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Book Reviews

(The following article appeared in Glass Cone magazine No. 111 in 2017)

From Goblets to Gaslights

The Scottish Glass Industry 1750-2006

Jill Turnbull

published 2017 by The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland

352 pp hardback

575 illustrations, with accompanying DVD

available via:


 This book completes the story of table glass manufacture in Scotland. Based on fifteen years of research in the Scottish archives, legal records, contemporary documents, newspapers, government papers, price lists, pattern books, recipe books
and family correspondence, this book sets out the individual histories of the glassworks in Glasgow, Leith, Alloa, Greenock, Bathgate, Perth and Wick. Most of their products are impossible to identify but when a Swedish industrial spy reports back to his masters in 1802 that 'The glassworks just outside Leith are especially
remarkable, for here is made the clearest and purest crystal glass that one can imagine and which surpasses in beauty all other, in England as well as in France', it is clear the standard was high. Fortunately, from the firm which became Edinburgh Crystal, there are thirteen pattern books now in the care of the National Museum of
Scotland, while the Museum of Edinburgh houses the wonderful archive of the Ford-Ranken family, owners of the Holyrood Flint Glass Works. in addition to illustrations from these sources and from printed catalogues, a free DVD is included of the complete Holyrood pattern book belonging to Corning Museum of Glass, offering a unique opportunity to identify glass which might otherwise be attributed to Stourbridge.

 Of the eighteen chapters, thirteen cover the histories of individual companies, from Verreville established in 1777, to Caithness Glass set up to ease unemployment in 1960. Included are the little-known flint glassworks in Greenock whose principle market in 1833 was Dublin, and the Forth Glass Works which specialised in pressed
glass. The early history of the Alloa glassworks has been revised, while the
story of the establishment of the Holyrood glassworks is told for the first time. In the late 18th century, recruiting experienced staff for a new business was a problem resulting in some very dubious practices, such as the occasion when an agent went to Lord Delavel's glassworks in Newcastle, arranged to meet the men at a local pub, plied them with drink and persuaded them to sign up to work in Leith for a financial reward. Lord Delavel was not happy and some of the men finished up in prison.
Wherever possible the human story, working conditions and customs are explored.

 Of the remaining five chapters, four discuss and illustrate the different types of glass and the decorative techniques used, namely cut glass and sulphides, clear and coloured, pressed and moulded, and engraved. The remaining chapter looks, as its title explains, at lights, medicine and music. Lighting was crucial to the survival of all the glass manufacturers, as were their medicine vials and other basic but rarely collectable products, while items like the sets of musical glasses made in Edinburgh and target balls produced in Perth came at the more frivolous end of the market.

 The book begins with a brief look at the Excise and the final appendix quotes from a government report on the employment of children in the glassworks in Glasgow. Hopefully it will help to increase awareness of the Scottish contribution to the British
glass industry.


(The following review appeared in Glass Circle News in December 2016)


Eighteenth Century English Glass and its Antecedents:

A documentary History of Glassmaking from Post Medieval England until the beginning of the Industrial Revolution

Michael Noble

Published by the author 2016

436 pp hardback A4

ISBN 978-1-5262--0357-1

price £65, discounted to £58 for Glass Circle members plus £10 for p & p

available by e-mailing


 Michael Noble used to make glass, indeed he was factory manager of the largest glasshouse in the UK, and he is a scientist by training, so he does understand the subject!

 For many years Michael's historical interest had been porcelain but his focus changed to include glass. Since his retirement in 2005 Michael has been touring England with note book and camera visiting where possible all the glass making sites extant and all sources of local history. Fortunately for him glassmakers were often litigious or prone to bankruptcy so many legal records also survive.

 The book is divided into three parts:-

London Glasshouses, before and after the Restoration; Provincial glasshouses; Glass production.

 His cut off date is around, or a little later than the start  of the 19th century. After this time factory records are more accessible and pattern books survive so this period has been well covered by other authors with the rise of Victorian glasshouses.

 A total of 170 glasshouses are considered in some detail, and others mentioned in passing.

 220 pages are devoted to provincial glasshouses, divided into South, Central and North of England. In the South there are 44 in the Weald, 18 in Bristol and 12 other sites. The Central area lists 17 glasshouses plus 17 in the Stourbridge area. The North has 22 plus 9 in Newcastle.

 Around 1OO pages are devoted to the 31 London glasshouses, with  maps, notes on what was produced in them, the raw materials used, the different types of furnace, and production methods.

