ink, on the wheel: "Marcel Duchamp 1913-1959." This piece is now a part of the Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. A fourth version was made by Ulf Linde and P. O. Ultvedt, and is in the Moderne Museet Stockholm (1960). A fifth was made by Richard Hamilton in London (1963). A sixth version was produced by the Galleria Schwarz, Milan (1964) in a signed and numbered edition of eight replicas, with an extra one going to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. For this last-mentioned edition, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the first Readymade, the free-wheeling idler's humble epiphany of 1913 was ritualistically recreated with an archaeologist's attention to detail and almost liturgically consecrated as the

first full-scale replicas under the direct supervision of Duchamp on the basis of a blueprint derived from photos of the lost original, 49 13/16" (1256.5 cm) high....Under the seat of the stool, in black ink: Marcel Duchamp 1964 1/8 to 8/8. Below the autograph signature, a small copperplate has been screwed on which Duchamp etched signature, date and number of the example; at the bottom of the plate, title, original date, and publisher's name are etched in printed capital letters.

[ Schwarz, Complete Works, Cat. 205, p. 442. ]

The range of attitudes toward mass-produced objects revealed by this litany of the Bicycle Wheel and its successors, extends from Duchamp's casual inspiration, through admiration and imitation by others, to increasingly bizarre forms of quasi-idolatrous adoration in a complex aesthetic evolution. The (literally) throw- away gesture of Duchamp's original concept, down through its several avatars--all the while remaining technically a Readymade--finally became an oxymoronic embodiment of precious, scarcity-commodity high, fine and famous art. The stuff of this art--the physical components of bicycle wheels and kitchen stools-- both continued to be mass-produced. Ironically, many of the specific items that went into making this and other Readymades have themselves become collectables, no longer at all commonplace. In another remarkable way the Bicycle Wheel--because it has been copied, or re-created so frequently--provides a clinical example of Concept Art. For, the concept itself--born in the moment when the inspired combination first occurred to Duchamp--continues to exercise a remarkable longevity: because nowadays if anyone sticks a bicycle wheel of whatever kind upside down through the seat of a stool painted any color, the world recognizes the gesture as indubitably Duchampian.

Thus Duchamp in his own way fulfills Apollinaire's prophecy that he would be the most popular artist of our time inasmuch as no other has so successfully put in circulation objects and ideas which have become almost anonymous because they seem so patent.

[ Lebel, p. 35. ]

References to the Bicycle Wheel range from the artist's own matter-of-fact view of the piece as a way of "simply letting things go by themselves," to appreciations by les regardeurs of posterity who draw associations with the archetypal iconography of the wheel: from the Wheel of Dharma first spun by the Buddha in the Deer Park of Saranath, to the wheel of the cosmic calendrical round, or from the Wheel of Fortune in its Delphic origins, in the biblical symbolism associated with Ezekiel's vision, through recurrent illustration in medieval manuscripts as an attribute of St. Catherine, down to its current appearance, featured (with Vanna White) on "TV's most-watched game show." These references form such an extended iconographical context for the Bicycle Wheel that it is hard to fault Schwarz's decision to accord it a generic interpretation: "a turning wheel has always been an esoteric symbol," or to quibble with Steefel when he sees the piece as a "concrete symbol of internal self-transformation which creates its own ambience of magic space and enclosure."

[ Schwarz, Complete Works p. 442 f. See also, Lawrence D. Steefel, Jr., The Position of {The Large Glass...}, Ann Arbor, University Microfilms, (Mic. 61-2004, 1960). ]


Some ordinary people who do not consider themselves to be great afficionados of the avant-garde tend to regard this Bicycle Wheel as an infuriatingly flippant statement. According to the usual arguments, the piece may not qualify to be called "fine art" or "real sculpture" at all because its two principal elements are mass-produced. The thin aesthetic skin of the bourgeoisie remains just as sensitive today to the same pokes it suffered from the same Marcel Duchamp many years ago. Although abstract painting and "modern" architecture have largely ceased to outrage public taste, and despite the qualified successes of Pop Art, the validity of ready-made sculpture still seems to teeter on the verge of being dismissed as mere cheeky artistic impertinence.

