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Fibrous vegetable matter (e.g. cotton and flax waste and old rags), dissolved in acid and neutralized, which produced a substance called Parkesine, named after its inventor, Edmund Alexander Parkes (1813–90), of Birmingham. In its liquid state it was used as a waterproofing agent, in its plastic form for insulation, and, with the addition of oils, glues, and colour, for making objects, e.g. tubes and architectural enrichment. Capable of being coloured, and susceptible to a high polish, it was first exhibited at the International Exhibition, South Kensington, London (1862). In the 1890s it was developed as a substitute for plaster cornices, friezes, mouldings, and other decorations in rooms, and was supplied in accurately moulded prefabricated 3-metre (118.11 inches or 9.843 feet) lengths which were then fixed to timber grounds by means of screws. Its extreme light weight made it easy to handle and fix.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004);W. Papworth (1892)

Subjects: Architecture.

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