 There is a curious timelessness in reading this book. To take one example, Michael, writing about Bristol glasshouses, in particular about the Temple Gate glasshouse of Ricketts & Co (of bottle fame) and the Avon Street, Great Gardens glasshouse of Isaac Jacobs (of gilding fame) quotes the local guide of 1819:-

 "Those of our readers who are curiously inclined, would be highly gratified with a Visit to Messrs. Ricketts and Co's Temple Gate, and Mr. Jacobs, Great Gardens, where strangers are permitted to view the same. On entering the glasshouse, the stranger will be surprised with the apparent confusion and intermixture of the men and the boys, all crossing and re crossing each other, but each moving in his proper sphere, with the glass, which they call metal, at the end of their irons, in its fluid state: some are collecting the metal to be blown: others blowing it various shapes: after which it is finished by the best workmen. When the piece of glass is finished and has assumed consistence enough to maintain its form, it is conveyed at a red heat into the annealing furnace or lear, which has nearly the same heat as itself, through which it is drawn down by slow degrees till it becomes gradually exposed to the temperature of the atmosphere."

 'Health and safety' no longer permits such free movement in the UK  but those of us who visited the Czech Republic will recognise this scene exactly. This quotation is typical of the quotations that pepper this book.

 An enormous amount of contemporary information is slipped into each glasshouse section, depending on the information available, costings, stock levels, excavated examples of glass, archeological drawing of excavations of glasshouse sites, together with Michael's photographs, old prints, plans and maps. The effect of changes in taxation, the War tax and excise duty are also covered.

 The last section, Glass Production, has been written by someone who has actually done it, and covers glasshouse and furnace design as well as manufacture.

 This book has thousands of end notes, a testament to the amount of work that has gone into it, but no index, which at times is a pity, but understandable as there is so much indexable material that an index might have taken up 50 further pages, and thousands of man hours.

 This is not a book which will help collectors identify their glasses, that is not its aim, but it will help them understand how they were made, and also where that might have been.

 It has been said that you are never more than 20 feet away from a rat in England, which may or may not be true, but this book shows that in England you are never more that 50 miles away from the site of a former glasshouse, although usually a bottle or window glass site, both being absolutely essential to the life and comfort of any English man from the middle ages onwards.

 Don't be put off by the length of this book. It may be the first book to comprehensively cover glass making of this period in England but it is written in such a readable style that it will appeal to a wide audience, historians, academics, professionals, collectors and students, as well as those with just a passing curiosity to learn more about how and where early glass was made and the triumphs and tribulations of the glassmakers.

John P Smith


(The following review appeared in Glass Circle News in July 2015)


The Jacobites and their Drinking Glasses, 3rd edition

Geoffrey Seddon

Antique Collectors' Club

208 pp

ISBN 978-1-85149-795-9

£28 to Glass Circle members (RSP £35)


 In 1995 I reviewed the first edition for The Art Newspaper. This is the third edition, in a larger format redesigned with the text in two columns, better quality of the colour plates, and easier to read. It also has two further chapters reflecting further research since 1995.

 The first thing to say is that Dr Seddon is a superb photographer, well served by his printer, important, as this book is all about images. His book is aimed at two distinct markets, the Jacobite enthusiast, who needs the chapter on 18th century drinking glasses and their forms, and the glass collector, who needs all the help he can get on Jacobite emblems and symbols. This review will concentrate on the latter readership.

 Many of the early British glass collectors and writers were keen followers of the Jacobite cause. This had two effects, one benign and the other malevolent. The benign effect was that these glasses were much discussed and illustrated. However because of this they became very collectible and expensive, extraordinarily so, and as the engraving is relatively crude they were easy to fake: and faked they were, and are.

 The first two chapters concern the history of the Jacobite movement, from the battle of Killiecrankie in 1689, to the battle of Culloden in 1746. The first rebellion, in 1715, or uprising for Catholic freedom as the Scottish Nationalists might prefer, was historically important but probably did not generate much glass of a political or commemorative nature; but see The Cycle Club mentioned below founded in 1710.
The second rebellion, in 1745, was a different matter with the romance of Charles Edward Stuart, (Bonny Prince Charlie). After Culloden, when the army of Prince Charles was obliterated by the 'Butcher' Duke of Cumberland and Charles fled to France, helped by Flora McDonald, he remained, hovering in the background, a possible rallying point for supporters of the cause.

