Tickling the Crystal 3: Domestic British Crystal Sets of the 1920s
By Ian L. Sanders
Reviewed by Howard Stone
If you have already read Volumes 1 and 2 of Tickling the Crystal: Domestic British Crystal Sets of the 1920s by Ian L. Sanders, you know this third one is going to be good. If you haven't had the chance to peruse the two previous volumes--well, you are in for a treat. Sanders has now completed the definitive work on British Crystal sets in three volumes. The majority of each book is given over to descriptions and high-quality photographs of British crystal sets. Volume 3 pictures sets that were not covered in the previous two volumes.
Ian L. Sanders was born in the United Kingdom, but he now resides in California. His interest in antique radios began in 1974 when he bought his first wireless set in an antique shop in Cardiff. From the beginning, he focused on crystal sets and over the years amassed not only a number of important British crystal sets, but also a sizable collection of materials on the subject.
A shortcoming of some books on antique radios is the blurry quality of some pictures. Not so with Tickling the Crystal 3. As in the previous two volumes, Carl Glover, a graphics designer and photographer, is responsible for the superb photographs. I am aware of no other books on vintage radios with such quality in the images. Most pages feature a picture of a crystal set, along with a very brief description of the set.
For several years -- 1991 to 1997 -- I wrote a series of articles on British Crystal sets for Antique Radio Classified. During the time the series was being published, I received a number of requests for the identification of crystal radios. In almost one-half of the British crystal sets I looked at, I discovered something that was not right--some part that had been changed from the original. The sharp, clear pictures in Tickling the Crystal 3 will make it easier for readers not only to identify but also to evaluate the correctness of British sets.
Volume 3 devotes somewhat less space to individual crystal radios and more to general knowledge about crystal sets than the previous two volumes do. It includes high quality reproductions of period advertisements for crystal sets. The author also gives more space to the history of manufacturers and suppliers of crystal sets, including some lesser known ones.
He discusses L. M. Ericsson, BTH, Burndept Wireless, Crystophone Manufacturing, Currys, Will Day Limited, Economic Electric Limited, Edison Swann, Eons Wireless Supply, Fellows Magneto Company, Gamages's Crystal Sets, Marconiphone, Leslie McMichael, Metropolitan-Vickers, F.L. Mitchell & Company, Peto-Scott, Radio Instruments, Saxon Radio, Sterling Telephone and Electric, T.M.C., and Ward & Goldstone -- some for the first time in the series, and some with more information that has since come to light.
An example of the detail in Sander's book is this photograph showing three variations of the tuning scale on the Cosmos Radiophone, Type C.1.
This volume of Tickling the Crystal again includes an updated list of manufacturers of crystal sets in the UK and their post office registration numbers. Updating the list of GPO numbers has been an invaluable service to radio historians and collectors. The work ends with a combined index for all three volumes that will make Volume 3 particularly valuable whenever one is researching a crystal set from the UK.
What would I like to have seen that wasn't there? As far as I can tell, nothing of importance. Anything that was missing from the first two volumes seems to have been included in Tickling the Crystal 3. We need to offer a resounding "Well done" to Ian Sanders.
The series of three volumes is a labor of love for Sanders; I'd be surprised if he recoups his expenses. Even so, the books are not cheap. $64.95 may seem like a lot of money for a book on antique radios, but it's an expensive work to publish, and there are no other books in the field that compare. The fine hardbound edition, is printed on quality paper with sewn binding and a beautiful cover and dust jacket.
If you have any interest in the subject, buy this book--indeed, buy all three. But do it promptly; Volume 3 of Tickling the Crystal is limited to 500 copies. You will find them a joy to look at and an invaluable research aid for the identification and appreciation of British crystal sets.
Tickling the Crystal 3 -- Domestic British Crystal Sets of the 1920s -- is published by BVWS B5 5GD, England. It is available in a 81/2" x 12" hardcover format for $64.95 from A.R.C. Be sure to check for shipping information.
(Howard Stone, 2825 6th Ave., Fort Worth, TX 76110)
Howard Stone is a retired professor from TCU in Fort Worth, Texas. He has been collecting for 30 years and is most interested in radios and tubes from 1924 and earlier. Marconi wireless receivers are a special favorite. Since his retirement, much of his time is given over to running his website www.StoneVintageRadio.com which is a virtual museum of early radio, especially pre-1920 wireless equipment. Howard can be contacted through the website.