Tickling the Crystal 2: Domestic British Crystal Sets of the 1920s
By Ian Sanders
Reviewed By Howard Stone
I was excited when the second volume of Tickling the Crystal: Domestic British Crystal Sets of the 1920s came out. I wrote the review of Ian Sanders' first volume for A.R.C., and although I was quite complimentary of the edition, I criticized it for being incomplete. If I recall my words, I had half a dozen examples of British crystal sets in my own collection that were not pictured in the first volume. Well, Ian Sanders contacted me and told me of his developing plans for this second edition. Here it is and it was worth the wait.
Like the first volume, the quality of the photography of the crystal sets is extraordinary. Carl Glover who photographed the radios for the first volume, did it again for the second one. I know of no book on radio that has pictures of higher quality. None.
Now, for some, there may be a downside to this quality production -- the book costs $64.95. You don't always get what you paid for when shelling out for something that costs more than the general market, but you certainly do with Tickling the Crystal 2: Domestic British Crystal Sets of the 1920s.
Another thing the reader will appreciate is the quality of the crystal sets illustrated in the book. Some books on radio show poor examples of sets, ones that have missing parts or are incorrect in some details, and these are not always pointed out in the text. Not so with Tickling the Crystal 2: Domestic British Crystal Sets of the 1920s.
Lets talk about the text. Sanders' book is not merely a picture book. The writing in Volume 2 takes off from where the first volume left off. Ian Sanders' research is impeccable, and he writes in clear prose. You can understand what he is saying!
If he wrote this book for money he would have made more flipping burgers at McDonalds. I, for example, have been trying to write a volume on the Marconi 16 crystal set (1914) for some time, and finding good primary sources for information is very difficult. Research takes a lot of time, and we owe a debt of gratitude to Ian Sanders and others who painstakingly unearth and bring to written form the history of the radios we enjoy so much.
The book opens with additional history of mid- to-large size radio manufacturing companies that Sanders has unearthed since the first volume. Two manufacturers of especial interest to U.S. readers because their sets are regularly seen here -- Brownie and Gecophone -- are covered in detail.
There is an interesting chapter on crystal set components, including some fascinating crystal detectors; for example, the "Eccentro," a self-adjusting type of detector that originated in France but was sold by W. Joanes and Horme Brothers, both of London. What is intriguing about this detector is that by turning the knob on the top an eccentric cam rotates and moves the catwhisker about the galena. There also is a chapter on mechanical amplifiers for crystal sets, something uncommon in the U. S.
Most of the book, happily, is devoted to the pictorial dictionary of crystal sets. Sanders covers one set
per page: a short description of the set and a crystal clear picture of the radio. Included are pictures of some radios that I doubt many collectors have ever seen before. This is the heart of the book and Tickling the Crystal 2: Domestic British Crystal Sets of the 1920s really delivers.
Yes, I could nitpick in a couple of places; for example, the Wainwright Manufacturing Model W&M is listed on page 118 but left out of the GPO list of models at the end of the text. Still, this is a really good book that was worth the wait. It closes with a much appreciated combined index for both volumes.
I am left with one question after reading Tickling the Crystal 2: Domestic British Crystal Sets of the 1920s: Is Volume 2 the last one? I am now satisfied that Sanders has covered the preponderance of British crystal sets in his two volumes. But I expect that there are a few other sets lurking in collections throughout the world that could make up a third edition. Mind you, these sets would be little known ones, and Volume 3 would be smaller. Nevertheless, I wonder if there will ever be Volume 3.
Tickling the Crystal 2: Domestic British Crystal Sets of the 1920s by Ian Sanders and photographed by Carl Glover is a must for crystal set collectors and for anyone interested in radio in the early 1920s. I ended the review of the first volume by saying, "it fills a much needed gap in the literature of early wireless in the UK. if you have any interest in the subject, buy this book. You will find it a joy to look at and an invaluable aid in the identification of many British crystal sets." I can say the same for Volume 2 as well.
Tickling the Crystal 2: Domestic British Crystal Sets of the 1920s by Ian Sanders is published by BVWS Books. It has 208 pages in a hardcover 8 1/2" x 12" format. Priced at $64.95, it is available from the author at 1175 Teresa Ln., Morgan Hill, CA 95037 and from A.R.C.
(Howard Stone, 2825 6th Ave, Ft. Worth, TX 76110, http://www.StoneVintageRadio.com)