 Chapter 3 concerning the Jacobite clubs, is the pivotal chapter in the book. Following on the work of our late member Muriel Stevenson during the last war, our current member, Peter Lole, has discovered over 140 Jacobite clubs, mainly in England, and they all needed glasses. The Cycle Club founded by Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, of Wynnstay in north Wales, is the most well known of these clubs, but Seddon mentions the Society of Sea-Sergeants as well as societies in Rotterdam and Boulogne.

 Skipping the excellent chapter on English drinking glass forms we come to the chapter on emblems, mottoes and their meaning. From the oak leaf to the star, the thistle, the feathers, the compass etc. all is explained, as are the mottoes. For those who wish to understand fiat, reddite, redeat, redi, revirescit, reddas incolumem, radiat, turno tempus erit, floreat, ab obice major, cognoscunt me mei, premium virtuitis, pro patria, and many more, those of us who have not had the advantage of a classical education need go no further. The portrait glasses and the source material for the images are also discussed in this chapter.

 The next chapter is the real reason why the book has been written, the fruits of many hours of research, and in many ways the most contentious. Dr Seddon has examined and photographed 487 glasses and analysed the results. He has identified

5 prolific engravers on stylistic grounds, A B C D E, and four other F G H and I. This is all based on close examination of calligraphy, the method of depicting roses, and other means. There is undoubtedly a lot of sense in this: engraving, like handwriting, is recognisable, but it is quite difficult. I know of several dealers with Jacobite glasses who have struggled to assign their glass to a particular engraver. Also this reviewer wonders whether all the engravers A-I are dead yet, although Dr Seddon might dispute this. He also discusses several London engravers who are known to be working at this time.

 The next chapter discusses the Jacobite Rose, what it ought to look like, and what it signifies. Also the significance of none, one, or two rosebuds in the engraving.

 Chapters 9 and 10 discuss 'Amen' glasses. This, as I said 20 years ago, and will say again, is the most riveting part of the book. There are just over 30 Amen glasses currently known, some with impeccable provenance going back to the 18th century, and all extremely costly.

 If one came on the market today it might go for less than £100,000, but not much! They have been studied by experts in calligraphy, and are all by the same hand. Here each one is photographed and analysed, and its provenance discussed.

 Work on these glasses has unearthed several fake Amen glasses, all made by the same engraver on genuine 18th century glasses, 'The Snakes in the Grass' as Seddon describes them. There are also genuine reproduction Jacobite Glasses, not made to deceive, but these are not a problem. The fakes, known as Ferguson glasses, after the person who 'discovered' them in the 1930s, are quite good copies, but the faker made one fatal error; he copied a glass from Bles's famous book without realising that in one of the illustrations the image on the foot had been reversed. The faker inscribed the wrong side of the foot!

 In 1994 Peter Francis from Belfast published a paper in the Burlington Magazine unmasking a faker of Williamite glasses, who conveniently signed his work in a hidden way, and who worked towards the end of the 19th century, and a little later. This opened up a complete can of worms and we now think that there are very few genuine Williamite glasses. This paper caused some people to think that this might also be true of Jacobite glasses. This led, in 1996, to a symposium, organised by the Glass Circle, 'Judging Jacobite Glass' at the V&A. At that time very, very few non-Amen Jacobite glasses had provenance dating back before 1910. As Seddon points out, this conference spurred researchers, particularly Peter Lole, to delve deep into archives and the results of 19 years of labour are published here. Genuine Jacobite glasses do exist.

 The final chapter might have been published in our next Journal, (which has been
delayed during discussions with the Glass Association.) In 2010 a conference was held in Edinburgh to celebrate 400 years of glass making in Scotland. Dr Seddon gave a paper there, which he later refined in detail, giving his theory as to who might have been the calligrapher of the Amen glasses. He proposed Robert Strang, a line engraver working in Edinburgh and elsewhere. Although Dr Seddon's hypothesis is not universally accepted he deploys some very convincing arguments.

 It is these last two chapters that make this book essential for all those interested in
Jacobite glass, even if they have a previous edition.

 Dr Seddon has shown us that there are many fine and genuine Jacobite glasses in existence but caveat emptor. I think that we might both agree that there is a ratio of roughly 80/20 between right and wrong. But we might not agree on which is the 20%.

The discount (including postage) is available direct from the author:
Garden House, 34 High
Street, Little Eversden,
CB23 1HE.

