William Bragge, F.S.A., F.G.S.,[1] (31 May 1823 – 6 June 1884)[2] was an English civil engineer, antiquarian and author. He established a museum and art gallery.[3] He was notable in his day for collecting a library containing the entire literature on tobacco. The collection contained tobacco information in all its forms, almost all languages, with pamphlets, engravings, and other publications filling 17 large volumes.[4] These original and revised volumes are the earliest specialist bibliographies in the English language.[5]

William Bragge
Born31 May 1823
Birmingham, England
Died6 June 1884
Birmingham, England
OccupationCivil engineer, antiquarian, author
Known forBibliotheca nicotiana
Home townBirmingham
TitleF.S.A., F.G.S.

Early lifeEdit

Bragge was born in Birmingham. His father, Thomas Perry Bragg, was a jeweller. His brother, Joseph, was six years younger.[6] Bragge studied mechanics and mathematics in Birmingham,[7] practical engineering with two firms in Birmingham,[2] and trained as an engineer and railway surveyor.[8]


He began his career in 1845 as a civil engineer and began railway surveying, first as an assistant engineer, later as Chief Mechanical Engineer with the Birkenhead Railway for a portion of the Chester to Holyhead railroad line.

With a recommendation from Sir Charles Fox, Bragge, representing Edward T. Belhouse & Co. of Manchester, was sent to Brazil where he worked on the project to light Rio de Janeiro with gas, as well as surveying the first railway in Brazil. For his fine work, Bragge received distinctions from the emperor Don Pedro II,[2] including the Order of the Rose.[9] Bragge built the first line that was hauled by the locomotive, La Porteña, on the Ferrocarril Oeste de Buenos Aires.[10] In addition, he built gas and waterworks for the city of Buenos Aires.[9] He was a founder of Argentina's Primitiva de Gas Company.[10]

Bragge returned to England in 1858, and in Sheffield from 1858–1872 was a managing director of John Brown & Company. In 1870, he became Master Cutler of Sheffield. He established an armour-plate manufactory in Sheffield as well.[8]

In 1872, Bragge went to Paris and was unsuccessful in developing a sewage system for Société des Engrais.[2] Upon his return to Birmingham in 1876, he established a watch-making factory.

His memberships include:[8][11]

  • Free Libraries Committee
  • School of Art
  • Fellow, Society of Antiquaries
  • Fellow, Anthropological Society
  • Fellow, Royal Geographical Society


In addition to South America, Bragge's travels took him to Russia[3] and Bragge was a frequent visitor to Spain where he developed an interest in its literature, including that of Miguel de Cervantes.[9]

Bragge donated his collected items to the Birmingham Free Library, including his 1500 volume Cervantes collection in 1873 and study of tobacco collection.[2] The fire of 1879 destroyed many of the items.[2][9] He collected gems and precious stones from all over Europe, as well as 13,000 pipes, hundreds of types of tobacco, and snuff-boxes.[11] In 1880, Bragge published a revised bibliography on the subject of tobacco, Bibliotheca nicotiana, amounting to 248 quarto pages.[12]

Later yearsEdit

Bragge lived for a time on Shirley Hill, Birmingham.[1] His wife, a sister of Rev. George Beddow, died before him.[11] Bragge was blind for a period before his death at Clarendon House, Handsworth, Birmingham.[6][11]

His descendants include a daughter, Mrs W. H. Haywood,[1] who presented to the Birmingham Central Reference Library, Language and Literature Department, a marble profile medallion portrait of her father at age 42, sculpted by Edward William Wyon in 1865.[8] He had three sons, Charles William Bragge (born in Chester), George Stephenson Bragge (born in Rio de Janeiro), and Frank John Bragge (born in Sheffield).[6]

Partial worksEdit

  • Bragge, W. (1874). Bibliotheca nicotiana; a first catalogue of books about tobacco. Birmingham: Printed by J. Allen, Priv. print. OCLC 4590668.
  • Bragge, W. (1880). Bibliotheca nicotiana; a catalogue of books about tobacco together with a catalogue of objects connected with the use of tobacco in all its forms. Birmingham: Priv. Print, Hudson and son. OCLC 14862346.
  • Timmins, S.; Bragge, W. (1880). The pipes of all peoples. Birmingham: Hudson and Son, printers. OCLC 18064705.


  1. ^ a b c Liverpool Art Club (October 1878). Catalogue of specimens of art work in Chinese snuff bottles and other articles in porcelain, ivory etc. connected with the use of tobacco: forming part of the collection of Wm. Bragge, Esq., F.S.A., F.G.S., etc., Shirley Hill, Birmingham. Liverpool: Liverpool Art Club. OCLC 200831273.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Stephen 1886:194
  3. ^ a b "Sheffield Archives: 2005 Accessions". nationalarchives.gov.uk. Retrieved 5 June 2008.
  4. ^ "Some Gossipy Foreign News" (PDF). The New York Times. 11 June 1882. Retrieved 5 June 2008.
  5. ^ Rapaport, Ben (Winter 2008). "BIBLIOGRAPHIES". pt-magazine.com. Retrieved 5 June 2008. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. ^ a b c "UK 1881 Census". worldvitalrecords.com. Retrieved 6 June 2008.
  7. ^ Grant, Sir Alan; Joseph, Michael (1950). "Formation of John Boran & Co. LTD". Ships & Steel: The Story of John Brown's. Archived from the original on 21 June 2007.
  8. ^ a b c d "William Bragge (1823–1884)". Public Monument and Sculpture Association (PMSA), National Recording Project. Retrieved 5 June 2008.
  9. ^ a b c d "The Cervantes Collection". birmingham.gov.uk. 19 December 2007.
  10. ^ a b Yooll, Andrew Graham (1981). "The Western Railway Company". Extracted from "The Forgotten Colony". Hutchison. Retrieved 5 June 2008.
  11. ^ a b c d Stephen 1886:195
  12. ^   Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Tobacco". Encyclopædia Britannica. 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 1040.