New Faculty Seminar
Paper Projections: Aaron Hill's Beech Oil Bust (1714-1716)
This essay examines the role of print in the attempted invention of a new eighteenth-century commodity: beech seed oil. It shows how the inventor, Aaron Hill, exploited the material conventions of patents, pamphlets, newspapers, and panegyric poetry to promote beech forests as a cheap source of lubricants for use in Britain’s woolens and soap-making industries. Although this enterprise failed (and disastrously so), its archival remains shed incredible light upon the rhetorical life of an eighteenth-century corporation. Analyzing the folds, fonts, binding, images, and sales venues of beech oil proposal literature, this essay argues that print was an enabling force of entrepreneurship in eighteenth-century Britain, and that publishers, printers, and printed objects themselves were active agents in shaping the composition and reception of projects to improve the nation. The paper will be available on online reserve under HIS000.