John P Smith



(The following review appeared in Glass Circle News in March 2015)


A History of Glassmaking in London: second edition

David C. Watts

Watts Publishing 2014

310 pp

ISBN 978-0-9562116-2-0

Price £45 + P+P soft cover. (£60 + P+P hard cover)

(Available from

 The enlargement of the second edition of David Watts' researches is suggested by the change of subtitle: the second edition, "from the earliest times to the present day", is a third longer again. The second edition does indeed go back to the beginnings of glassmaking with mention of Roman glass working sites; the book is expanded throughout, with many more illustrations and maps and eight more chapters. The four end chapters bring the story up to date to the start of the
21st century.

 As in the first edition Dr Watts' very thorough research includes the social, political and technical history of glassmaking. Political history is to the fore in the early chapters as the dissolution ofthe monasteries made sites available for furnaces just outside the City of London, and the Reformation guided the industry into new areas, with a flow of experienced Protestant glassmakers into the country.

 Most of the technical developments are covered as David Watts lays out the history of the glasshouses where various sorts of glassware made, district by district from the Southwark heart of London's glassmaking, those close to the City and along the Thames to the outlying parts of Greater London in the 20th century. The 17th-century conflict between Wealdon wood-burning glassmakers and proponents of coal-burning furnaces, Edward, Lord Zouche and then Sir Robert Mansell, is expanded from Watts' talk to the Circle in 2013 'Skulduggery at the Glasshouse'. This now precedes explanation of the technical processes that lead to Ravenscroft's and later developments. As a chemist Dr Watts is able to explain the sources and changes in the different batch materials used, the designs and developments of different types of furnaces explained, sources of pot clay and the importance of saltpetre for Ravenscroft's flint glass.

 Types of glass made grew as markets expanded: windows and mirrors and then coach window glass and more recently car window laminates; bottles and phials, drinking glasses and optical glass. An appendix to chapter 15, 'Pike Green, ]ackson's Falcon and Upper Ground Glasshouses' expands the first edition's chapter 14 into a brief history of forms of lighting, both public and domestic, pointing out the use of Ravenscroft's clear lead glass for development of oil-burning lamps, gradually superseded from 1807 by gas from coal (coke), which itself powered much of
the electricity that took over in the 20th century in incandescent sealed glass bulbs.

 Greater attention is also given to glass decoration, from cutting and engraving wheels, and James Giles' gilding workshop to acid etching, and sandblasting on panels in Cunard and White Star liners. As the book moves into and through the 20th century a wide range of glass products appear in the last few chapters, from plate glass and curving large sheets, to the automation of bottle production. The last
chapter, 'From Beads to Studio Glass' ends with a concise survey of studio
glass in London; Watts was involved as the first Secretary of the Contemporary Glass Society.

 In a work of such detailed research and wide scope it is perhaps niggling to mention that the book could have done with better copy editing for inconsistent spellings, and cross-references that have not kept up with changes in layout. It cannot detract from the usefulness of the book.

Anne Lutyens-Stobbs

(The following review appeared in Glass Circle News in March 2014)

Reflections - The Art of Alison Kinnaird

94 pp, with DVD of films and audio tracks
ISBN 978-0-9540160
Kinmor Music, 2013
from, £12.00 + p&p

  As a glass engraver myself I wholeheartedly concur with James Holloway, Director of The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, who introduces this excellent book with the words: 'Alison Kinnaird is one of the world's leading glass engravers. She has developed the medium by perfecting old and pioneering new techniques.'

Alison certainly has been brave to move on from her successful and sought after classic works on perfect Steuben crystal to master window and panel work, sandblasting and portraiture (where formerly she eschewed facial features on her figures) and, furthermore, to circumvent the deplorably unreliable lighting of her work by exhibition and museum curators (for engraved glass, we know, is like a woman of a certain age and prefers careful lighting from behind) by cleverly pioneering an original method of integral lighting in her work, both perfectly displaying the engraving and also colouring the same through small shards of dichroic glass, placed over LED lights secreted in the supporting stand. The large new Patrons' Window in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery is her most impressive work to date.

In Alison's own words: 'Glass is a sublimely surprising medium ... it has a purity and a spiritual quality quite unlike any other'.

This book is a worthy record of both Alison's earlier and more recent work, beautifully photographed by Robin Morton, her husband. Alison and Robin are also accomplished musicians. One can listen to their music which accompanies the book which so amply illustrates Alison's significant contribution to modern glass engraving. Long may she remain Britain's most respected and acclaimed practitioner.

Katharine Coleman

(The following review appeared in Glass Circle News in July 2013)

5000 Years of Glass

Hugh Tate, Ed., this edition 2012

280 pages, ISBN: 978-0-7141-5095-6

The British Museum

  In 2011 the British Museum Press decided that rather than reprinting the 1991 edition, part of the book should be rewritten. Minor errors were corrected in the earlier chapters, but the chapter 'Europe and America 1800-1940' was inadequate and the later period was not covered at all.