The revolutionary nature of the artistic problems posed by ready-mades is in dramatic contrast with the conventional attitudes of many other artists contemporary with Duchamp. Most simply refused to see any connection at all between their creative calling and the changes wrought in the real world by machines and industry. The ideal art of the salons totally ignored expressive implications of the machine, furthering an attitude of deliberate disassociation. To be sure, landscape and nature painting in the nineteenth century may be read, in part, as a reaction to the inexorably grim apparition of life in the industrial city: a depressing specter of slums under great clouds of steam and soot. Charles Dickens described the wearisome heads of the steam engines in Coketown (supposedly modeled on Birmingham):

The measured motion of their shadows on the walls, was the substitute Coketown had to show for the shadows of rustling woods; while, for the summer hum of insects, it could offer, all the year round, from the dawn of Monday to the night of Saturday, the whirr of shafts and wheels.

[ Charles Dickens, Hard Times, edited by George Ford and Sylvre Monod (A Norton Critical Edition), Norton, New York (1966), p. 85.]

Another eminent Victorian was William Morris, the extraordinary nineteenth-century figure working half a century before Duchamp, to whose approach he offers something of a clinical, art historical contrast. Morris was born into a wealthy family and developed a huge disgust not only with the unbearable Victorian pretentiousness of most fine art of his day, but also and more generally with what he took to be the insidious and pernicious consequences of the Industrial Revolution. Of course, Morris arrived at very different conclusions than Duchamp later did; in marked contrast with Marcel's personal style, he attempted to resolve the artistic and social contradictions of the Industrial Revolution by rejecting the machine altogether.

Morris defined art as "the way in which man expresses joy in his work," denied that there was such a thing as "inspiration" and fused it with the idea of "craft." But it was in these very concepts that he saw the justification of his rejection of mechanical production; the machine, in fact, destroyed the "joy in work" and killed the very possibility of art....He condemned the whole economic system of his time and took refuge in the contemplation of the Middle Ages, when "every man that made anything made it as a work of art as well as a useful piece of goods....I do not mean that we should aim at abolishing all machinery...we should be the masters of our machines and not their slaves, as we are now. It is not this or that tangible steel or brass machine which we want to get rid of, but the great intangible machine of commercial tyranny, which oppresses the lives of us all."

Morris was the first thinker in the field of architecture to see the relationship between life and culture in a modern way, and consciously to bridge the gap between theory and this sense he (more than anyone else) deserves to be considered as the father of the modern movement.

[ Leonardo Benevolo, History of Modern Architecture, Volume 1, "The Tradition of Modern Architecture," M.I.T. Press, Cambridge (translated from the 3rd revised Italian edition, 1971), pp. 177-180, 181. The quotations from Morris are from different lectures, given originally in 1888, and cited in On Art and Socialism, London (1947).]

William Morris--most unlike Duchamp--founded a company in 1862, with others of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood intending to create an art "of the people and for the people." Because these artists rejected machine manufacture, the beautiful, hand-made products--conforming to a cruelly perverse principle of manufacture and commerce--became so expensive that only the wealthy could afford to buy them.

In the Middle Ages "everything which was made by man's hand was more or less beautiful," today "almost all wares that are made by civilized man are shabbily and pretentiously ugly...." Morris maintained that a bonfire ought to have been made of nine-tenths of all that was in wealthy people's houses.

[ Nikolaus Pevsner, The Sources of Modern Architecture and Design, Praeger, New York (1968), p. 21. ]

The idealistic attempt to regenerate an artist/craftsman figure from a benevolent fantasy of the Middle Ages, predictably, was totally incapable of accomodating the modern realities of a money economy and art as a scarcity-commodity. Yet Morris' artistic influence, through his revival of handicrafts especially, was many-sided and widespread.

For one thing, Morris' medievalism made him a very prominent figure in the Gothic Revival in art....For while Morris was not totally unmindful of the material contributions resulting from the industrial revolution (he once praised the iron steamship as the cathedral of the nineteenth century)...he and many of his followers did seek to turn the clock back.

[ See the superb study, Donald Drew Egbert and Stow Parsons, editors, Socialism and American Life, Volume I, Princeton University Press (1952), p. 651. Also, Lewis Mumford, The Condition of Man, New York (1944), p. 336. Full bibliography in Egbert and Parsons, Volume II. ]

The Arts and Crafts movement that emerged from Morris's ventures exerted a continuing influence among designers and builders as well as among artists; but it was forced to change one of Morris's canonical positions, which entailed the eventual embrace of the machine. Leading this accommodation among followers of William Morris was the architect and decorator Charles Robert Ashbee, who

was the first to recognize that the movement for the rebirth of the applied arts could succeed only by abandoning the attempt at reviving medieval craftsmanship. In 1911 he wrote: "Modern civilization rests on machinery and no system for the encouragement or the endowment of the teaching of the arts can be found that does not recognize this."

