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Archibald Sharp’s classic ‘Bicycles and Tricycles’

From the 1896 book "Bicycles and Tricycles' by Archibald SharpI have mentioned Archibald Sharp’s 1896 book Bicycles and Tricycles: An Elementary Treatise on Their Design and Construction on this blog several times before (here is one post that comes to mind). I personally have a pretty big collection of books about bicycles, but Sharp’s classic stands out as my single favorite. When it was written, the bicycle was revolutionizing personal transportation, and this book was the definitive technical work covering bicycle design down to the smallest detail. I keep a copy of it on my bedside table, and I love to browse though it occasionally to see the variety of innovative ideas from the late 19th century.

Even though the latest reprint edition is no longer available, I couldn’t bear to remove Bicycles and Tricycles from the Bicycle Design Amazon store. The good news though is that you don’t have to pay big money for a rare used copy. The book is now available for free at the American Libraries Internet Archive, where you can read it online or download a version in one of several different file formats.

From the 1896 book "Bicycles and Tricycles' by Archibald SharpI recommend reading the entire book, but if you flip directly to the frame section starting at page 275, you will see a collection of interesting designs (only a few of which are pictured here). 19th century roads were pretty rough, and pneumatic tires were fairly new (patented by John Dunlop in 1888), so many inventors had ideas for different types of full suspension bicycles. Those are some of my favorite designs in the book, but the section on gearing is pretty fascinating as well. Okay…it’s too hard to pick a favorite section, so like I said before, read the whole book. If you are interested in bicycle design and history it is definitely worth your time.

Thanks to Richard Masoner at Cyclelicious for sending me the link to this online version of the book. Seeing it scanned and archived for posterity made my day, so I am happy to be able to share this classic book with all of you.

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20 Responses

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  1. human_amplifier says

    Thank you Richard and James – yes this is an amazing book and remains an inspiration.
    The number of times i ‘think’ of something new, or see an amazing claim, only to find something similar in ‘Archibald’ pre-dating it by over 100 years.

    A MUST read by anyone interested in bicycle design.

  2. Johann Rissik says

    Brilliant, thank you for sharing that.

    Now I just have to work out how to download it…..

  3. Johann Rissik says

    James, I don’t want to hijack the comments section ;) There’s no PDF button for some reason. You want to send me somewhere for help?
    Your blog is a great resource, thanks again

  4. Johann Rissik says

    Miles, You’re a star! I now have 567 pages of heaven. Thank you

  5. James T says

    This bicycle repair manual from 1897 is another free pdf that is pretty interesting. I like the fact that the author also wrote “Refrigerating and Ice-Making Machinery,” Sugar Machinery,” and “Bearings and Lubrication.” All very interesting books I am sure.

  6. Miles says

    Ref. Cycling art, energy and locomotion – C P Scott 1889, mentioned above – this is available free, too:

  7. Miles says

    That’s the best of the technical ones. You can see the rest of this particular vein, here:

    The velocipede book is without its illustrations, sadly….

  8. Johann Rissik says

    I’m having Sharp’s book printed for a cycling friend who is ill in hospital, it will no doubt make his stay less onerous!

  9. Jem says

    tis an amazing book.

  10. olivia says

    love it.

  11. Peter Clouston says

    Is it just me and my pdf viewer, or does anyone else have the problem that most of the diagrams are blank in the pdf of Sharpe’s book?

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Tweets that mention Archibald Sharp’s 1896 classic book 'Bicycles and Tricycles' | Bicycle Design -- linked to this post on October 25, 2010

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by James@BicycleDesign, Wally Alief and Koobi Bike Saddles, Cycle Blogs. Cycle Blogs said: Bicycle Design: Archibald Sharp’s classic ‘Bicycles and Tricycles’: I have mentioned Archibald Sharp’s 189… [...]

  2. Bicycle Evolution in a Minute | Spoke Scopes linked to this post on March 21, 2014

    […] “When it was written [end of the 19th century], the bicycle was revolutionizing personal transportation, and this book was the definitive technical work covering bicycle design down to the smallest detail.” –Bicycle Designs […]

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