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Burmese decorations by Thomas Webb & Sons

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Jim Sapp:
Some time ago, a small group of glass collectors attempted to identify decorations found on Burmese ware made by Thomas Webb & Sons.  So that we could document the work I built a webpage to store the results and to allow for review by members of our study group.  The work is far from completion and there is still much to learn.  

If you are unfamiliar with the Burmese decorations of Thomas Webb & Sons, you will find this information interesting and informative.  If, on the other hand, you have knowledge of Webb Burmese decorations, we need your help.  Certainly, your confirmation of the accuracy of the work accomplished so far would be helpful and welcomed.  But, most importantly, we need additional examples of known and unknown decorations, authentic Webb or Barbe documentation of any kind, botanical references to help illustrate the flora, and of course, any information related to errors in our work.

The study results can be found at:

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Bernard C:
Jim — My congratulations to you and your associates on a most worthwhile project with promising results so far. I have a number of fairly obvious ideas and comments, which I expect you have already considered:-[list=1][*]Barbe's designs may well not have been very original.   The few I have seen to date always look to me as though they were based on contemporary published illustrations.

I have in mind the Walter Crane illustrations which J.G. Sowerby copied in 1877 for his press-moulded novelty vases.   I have seen Sowerby's use of Crane's illustrations described as "plagiarism", however it seems much more likely that Crane was fully aware of Sowerby's use of his illustrations, and may well have been both flattered by it and encouraged it as additional publicity for his books.   John Sowerby later collaborated with Crane's brother, Thomas, and his cousin, Ellen Houghton, on a successful series of children's books.   I hardly think it likely that this relationship would have taken place had there been any acrimony over John Sowerby's use of the Crane illustrations.

On the practical side, Barbe would have needed at least four copies of the original work (his office, Webb's office, London showrooms, USA showrooms), together with additional prints of the plates as working copies for his staff.    All of which indicates to me an expensively illustrated source publication that was in print in 1886.   Have any of your London members checked this, not at the British Library, but at the RHS Lindley Library?

The use of a suitably annotated book in this way may be the explanation for the missing design illustrations — they may never have existed as Barbe coloured drawings!   One additional benefit of of using the annotated book is that, for a suitable premium, a client, retail or wholesale, could have chosen his own exclusive design from the other illustrations in the book.

Always remember that, once a book is published, the publisher is only interested in one thing — sales.   Any rational publisher presented with a project like this could only have celebrated his good fortune.

[*]I have found one image you may not have yet seen.   Newby, Martine S., From Palace to Parlour, The Glass Circle, 2003, item 211.   If suitable for your purposes, The Glass Circle may be willing to help you obtain an image of this nightlight.

[*]Have you tried the auction houses like Sotheby's for photographs?

[*]Have you tried Broadfield House and the V&A for photographs?[/list:o]I like your well-designed web page which elegantly adjusts itself to your viewer's window size.    Also my compliments on your excellent image optimisation.

I hope there is something here that might be useful.   I couldn't think of anything else.

Bernard C.  8)

Jim Sapp:
Thanks for the great advice!!  I really appreciate it!

It is indeed a mystery why no one has discovered the Barbe design book.  It surely must be out there somewhere just wanting for someone to stumble accross it.  I just hope someone finds a copy that appreciates its value.

--- Quote --- I have found one image you may not have yet seen. Newby, Martine S., From Palace to Parlour, The Glass Circle, 2003, item 211. If suitable for your purposes, The Glass Circle may be willing to help you obtain an image of this nightlight.
--- End quote ---

I would appreciate it if you could help me get a photo of this lamp.[/quote]

Bernard C:
Jim — If the Barbe design book was an annotated published book of horticultural prints as I suggested, that could account for its disappearance.   I would not be surprised if any copy that came on to the market was broken for the unmarked prints.    Fortunately today many dealers are aware that annotated works can be sold at a sustantial premium, but much important material has been lost in recent years.

Also don't forget that much archive material was lost due to bombing during WWII, both in libraries and company offices.

I think you should really contact the Glass Circle directly.   You might find that they are prepared to publish an article on your research in their newsletter, which could result in many more images from their members.    See

Bernard C.  8)

Jim Sapp:
Thanks for the link to the Glass Circle.  I was not familiar with their organization until now.  I found their website very interesting and I will certainly contact them.

I was very surprised to see three fairy lamp bases in the very first photo I opened from their website!   One of particular interest was a large butterscotch colored Stevens & Williams bowl with what appears to be thorn or vine feet.  This bowl is often used as a fairy lamp base and, as luck would have it, I have the matching fairy lamp shade.  I would dearly love to know where the bowl is today.  I also have a simplier version of this bowl with a matching S&W fairy lamp in red.   See following link:

The inset in this image is from the Glass Circle website.

S&W made several "crimped top" fairy lamp shades with matching bowls.  The bowls, however, were "multi-purpose" and offered for sale separately.  Fortunately, there are S&W design books available that illustrate when the were used in combination with fairy lamps.

Thanks again,


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