 They asked me to rewrite the 1800-1940 chapter making it less American influenced, (the original author was American), and also to write a chapter on 1940-2010, quite a challenge in 5000 words. All the earlier illustrations are from the British Museum's own collection, although a few of the later items are from the Corning Museum of Glass as the British Museum does not collect 'art glass', the preserve of the V&A Museum in London.

John P. Smith

  This is indeed a fine looking book and, at the price of two student tickets entry to a special exhibition at the BM, is worth having for general reference. The chapter by Bill Gudenrath showing step-by-step processes in techniques described in the book is especially informative. There is always a problem with books that romp through centuries in a handful of pages, but this book appears to include all the important works in it. Our Chairman's chapter on the demise of the craftsman and rise of the artist from 1940-2010 is no exception. A shame only one British maker is pictured in this chapter, but several are at least mentioned, and perhaps it is a fair comparative representation of the UK contribution. More pointed is that more than a 'few' illustrations come from the Corning Museum of Glass - in fact 70% in this chapter do and 60% of all the illustrations from 1800-2010. True, this largely falls without the period of the BM's acquisitions, but what does it say about the V&A that it is not first port-of-call to help its sister museum in illustrating 19th and 20th century-plus glass?

Jane Dorner

(The following review appeared in Glass Circle News in March 2013)

Erwin Eisch

Various contributors, English and German parallel texts

Hirmer Verlag, Munich, 2012

ISBN 978-3-7774-5191-6 (UK)

 This collection of essays by artists, curators and friends provides a vital insight into the life and work of Erwin Eisch, one of the key members of the Studio Glass movement (50th anniversary) also the warm, charismatic focus of the BildWerk Summer Academy, Frauenau.

 Kruse's Introduction covers Eisch's early life and art school years, Eisch's difficulties with formal art teaching in the 1940s and 50s, his rejection of ideologies and war, his love of freethinking. Eisch has glass in his blood - his father owned a glass factory - so it is not surprising he came to see glass as a material with artistic potential. This book could be called When Harvey Met Erwin, so great was the influence each had on the other when Harvey Littleton met Eisch in 1962. Sam Herman adds 'He (Eisch) taught us not only the technique but also the true understanding of how glass could be used as a fine art form'.

 Ricke's essay details Eisch's early group of anti-establishment artists, including Gretel, his wife. Eisch's 'creative approach was always focused on art and not the material used', disliking the charms and transparency of glass. There is interesting material on Eisch's early glass works and exhibitions, quoting him in 1962: 'I would like to lead glass out of the so-called sphere of good form, to liberate it once again and to regard it as a material that can hold an entire world of poetic possibilities ... I feel an inclination towards everything that a goody-two-shoes ideology has rejected as dirt or contamination'. Indeed, the most interesting words in this book are Erwin Eisch's own, quoted from exhibition catalogues.

 Many will be interested to read about Eisch's work as a painter and printmaker, his main interest since the mid-1970s, his theme: 'Heaven starts on the ground'. Ines Kohl's essay explores Eisch's use of drawing in all his artwork and his refusal to accept the term 'glass artist', seeing the artist as a creative person who views all materials in terms of their creative potential.

 English speakers will find Kevin Petrie's lucid essay on Eisch's inspiration and printing techniques a delight, penetrating through the fog of philosophy and interpretation. Petrie examines the prints from a technical perspective as well as for their content, through their development over the years since 1981, painting a vivid portrait of Eisch, artist and man. Eisch has produced more than 75 editions of prints and further single experimental prints and monoprints. With Littleton in the USA Eisch developed a new technique, vitreography, printing from engraved glass plates.

 Charles Hajdamach focuses on the Great Heads which, after the Telephone made Eisch famous, including in 1976 'The Eight Heads of Harvey Littleton'.

 Many other series, heavily enamelled, gilded and engraved, include 'Sixteen Heads and the Space in Between', a dialogue between pairs of male and female busts. Tina Oldknow considers these his most significant works of all. Hadjamach addresses Eisch's ambivalence to Picasso and stresses Gretel Eisch's involvement.

 Nonetheless, everyone should read this book to understand why Eisch is one of the most significant artists of his generation. Like all prophets, Eisch's careful words are often taken out of context and sorely misunderstood - and like all prophets, he is an exceptionally tolerant and kindly man. Ironic that a glass engraver should review the life and work of this great champion of all that repudiates such work!

