Product Details

Product reviewed: Magazine: The Blackstone Collection
Reviewer: Paul Pavlinovich
Date Reviewed: 01 Feb 2002
Overall Rating (0 = Terrible, 5 = Satisfactory, 10 = Magnificent): 8

Product made available for review by: Michael Key
Product is available from: Michael Key (see end of review)
Price UK£12 including overseas postage.

General Comments

The Blackstone Collection is a new, independent, venture aimed at everyone who has an interest in the history and products of Blackstone & Co. Ltd., of Stamford. The company, which was founded in 1837, became one of the country's leading manufacturers, first of agricultural and barn machinery, then stationary oil engines. It still exists, as a successful part of the MAN B&W group of companies.

This A5 format magazine celebrates the firm's history and products, the familiar as well as the odd and the rare. Using mostly unpublished or rarely published photographs, drawings, sales material, etc., the articles within record over 160 years of success and failure. There will also be features on the current collection and restoration scene.

The publisher, Michael Key, is known to many engine collectors through his work at Stamford Museum, where until his retirement he was the assistant curator. While there he brought together a large collection of Blackstone related material from which he has been able answer many queries regarding the company's products. This, and his own collection, forms the basis for much of the new magazine.

The Blackstone Collection, which was started last June, is only available by subscription from the address below.

It is published four times a year: June September, December, March.

Subscriptions for four issues are £10 in UK and Europe, £12 for the Rest of the World, including postage.

Micheal requests would non-UK subscribers please pay by Sterling banker's cheque if possible, the banks here take almost a third of the value of any other form of payment.

Whether you have an interest in oil engines or agricultural implements, or local history, or were an employee at the firm, The Blackstone Collection will both inform and entertain.


Specific Comments

I have received Issues 1 and 2 for review from Michael and this review will cover those issues only. An initial inspection the magazine is A5 format (for those not familiar with A sizes, take a sheet of standard paper and fold it in half - that is near enough to A5). The magazine is computer generated and printed on a press on good quality stiff paper. There are black and white and colour pages throughout. Overall production quality is good and Michael does a reasonable job of transferring the poor source images into electronic format for publishing. In both magazines there are minor publication errors such as a repeated paragraph or a sentence missing. These minor faults do not detract from the publication as a whole but need to be addressed.

On to the content... in the first two issues Michael is the author of all articles but I expect that others will write as the magazine catches on (and it will). Let me start by giving a brief contents list for each of the issues and move on from there.

Issue 1: A Brief History of Blackstone & Co. Ltd. Part One; On Show (pictures); Marine Engines; Hay Making; Double Header; Four of a Kind; The Blackstone Oil Engine Register; and a Marketplace.
Issue 2: A Brief History of Blackstone & Co. Ltd. Part Two; Show Pictures; A discussion on paint colours; An interesting Identification Crisis; The Swath Turner; Fabricated or Sectional Oil Engine; and Marketplace.

I'll start with the "Brief History of Blackstone" article. Michael's writing style is interesting and amusing - he manages to convey a dry subject very well, no effort is required to read and learn about the interesting and varied history of Blackstone. Most of the first two issues is devoted to this potted history. Michaels source of material is the Blackstone collection within the Stamford (England) Museum of which he was the assistant curator. The article runs to 18 pages across the two issues and is drawn from many items of information which Michael has successfully integrated. A short out of context example is below:

Thomas Ashby had been in the business since 1844 and is described in the 1861 Census as a leather merchant, iron and brass founder and agricultural engineer. However, he was probably mainly concerned with the financial side of the firm. Henry Smith's death in 1859 and the leaving of Robert Smith shortly after had left him without an experienced practical engineer. To remedy this he took into partnership in October George Jeffery "whose extensive experience and practical knowledge eminently qualify him for the position - in general superintendence of the manufacturing department".

The history includes some detail of the Blackstone oil and steam engines, but does not concentrate on them - also included are the other implements Blackstone are famous for such as the Hay Rake and Swath Turner. Mention is made of the many prizes Blackstone won over the years establishing them as the market leader in England and in many of her colonies.

The issues include many images from the past and present of Blackstone equipment as it was made, sold, used, and in preservation. The images are varied and interesting covering all of the subjects presented within the articles and included in context with the written material.

Probably a good testament to the quality of this magazine is that even though I have no particular interest in Blackstone engines (I don't own one yet) I'll be subscribing because I am interested in the history and development of agricultural works. The magazines are interesting and full of useful information.

I would like to see some additional information added with the articles about products such as operational instructions, and some technical data (particularly the engines). Brief notes on how to start, run, and stop the various models shown would be handy for owners. Technical information such as valve clearances and timing would be useful for the restorer. Without this information the magazine is a wonderful window into the past, with it, the magazine would be both window and reference resource. Of course for this to happen, the magazine readers will have to contribute their knowledge of their own engines and other equipment.

Below is a collection of some of the images presented within the issues to give some idea as to the variety and quality. These images are © Copyright to others, so respect this and do not take them for other purposes.

steamengine agad
engine hayad

To obtain the magazine or more information write to Michael Key at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via snail mail:
Michael Key
3 Medina Close
OX11 7QR

Thanks Michael for taking on the mammoth task of conveying the long and varied history of Blackstone to the rest of us!