[ Benevolo, Modern Architecture, p. 186. Today the same might apply to the computer. In 1888 Ashbee founded a guild and handicraft school. ]


Mass production was not the only concept difficult for fine artists to incorporate into their visions; there was also the question of using new materials, especially iron (or steel) and glass. In the mid-nineteenth century, the art of architecture stimulated the most intense and articulate public controversy about the new aesthetic implications of the machine. Joseph Paxton, a master carpenter and builder of conservatories, erected, in some four months time, the famous Crystal Palace for the London Great Exposition in 1851. The structure resembled a gigantic greenhouse of 33 million cubic feet, covering 18 acres of ground with 900,000 square feet of glass weighing 400 tons, on 3300 cast iron columns and 2224 girders, with 205 MILES of sash bar. It also delighted Charles Dickens, who thus described the plan in Household Words, that the length of the main building:

was upwards of a third of a mile long (1851 ft., the exact date of the year) and some 450 broad.

[ Quoted in Benevolo, Modern Architecture, p. 100. ]

Such a feat was possible only because the structure was entirely prefabricated, as it were, ready-made. The governing concerns for efficiency produced aesthetic consequences of radical simplification, since the building was devoid of decorative frills with which the prevailing architecture was heavily encrusted. It thereby marked

the first major escape from historical styles in architecture. The Crystal Palace is the mid-nineteenth century touchstone, if one wishes to discover what belongs wholly to the nineteenth century and what points forward into the twentieth. The Crystal Palace was entirely of iron and glass, it was designed by a non-architect, and it was designed for industrial quantity production of its parts.

[ Pevsner, Sources, p. 11. ]

Another important architectural project using the new materials of metal and glass even earlier was Henri Labruste's iron framework structure of the Bibliothèque Sainte Geneviève (1843-50) in Paris. As mentioned above in a biographical context, this was the very building in which Marcel Duchamp came to work, in 1913, as a library assistant for five francs a day. Although Nikolaus Pevsner declares that the library's aesthetic character of elegance and ornamental restraint was determined by the use of iron, that material was not frankly expressed as in Paxton's clean design, but rather was hidden behind a sheath of stone.

[ Pevsner, Sources, p. 15. ]


From that fateful decision by the Society of Independent Artists not to exhibit Duchamp's Fountain (1917) sprang "The Richard Mutt Case," and one of modern art's most famous polemics. A brief but brilliant editorial was composed by Duchamp and privately published in the ephemeral little magazine The Blind Man. It concludes with the following thought-provoking line, relevant to our immediate interest:

The only works of art America has given are her plumbing and her bridges.

[ Schwarz, Complete Works, Cat. 244, pp. 465 ff.; Cat. 245, p. 467 and Bibl. 7, pp. 584-585. The Blind Man / Independents' Number, New York, No. 1 (April 10, 1917). With contributions by Henri-Pierre Roch, Beatrice Wood and Minna Loy; this was the eight-page edition hand-delivered to galleries and collectors. ]

One of America's theoretical links to the techniques of mass-production, and to the incipient Industrial Revolution, was a bridge intended to span the Schuylkill River, proximate to where the Arensberg Collection of Duchamp's work is now housed in Philadelphia. The bridge was designed by a patriot of the Revolutionary period, the renowned author of printed ephemera and lion of the fourth estate:

In 1786 Tom Paine (1737-1809)--who later gained fame as a political writer--designed a cast-iron bridge for the river Schuylkill and came to England to patent it and have the pieces built at the Rotherham Ironworks. The separate pieces were cast at Paddington and exhibited to the public for a fee, but at the outbreak of the French Revolution Paine left for Paris leaving the bridge in the hands of his creditors; the pieces were taken over by Rowland Burdon, who built the Sunderland bridge over the Wear in 1796, with the very considerable span of 72 meters.

[ Benevolo, Modern Architecture, p. 19. ]

The earliest of all iron structures and one of the great English monuments in the history of machine aesthetics is usually considered to be the bridge at Coalbrookdale, Shropshire. Early in the eighteenth century a Quaker brass-worker and ironmonger, Abraham Darby, instead of charcoal in his furnaces, began to substitute coke made from coal, an idea he may have picked up from observing local glassmakers. This expedient came about partly from necessity, as restrictive legislation was enforced curtailing the cutting of trees for charcoal. So Darby required a bridge over the Severn to transport coal economically to his furnaces. The project required the cooperation of several persons:

It was probably [John] Wilkinson [of the blade and razor family, and a main figure in the history of the technical application of iron], who had the idea of the first iron bridge, built from 1777 to 1779 on the Severn at Coalbrookdale. The design was prepared by the architect T. F. Pritchard of Shrewsbury; the semicircular arch with a span of 30.5 meters was made by joining two half-arches made in a single piece and cast in Darby's nearby works.