Katharine Coleman

(The following review appeared in Glass Circle News in July 2012)


The Curious History of the Bulb Vase

by Patricia Coccoris

Cortex Design Birmingham UK, 2012.

ISBN-13: 978-0-9568096-1-2

296 pages full colour

The author lives in Haarlem by a canal and is surrounded by neighbours involved in the flower-bulb trade. In the early spring nearly every window in this charming city has hyacinths and other bulbs growing and flowers in bulb vases.

In 1989 I held a catalogued exhibition in London of hyacinth-bulb vases with over 300 examples. Nearly all sold in the month before Christmas and a new collecting field opened up. By 1998 so many people were collecting these vases that a new collectors' club, Bloembollenglazenclub, was founded in Holland with Patricia being one of its first members. In 2000 a German, Joachim Henle, published a book Hyazinthen Glaser, Geschichte und Tradition and this is the second book on the subject.

One of the first vases in Patricia Coccoris's collection had a moulded base with the inscription, 'G. P. Tye Registered November 4th 1850'. Little at the time was known about Mr Tye. His registration was in the metalwork section of the Registry rather than glass. Curiosity set Patricia off on a long journey into the world of glassmaking. Living in Haarlem gave Ms Coccoris access to unlimited expert advice on how to use the vases. The search involved looks at the archives of all the major 19th and 20th century British glassmakers, most of whom had hyacinth vases in their design books, which are all illustrated in this book. Bulb and seed merchants were another source of information. Barr and Sugden were leading suppliers both of bulbs, and vases, many made to Tye's design. Tye registered not a vase, but a means of supporting fully grown hyacinth flowers, which have a tendency to flop. George Piercy Tye was born in Birmingham on 22 April 1810 and became a die-sinker and seal engraver. He was also a keen gardener, as was mentioned in his obituary in the Gardeners' Chronicle of 1879 and this book illustrates a photographic portrait of him in the collection of The Royal Horticultural Society. Tye followed on from Richard Redgrave, who in 1848, using Messenger & Sons, Birmingham as his agent, registered a design to overcome the problem of flopping, for Summerly's Art Manufactures, a retailer.

As well as all the 19th century makers the author illustrates pre-war designs by Davidson and post-war designs by Dartington, as well as cheap imports from China and Czechoslovakia, together with examples made in ceramics.

Instructions are given for growing not only hyacinths, but also grape hyacinths, tulips, crocus, amarylis and other bulbs. Also, peculiar to Britain, was the growing of acorns in special vases.

In 1912 a shop in the Fulham Road boasted of having sold some 59,000 acorn vases over the previous 30 years.

The glossary explains 56 terms in glassmaking, each illustrated with a different coloured vase.

The production quality of this book is extremely high, with thousands of illustrations, clear and well laid out, and would make an ideal present for any glass, or indeed, flower lover.

John P Smith


(The following review appeared in Glass Circle News in March 2012)

Glass Recipes of the Renaissance

English Translation with additional notes by David C Watts and Cesare Moretti

94pp + index, Watts Publishing 2011 ISBN 978-0-9562116-1-3

(note: may be ordered by going to

A book of glass recipes would not seem an obvious subject to keep the reader up to late in the night, but Dr David Watts' new translation of an anonymous Venetian manuscript from the mid-16th century certainly made intriguing reading for me.

The original manuscript is a practical set of worker's notes and recipes, predating Neri's L'Arte Vetruria by fifty years. Reading his translation gives a real flavour of the glass maker writing to the reader who is often referred to directly as 'you' in the translation, with the recipes clearly showing the anonymous author's pride in his exclusive knowledge.

The recipes have much significance for the history and dating of glass particularly about the knowledge of cristallo and the use of alkali other than sodium in Venetian glass. There is much understanding about demand for glass that can be gleaned from the recipes - for example the quantities given for making Paternoster (rosary) beads is larger than most other recipes and there are many recipes for imitation gems. Perhaps this tells us about the demand.

Dr Watt's translation is clear, but inevitably there is ambiguity in understanding what the material names would be in today's nomenclature. Dragon's blood for example

is referred to as being the lac of the calamus draco palm - however this is found in Sumatra and the European version is considered to be from draecena draco which was discovered in the Canary Isles in the 15th century. A further note postulates arsenic sulphide. However the term dragon's blood has also been used for mercuric (II) sulphide. The lac was used in incense and so would be unlikely to survive the temperatures of molten glass. The chemical identifications are discussed in another book by Cesare Moretti so there is no need for the non-chemist to fear this book.

