The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 16, Number 34, August 18, 2013, Article 5


Meg Vivers of Australia writes:

I have now received some advance copies of my book An Irish Engineer, which is about Tom Waters who designed the Osaka Mint in c. 1869.

Below is the press release Meg provided. Thanks, and congratulations on what looks like an interesting book. -Editor

The Extraordinary Achievements of Thomas J Waters and Family
in Early Meiji Japan and Beyond

Meg Vivers

Hardcover, RRP in Australia $36.50, ISBN 978-1921452048, CopyRight Publishing, Brisbane, Australia (Softcover version also available.)

An Irish Engineer cover When a young Irish engineer set out from England in 1864 to convert the world to his evangelical way of thinking, he found himself instead at the forefront of a remarkable revolution. At a time when industry and transport driven by steam power had already transformed the Western world, and engineers were looking elsewhere for employment, Thomas James Waters was to make a name for himself in what was then known as the Far East, in a country which had been, until the 1850s, essentially closed to the Western world and Western progress. That country was Japan, and the revolution was the Meiji Restoration. Tom Waters was joined in Japan by his brothers, Ernest and Bertie, and they participated in some of the most important projects in the early Westernisation of the country. But that was not the end of the story. The brothers moved on to other parts of the world, including New Zealand and Colorado, USA, where they became successful mining engineers.

An Irish Engineer takes the form of a biography, with voices from the past adding a sense of place, immediacy and authenticity to the information taken from more public (and sometimes less reliable) documents, such as newspapers and government records. Through the fortunate discovery of a large collection of Waters family letters, diaries and journals the author has, in many cases, been able to trace the movements of Tom Waters and his family from a personal perspective exploring, in-depth, their lives, their achievements, and the choices that they made, in a world on the cusp of extraordinary change.

Within this biographical framework, some of the buildings and other structures created by Tom Waters are described in detail – the most important of these being the Mint at Osaka and Western-style buildings for the Ginza region in Tokyo. There is discussion, too, on the engineering and entrepreneurial activities of the Waters brothers and their relatives elsewhere in the world.

This fascinating narrative crosses international boundaries and engages with generations of men. It is a story of enterprise and opportunism, of networks and family connections. But, most of all, it is a story of beginnings. Because, for such men, being first was the secret to their success. Thomas Waters’ story is intimately involved with the beginning of the Westernised East. As such, it would be of interest to many historians, especially those concerned with the effect of the industrial revolution in Great Britain and the influence of the West on Japan during the early years of Meiji. Furthermore, because the book has a biographical format, and contains extracts from letters and journals, it should appeal to a wider readership.

This is the second book by Meg Vivers on the subject of the Waters family. The first, Castle to Colony: the Remarkable Life and Times of Lucy Sarah Gray (1840–1879), also published by CopyRight, traces the life of Lucy Gray (née Waters), a sister of Thomas, Ernest and Bertie Waters. During her short adult life Lucy lived in some of the most remote parts of colonial New Zealand and Australia, and left behind descriptive journals and correspondence, supported by sophisticated drawings and paintings. In the words of eminent colonial historian, Professor Alan Atkinson: ‘Of all the depictions of colonial Australia which survive from a woman’s point of view, Lucy Gray’s is among the richest and best’.

Comprehensive research into this remarkable family, and the contribution they made to Britain’s influence throughout the world, has long been overdue. Both books provide a better understanding of a period of great economic, industrial, religious and cultural upheaval, as complex liaisons evolved, not only between East and West, but also between Great Britain and its colonies. In his review of An Irish Engineer, Professor David Kent of the University of New England, Armidale wrote:

The grandest and most sweeping histories are distilled from the collected experience of individuals… This well written, impressively researched and fascinating book adds to our understanding of the way the engineering profession evolved in mid-Victorian Britain, of how family networks and connections often provided the platform on which careers might be built …

Copies of An Irish Engineer can be purchased by contacting Meg Vivers in Australia at, or through the Telluride Museum in Colorado USA at If posted from Australia, packaging and postage costs would be added to a discount price.

Meg adds:

If any of your members are interested in purchasing a copy they could do so in one of the following ways:

1. For those in Canada or USA it might be convenient to order through the Museum at Telluride, Colorado, at

2. For those living elsewhere it would perhaps be best to order from me direct at

I can provide the book at a discount, but the total charge would depend upon the postage. I use Pay Pal, which seems to be the easiest method for international transactions. I do not know how much the Museum will charge.

I will have both hard cover and soft cover (paper back) versions of the book for sale. However, the soft cover version would seem to be more suitable for posting long distance, at least when multiple copies are involved.

The Telluride Museum will only have the paperback version.

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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