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Book Cover

Vincent J.M. Eras

Locks and Keys
Throughout the Ages

History of Locks and keys illustrated with the collections of J Lips Company, and many others.

Hard Bound, 178 pages, lavishly illustrated with 284 B&W photos and diagrams.

10-3/8" x 9-5/8" x 5/8"

The LIPS Co. is now ASSA ABLOY of the Netherlands

Book Review by Jock Dempsey, anvilfire.com

This 2019 printing is the third printing and first update (second edition?) to the original 1957 publication. My first copy of this landmark in lock and key books was a faded single sided xerox that I bought from a rare books seller. My second copy was a pristine condition 1974 edition with slip cover and protector. It was the jewel in my collection of locksmithing books. I recommended this and other rare lock and key books to ArtisanIdeas for reprinting. They tracked down the copyright owner and produced this improved edition of the book.

1974 edition cover
RIGHT: The 1974 Edition with its 1970's hippie dippie title font. The new publisher claims that the images are poorly reproduced in this edition but they are typical of most black and white lithographic reproductions where the blacks are not entirely black but the middle shades have good definition. The new digitally corrected images have black blacks but have lost definition in the middle ranges. They are also more difficult to scan as their screening rasters more producing stripes. This is of no concern of the reader. However, it MAY cause some distant future publisher grief when they try to reproduce the book. But only if the new digital copy is lost.

The greatest improvement in the new edition is larger clearer type. The 1974 edition has a thin hard to read typeface. This is much appreciated by those of us with aging eyesight. The larger typeface, larger images and extra introduction are all carefully added in the same number of pages by using up the large white spaces in previous editions.

There are less than a dozen good informative books on locks and keys in the world. Many are long out of print. Luckily this is one of the best and is now back in print after a 45 year absence. If you have an interest in locksmithing, locks and keys or physical security history you should get your copy now.

The images in this new edition have all been digitally enhanced and most have been printed larger than in the original edition making it easier to see details in the images.

Figure 97 Musée de Cluny, Paris, German Gothic 15th Century
Figure 97 Musée de Cluny, Paris, German Gothic 15th Century

There was a time when locksmithing was more about the high art of beautiful design and decoration than security. Artisans in Munich and Paris tried to outdo each other to be known as the finest lock makers without advancing the functionality of locks. This remained the same until the late 1700's when it became popular sport for locksmiths to make new designs and challange all commers (crooks and locksmiths alike) to pick their locks. Lock technology leapt forward rapidly until the modern time lock was invented.

Locks and Keys Throughout the Ages follows this history of locks from the simplest wooden devices until modern combination and time locks.

Fig 20, very early historical locks in museum collections

Locks and Keys Throughout the Ages includes photos of some of the rarest early locks found in any collection through photos and diagrams of modern vaults. Locks of every kind from every age (up to 1957) are represented. The book includes many diagrams of lock and key types and use. The history of locks and keys is well written in this volume and is the source of many later histories of locks and keys.

The author, Vincent J.M. Eras was a certified Master Locksmith working for the world enowned LIPS lock company (now ASSA ABLOY). He had unequaled access to the Lips lock collection as well as other private and European museum collections to research and illustrate this book.

Locksmiths ward cutting tool
Fig 106 p. 77,
Section of old tool from Mr. J.D. Carsten,
Lips' collection

The tool above is used to cut arced warding cuts in thick keys where the wards are quite fine. The key shown with the tool is not typical of the type key needing this tool. The tool would be used in a small locksmith's or jeweler's lathe. Click image for detail enlargement.

cover art color
New color image from Lips Collection on cover.

Steps in forging a key, Early padlock types, Anceint Egyptian keys and ring.
Fig 24, Steps in forging an iron key blank, Fig. 25 Early padlock types, Fig. 26 Anceint Egyptian keys and ring.

Diagram of Chinese lcok and folding key

Diagram ABOVE: Fig. 56 p.51, Diagram of ancient Chinese push key lock and key (reproductions still manufactured today).

LEFT: Fig. 192, p.111. Diagram of Joseph Bramah's tubular lock. 1784 Patent.

Published and distributed by ArtisanIdeas.com
ISBN 978-0-9979798-6-2
Price $32.50 USD

ABOUT the reviewer: Jock Dempsey is a Certified Locksmith having taken the Technical Home Study Schools Locksmithing Institute locksmithing course in the 1970's as part of his blacksmithing studies in order to learn how to make handmade locks and keys. This course only touched on early locks so he became a collector of historical books about locks and keys. These include:

  • Reproduction Illustrations of Ornamental Metal-Work l'art du Serrurier (locksmith) Mathurin Jousse, Griveau, 1627
  • On the Construction of Locks and Keys, John Chubb, 1850
  • Nuevo Manual Del Cerrajero Y Herrero, 1852 Spanish Edition of book originally in French.
  • The Lure of the Lock, John M Mossman Collection. 1928 (1990's reprint).
  • Antique Locks, From the Collection of Josiah Parkes & Sons Ltd. 1955
  • All About Locks and Locksmithing, Max Alth, 1972 (Modern locksmithing with some history).
  • Locks and Keys Throughout the Ages, Vincent J.M. Eras, 1954, 1974 Edition
  • Locks From Iran, Parviz Tanavoli and John T. Wertime, 1976
  • Locksmithing Institute Course Manuals, 1969
  • Schlüssel und Schloß, (Locks and Keys) Heindich Pankofer, 1984 (German text).
  • Spruce Forge Manual of Locksmithing, Bill Morrison & Denis Frechette, 1999
  • Ancient Locks and Keys, Caber Press, 2002 (small B&W booklet)

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