The first part of the book is a detailed introduction and discussion of the recipes and of what can be concluded from the notes and from analyses of glass. For those with a general technical interest this discussion is uniquely interesting and detailed. Now that portable x-ray fluorescence spectrometers are becoming available, the understanding given will become more important in the dating and authentication of glass. Three tables at the end summarise experimental analysis of glass materials and the use of different materials in the recipes. This allows the reader to appreciate the palette of ingredients available to this anonymous glass-master.

The second part contains the recipes. These are short notes usually about 4 to 10 lines long. They often finish with a little bit of advice or comments such as: 'Then take it out and it will look beautiful from a distance'. Reading them they sound fresh and direct. Most of the recipes are for coloured glass although cristallo is described.

This book deserves a place on your shelves next to Apsley Pellatt and other classics.

John Newgas

(The following review appeared in Glass Circle News in July 2012)


Complete Copier: the Oeuvre of A.D. Copier 1901-1991

by Laurens Geurtz, Job Meihuizen & Joan Temminck (editors)

NAI Publishers in association with National Glassmuseum Leerdam, 2012

ISBN 978-9056628338        520 pages full colour

This lavish book, with its typeface right up to the margin, Bauhaus style, uses the life of Copier as a peg to hang the complete story of the Leerdam glass factory, set within the social and economic life of the Dutch village of Leerdam in the 20th century.

Copier was the son of the head of the etching department of Leerdam. After joining the glassworks his talent as an artist was noticed by the management and he was sent to art school at the Company's expense. He remained at the Company all his working life and, after retirement at the age of 65, he continued to design, freelance, until within a year of his death, including silverware and porcelain. This book is a complete and systematic story of his life, including the fact that Copier's house was destroyed by the Nazis when he had been forced into hiding during the war.

The first third of this book divides the century into four sections: his formative years; in-house artist; artistic director and finally, autonomous artist. This also includes a section of full-page photographs and some double-page spreads of his work over these periods.

Almost half the book is devoted to the production of the factory, divided into product lines, such as bowls, or breakfast sets, and all are fully illustrated with pages from pattern books, contemporary photographs and advertisements. Included in these are reproductions of 18th century tableware made for Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, USA in the late 1960s and also sold on the general market under the name Taverne. These are nearly good enough to pass as the real thing.

Throughout his time at Leerdam, Copier was living a double life: as well as being the senior factory designer he was also designing his Unica pieces, often using factory workmen after hours. These are more or less unique pieces, although if a piece was successful, others would be made. It is these Unica items that are most sought-after by collectors today.

There is virtually no 'cold work' on Leerdam pieces, no cutting, little engraving, and the colours, when used, are muted rather than strident. The Dutch abhor show and vulgarity and this shows in their glass.

This book is a monument to the industry of its authors and the completeness of the factory records, with production values which can only be the result of generous sponsorship.

John P Smith

(The following reviews appeared in Glass Circle News in July 2011)

The Golden Age of English Glass 1650-1775   Dwight P Lanmon

373 pages ISBN 9781851496563 The Antique Collectors' Club (2011)

A former director of The Corning Museum of Glass with 50 years experience in antique glass, Dwight P Lanmon has been writing this impressive book for the last

25 years. It is one of the most interesting books on English glass spanning the most critical period 1650-1775 in the development of the English glass industry.

The book differs from its predecessors because of its comprehensive survey of objects discussed in depth based on extensive research and experience.

After a short history of glassmaking in England, including tools used by glassblowers, and a survey of drinking in England, the author systematically builds up the book on English glassware of lead glass, gadrooning, drinking glasses with heavy-baluster stems, diamond-point engraving, wheel engraved English glass, panel-moulded stems, Jacobite glass, glasses with internal spirals in their stems, gilding on glass, glass candlesticks, 'branches' and chandeliers, window glass, plate glass and mirrors, English black-glass bottles and chemical analyses of the glasses. Many footnotes, an extended bibliography, and an index complete the book.

The heart of the book is built up around the important glass and bottle collection from John H Bryan illustrating in full colour one hundred and forty eight (148) items. Many of the objects in the book are of great rarity, importance, and beautifully photographed.

The history of English glass (1650-1775) and the collection is very well researched and written, easy to read and understand, magnificently illustrated by 192 figures such as paintings, engravings, the techniques used for glassmaking and decorating and so on. The chapter on English black-glass bottles illustrates the evolution of English 'wine' bottles from the beginning (c. 1650) up to 1809 with bottles sealed and dated for each decade starting with the famous and extremely rare 'Thomas Bydder /1674/ Thistle Boon' bottle. In order to better understand what the objects meant, the author expands upon the surrounding social, technological, and historical milieu for each object and reevaluates the history of glassmaking in England during the period 1650-1775, lead glass included.

