Six autograph letters from Sir Joseph Whitworth to Sir James Emerson Tennent. They concern Whitworth's contest with Sir William Armstrong to supply the British Army and Navy with guns, Tennent's book in support of Whitworth, and field trials of guns. The rivalry between Whitworth and Sir (later Lord) William Armstrong was fierce, and in 1863 the Admiralty and War Office established the Armstrong-Whitworth Committee to determine the relative merits of the two kinds of rifling and shells favoured by the firms. Although extensive field trials in 1863-4 against test targets proved inclusive, the Committee reported in favour of Armstrong. The contest aroused considerable public interest: The Times published four articles on 'The Armstrong and Whitworth Trials', on 9 and 16 April and 9 and 18 May 1864.
Tennent was a leading advocate of Whitworth's Manchester Ordnance Company, and the correspondence takes as its starting point the publication of his book, The Story of the Guns (1864). A long and damning review of the book in the Athenaeum, 30 January 1864, pp. 147-8, claimed that 'Nearly every page indicates that Sir E. Tennent is not an impartial historian', and concluded with the accusation that the delay in conducting 'a series of comparative experiments between Armstrong and Whitworth guns' was due 'wholly to Mr. Whitworth, or rather to the Manchester Ordnance Company. Sir E. Tennent has exposed himself, no doubt unconsciously, to the imputation of being the mouthpiece of this company, and it is much to be regretted that he should have placed himself in such a position.'
For further information see Marshall J. Bastable, 'From Breechloaders to Monster Guns: Sir William Armstrong and the Invention of Modern Artillery, 1854-1880', Technology and Culture, 33.2 (1992), 213-47.