Page 8 - February 2015
P. 8

was contracted to William Clowes of Stamford    A large marquee was set up in the yard
Street. Thomas’s company would gild the         outside of the works and upwards of 100
finished newspapers. The work involved very     staff were engaged to dust the freshly-
close co-operation between the two firms.       printed sheets with a noxious mixture of fine
Three examples of the newspaper are held        particulate compounds, made to a secret
at St Bride, each showing varying degrees       recipe . The unseasonable wind and rain gave
of success in the gilding process. Some         way to hot sunshine as the gilding process
copies show a green discolouration, similar     began. De la Rue’s account books reveal that
to verdigris, suggesting that copper may        33lbs of yellow ink, 10lbs of varnish, three
have been one of the elements used in the       quarts of turpentine, 1lb 12oz of ‘bronze’
preparation of the secret gilding formula.      and six tons of coal were required for the
                                                project. Overtime for four principal staff,
There were no satisfactory gold inks available  including Thomas de la Rue himself came
cheaply in 1838, so Thomas de la Rue devised    to £73.17s.0d, equivalent to around £4,000
a method of achieving a gilded effect by        today. Almost everyone involved in the work
having the newspaper (excluding a large         developed symptoms of industrial dermatitis
engraving of Victoria’s head on the front       or respiratory disease.
page) printed in yellow ink and dusted with
gold bronzing powder. Production of the         The golden issue of the newspaper was an
paper—100,000 copies initially - relied upon    enormous success. With a cover price of one
the ink remaining wet long enough for the       shilling, many changed hands for five times
papers to be transported by horse and cart to   that amount, with some selling at a guinea
de la Rue’s gilding facility at Bunhill Row.    each. Such was the demand for the golden
                                                Sun, that multiple editions were printed over
                                                a period of three weeks or so to satisfy
                                                demand. The example shown alongside is the
                                                fifteenth edition, printed a fortnight after
                                                the coronation.

                                                John Oakley was 19 years old when he was
                                                engaged to work on the historic issue of the
                                                newspaper. His medical condition, brought
                                                about by involvement in the gilding process,
                                                was treated by Mr Caswell, a member of the
                                                Royal College of Surgeons. His colleague, Mr
                                                Turney wrote to the editor of the Medical
                                                Gazette with a full report of this unusual case.
                                                About three weeks after he began working
                                                with the special bronzing powder, John Oakley
                                                presented himself at the Royal College “for
                                                relief of a most distressing itching of the
                                                scrotum” according to the report. Oakley was
                                                described in the medical notes as having a
                                                “scrofulous complexion”, akin to someone
                                                suffering from tuberculosis. His genitals were

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