The book is a luxury edition, hardback, attractive dust jacket, made of high quality paper inside, well bound, and excellent printing. The price is very reasonable for its quality. I highly recommend this book, which should be in each library of the serious glass collector.

Willy Van den Bossche

PS: Van den Bossche, author of the definitive book on bottles, 'Antique Glass Bottles: Their History and Evolution', Antique Collectors' Club, 2001, has written a well deserved complementary review on one of only four good books giving a comprehensive overview of Georgian and pre-Georgian glass. The others being, Hartshorne, 1897, Thorpe, 1927 and Charleston, 1984. Although many of the items pictured in this book are beyond the wallet of the average reader, not all are and the detailed history given in this book is just as applicable to more modest glasses.

The collector, John Bryan, had a focused attitude, a deep purse, was not in a hurry, and had good advisors. His interest in this period is deep, including furniture, needlework, brass (not silver) and Delftware, indeed it was the rocketing prices of Delftware in the 1980s that encouraged John Bryan to turn to glass.

John P Smith


Mohn & Kothgasser Transparent-enamelled Biedermeier glass

Paul von Lichtenberg

Hirmer, Munich, 2009, 524 pages, 760 colour plates

ISBN 9783777439952

Such books do not arrive on one's table daily: 524 pages, richly illustrated throughout in colour on heavy gloss paper and weighing almost 3 kilograms, usefully presented in two languages (German and English) where the author has not directly translated but written the English text. And then come the contents!

Between the board covers, the author has illustrated his book profusely with over 760 plates describing 399 enamelled glasses. He gives the background to the artists, their workshops and an introduction to the social and economic upheavals in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars and the peace treaties following the Congress of Vienna in 1814-15. Careful research has resulted in many new insights in recognising and identifying authentic Biedermeier glasses.

Two novel peculiarities of this reference book should be noted. For the first, the significance and history of all the glasses mentioned in the text is provided in the form of small format images on the outside columns to the main pictures. For the second, the author works with these miniature pictures in association with enlargements of the most important details such as signatures. Used in parallel with the main text, these references save the reader constantly having to leaf backwards and forwards through the book.

Since Gustav Pazaurek identified 'Kothgasser glass' as a title of luxury - thus making such items more valuable than the best engraved glass - later copies have in the past been frequently and incorrectly attributed to the artist. Glasses from the Saxon workshops of Samuel Mohn were almost as frequently unsigned as those in Vienna by Anton Kothgasser, their attribution relying on their quality and tiny personal marks left by each artist, which are pinpointed and explained in this book for the first time.

There are two primary reasons for the lack of an artist's signature. The distinct division of labour and specialisation, particularly in the Viennese workshops, did not allow for the frequent signing by a single artist. The second reason, possibly for aesthetics, is that there was no suitable position - usually outside the picture itself - for the addition of a signature on the most expensive gilt glasses. The author points out that all signatures or monograms scratched into the glass were later additions by others; with only brush and the coloured enamel at hand why and with what instrument should Kothgasser have started to damage the glass surface?

Paul von Lichtenberg started to collect Biedermeier glass as a schoolboy in 1956. Since 1994 he began to publish books and articles on the subject, holding lectures and organising international exhibitions in Europe. In spite of his long studies, the author confesses not always to having retained the 'total overview' of the enamelling aspect of Biedermeier glass until the publication of the present work. All the more impressive, therefore, is the material he has gathered from countless international museums and private collections, his extensive study of the existing sources as well as the careful analysis of both the old and new literature. The different finely structured motifs are commented on in detail giving us an outstanding overview of the wide range of subjects handled by the artists together with the author's exemplary appreciation of genuine Kothgasser glass. In the Introduction the author shows in detail and argues comprehensively why certain glasses are outright fakes. There are so many popular later representations that have been successfully sold in the past that would otherwise exhaust any one artist's production!

Regarding the exhaustion, with his tongue firmly in cheek, the author demonstrates Kothgasser's humour in certain Ranftbecher (cogwheel-based beakers) showing cleverly painted 'cracks' in the glass. One is at first shocked and then forced to smile when the 'crack' is examined in closer detail. Perhaps he is suggesting that there is nothing perfect in art - however this book seems to be.

Simon Cottle


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