[ Benevolo, Modern Architecture, pp. 14-15, 19. The bridge, despite its practical design, still displays a Gothic revival, ogee arch, some decorative iron circles, and a very fancy railing. ]

Darby was later to cast the cylinders for Thomas Newcomen's engine with which the coal mines could be pumped and drained, one of the master links in the concatenation of innovations characterized as the Industrial Revolution. Darby's brass-working craft had been perfected turning out equipment for ale brewers, employment to which he turned when his Quaker beliefs prevented him from making cannon or other implements for warfare. John Wilkinson then developed the first industrial guide for the head of a cutting bore, with which he was able to produce accurately machined cylinders for James Watt's steam engine. As Wilkinson was no Quaker, his innovation was then utilized for manufacturing barrels for cannon. We are thus reminded not only of the relationship between alcoholic beverages and the progress of civilization (as with the drinking bouts of the symposia and the early development of the Greek alphabet), but also of extremely intimate links with the arms industry from the very beginnings of modern manufacturing. It has been a military/industrial complex all along.

Wilkinson also happened to be the brother-in-law of Joseph Priestly, whose discovery in 1771 showed that the vital replenishment of the earth's atmosphere came from trees. At least theoretically, the basic intelligence about the oxygen/carbon dioxide cycle, atmospheric pollution from the combustion of hydrocarbons, and the ecological consequences of deforestation was available before the problems arose. As a result of distilling volatile materials from coal to make coke, then burning coke to make iron, pollution of the atmosphere was one of the initial products of the Industrial Revolution. But in the immediately preceding period, pollution from burning wood to make charcoal had been just as bad for the atmosphere...actually worse in terms of the immediate negative impact on the living habitat of the countryside. England's forests had earlier been ravaged by Henry VIII and Elizabeth I in order to build ships for the British navy; much of the remaining standing forest not on protected lands was chopped down in the later sixteenth century in order to fire furnaces for the making of glass.


The glass so favored by Marcel Duchamp as an artistic medium formed one of the most important commodities of the early Industrial Revolution. It was the technology for making flint glass by combining bits of old glass with the new that gave Benjamin Huntsman the clue for making high quality crucible steel for improved clock springs. The glass-making furnaces were also lined with local Stourbridge clay which reflected the heat internally, improving efficiency and making possible the higher temperatures necessary to make the flint glass and the steel. By fashioning lenses made differently from ordinary crown glass used in windows and from flint glass, John Dolland developed the achromatic lens in 1757, which was swiftly adapted for telescopes to be used in maritime navigation and land-based military operations. The lens calls to mind Duchamp's 1918 sculpture incorporating a real lens (and mounted between glass panels), To Be Looked at (from the Other Side of the Glass) with One Eye, Close to, for Almost an Hour. (1918).

Though glass is composed principally of silicon, among the commonest of elements on the surface of our planet, perhaps because of the relatively high technology required to make it, glass anciently received an admiration worthy of precious metals or gemstones. To be sure, glass gems were among the treasured items in the pharaonic tomb of Tutankhamen. Glass was also highly valued in the cultures of Asia:

In 1949, during restoration work, a reliquary was brought to light from the foundation stone, more than three meters below ground level, of the pagoda of Horyu-ji, one of the oldest and most venerable temples in Japan, founded in 607. On this stone rests the central pillar of the pagoda (33.5 m. high), growing, as it were, out of this deeply hidden "seed" of utmost sanctity, thought to contain the bodily relics (arira) of the Buddha. In a cavity of the stone block there was found a bronze bowl containing--besides various offerings such as a bronze mirror, gold leaf and innumerable precious stones--three receptacles one within the other. The outermost was of bronze and was secured by chains, the next was of silver and the last of gold, the latter two being oval-shaped and decorated with openwork ornaments. The increasing preciousness of the material reaches its climax in what--by contemporary standards--was a still more valuable flask of green glass, which contains the relics in the form of little beads of a crystalline substance such as those that are believed to remain when a Buddha's body is cremated.

