Abridgment of patent specifications

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The Abridgment of patent specifications or Patents for Inventions: Abridgments of Specifications are summaries of patents issued by the Great Britain's Patent Office, classified by subject area and indexed by subclassification. Aeronautics is Class 4 from 1884 onwards. (Before then, Class 4 was food. Maybe aero was grouped in somewhere else?)

Happily it seems the Patent Office issued retrospective Abridgments which did include the Aeronautics Class for 1867–1876 and 1877–1883:

Aeronautical Journal, January, 1898, p. 23 lists Abridgments of Patent Specifications No. 4. Aeronautics, 1884–88 under Recent Publications, commenting:

This series of abridgments on all subjects, at popular prices (1s.), forms a most desirable aid to the inventor searching to ascertain the novelty of his invention.
The patent laws of this country make no provision for an official search as regards novelty, and all patents are taken out at the risk of the inventors. It is therefore incumbent on any person desiring to obtain a valid patent for an invention either to cause a search to be made, or himself to make a search, as to the novelty of his invention.

See also Brewer and Alexander, 1893, Aeronautics, which uses a similar format but was not published by the Patent Office itself.


A certain patent can fall under multiple headers.

It should be noted that the English Official Classification is distinguished from those of foreign countries, so far as their printed class lists are concerned, in this respect, viz., that the foreign classifications are based on a single allotment of specifications; whereas in the English classification the allotment ratio is from two to three per specification registered. It follows that in the foreign classifications the interrelationship of subclasses, as disclosed in the printed references, should be studied carefully, with a view of completing a search: whereas in the English system subclasses stand more in the position of independent units owing to the much higher allotment ratio of the search material.[1]


Bracketed & italicized names seem to be inventors, while the bolded names are applicant persons, at least in the 1893–96 volume; from the name index: "The names in italics are those of persons by whom inventions have been communicated to the applicants for Letters Patent." (In these cases we might infer that Applicant ≠ Inventor.)


The system was created by Bennet Woodcroft after becoming Clerk to to the Commissioner of Patents in 1852. A project of extensive cataloguing began which ultimately extended the scope of the abridgments back to 1617.

At the same time he created the Subject-Matter Index which aids the user in finding patents within the abridgments. (A subject-matter index using similar format is found in each section of Abridgments as well.)


  1. British Patent Office, Guide to the Search Department (1913), p. iv.

Original title Abridgment of patent specifications
Simple title Abridgment of patent specifications
Countries GB
Languages en
Related to aircraft? -1
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