[ David L. Snellgrove, general editor, The Image of the Buddha, Kodansha International/UNESCO, Paris (1978), p. 424. ]

The fashion of using glass passed from ecclesiastical to civil and domestic building during the reign of Henry VIII. The great wealth that English entrepreneurs acquired from the European trade and exploitation of the New World, apart from provoking other manifestations of greed and pretense, stimulated a demand for lavish country homes. Most of the glass had to be imported until 1567, when the Frenchman, John Carre (spelled the same way--CARRE--as the word inscribed on With Hidden Noise!) set up his furnaces in the forest of the Weald of Kent to make window glass. His patent was for twenty years, but he expired well before it did, so by 1580 many itinerant foreign experts, and newly-trained, native glass-makers were roaming about the forests of England setting up their furnaces and felling all the nearby trees as fast as they could cut.

They had become itinerant because of the rising price of wood, and of its transport. Wood was only cheap if it was bought close to the furnace, and once the immediate area had been cleared, it paid to move on closer to fresh supplies.

Several things conspired against the glass-makers. They themselves were stripping the woods to service the building boom that had brought them to England in the first place. So were the iron-makers, burning wood, as the glass-makers were, to make charcoal for their furnaces. In 1581 Parliament enacted legislation forbidding the felling of trees within twenty-two miles of the Thames, within four miles of the great Sussex forests, and within three miles of any part of the coastline. The increasing number of glass-makers now started to feel the effects of high demand and limited raw materials. Whenever possible, they had settled near rivers on which they could transport their raw materials and the finished product more economically than over land. So in 1593 a bill went before Parliament seeking to outlaw glass-making furnaces within eight miles of any river in the country....The price of glass continued to rise in England, and the wood famine became worse. Partners in crime with the glass-makers were the shipbuilders, themselves taking advantage of the economic success of the country, and the cannon-founders whose guns were in demand aboard the ships. The legislation earlier aimed at reducing the wood-cutting activities of the glass-makers had been in part an attempt to preserve wood for ships and guns.

[ Burke, Connections, p. 163 f. ]

Even then, some members of the privileged classes were made to feel consequences of the assault upon the environment. Elizabeth of Hardwick, Dowager Countess of Shrewsbury--very near the locus of the Darby-Pritchard-Wilkinson (Priestly and Newcomen) enterprises-- commissioned a magnificent home in the last decade of the sixteenth century. As the saying went, "Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall." Because of the legislation intended to curtail woodcutting, however, she was obliged to maintain her own glassmakers on the grounds during construction. When tree-felling was constrained, subsequent production of both glass and industrial metals--principal materials for modern architecture--then came to be based upon the exploitation of coal and coal miners. Then, of course, the energy base for modern industry expanded into other fossil fuels, primarily oil and gas.

Within the last hundred years the burning of fossil fuels, as everyone is beginning to realize, has wreaked upon the environment of the living land and the breathing atmosphere of the earth such a poisoning and corrupting order of pollution that we may wonder whether the transformed organic materials laid down during the Carboniferous period might not qualify as the Forbidden Fruit of the Bible's famous negative injunction. Despite the originally Pollyanna-like naivité about radioactivity's glow-in-the-dark menace, science currently recognizes open-pit uranium mining (although euphemistically termed "low-level") as constituting, because of its large extent, perhaps the greatest long-term source of contamination short of nuclear weaponry. Only very recently, however, has it become clear that radiation, perhaps the most insidious of environmental toxins, presents a formidable--and hitherto unrecognized--threat to global health and well-being from the concentration of normally nominal "naturally-occurring" radioactivity in mine tailings, in the dross from chemical plants, and especially--a nasty surprise--in oil field equipment.

All soils and rocks harbor radioactive materials, and any activities that concentrate them to levels well above their natural abundance--such as mineral extraction and refining--may potentially create a health hazard. Only now, however, are waste managers and state officials realizing the diversity of industries that concentrate these isotopes in large quantities and to potentially toxic levels. [A principal worry is the concentration of these radioactive isotopes] by largely unregulated activities--which basically means anything other than the production of phosphate (principally for agricultural fertilizers) and uranium (for nuclear fuels and weapons). Most of the [radiation-] tainted wastes currently generated by oil and gas companies--about 360,000 cubic meters annually--sit in storage awaiting a "proper disposal" strategy. Until recently, generators of these wastes dumped much of it "into nearby surface waters or collection ponds," EPA says in its draft report. Some contaminated oil pipes have even found their way into gym sets, bleachers, fences and other outdoor structures....

[ Janet Raloff, "NORM: The New Hot Wastes: States mobilize to fill a gap in federal waste management," Science News, Vol 140 (October 26, 1991, p. 264-265. NORM = Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials. ]