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Bow Porcelain

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Bow Porcelain Research Topics 6-10

6) RAMSAY, E. G. & RAMSAY, W. R. H., 2006. Bow first patent porcelain: New discoveries in science and art. The Magazine Antiques. Brant Publications, New York, September issue, pp. 122-127.

Here we summarise a number of our scientific findings with respect to Bow first patent porcelains. We recognise that this group of wares more than any other mid 18th English porcelain group (especially Chelsea) is the only assemblage which can compare with Meissen based on the use of a refractory china clay, the inferred co-firing of body and glaze, the resultant high-firing body, its resistance to thermal stress, and the remarkable decoration lavished on these wares. Decorative idioms include both highly original indigenous themes taken from the London theatre and local engravings, coupled with exotic themes including blanc de chine, famille vert and famille noir, Japanese Kakiemon, Meissen indianische Blumen, and fables, all allied to the skills of Staffordshire mould-makers and slip-cast potters, melded into the brilliant indigenous hard-paste output of Bow which has set the standard for all subsequent English concerns.
7) RAMSAY, W. R. H., DAVENPORT, F. A. & RAMSAY, E. G., 2006. The 1744 ceramic patent of Heylyn and Frye: ‘Unworkable unaker formula’ or landmark document in the history of English ceramics? Proceedings of The Royal Society of Victoria 118 (1): 11-34.

We have been struck for a number of years by the plethora of adverse or negative comments made regarding what we now regard as a landmark document in English ceramic history, namely the 1744 patent of Heylyn and Frye. For over 100 years successive commentators have tended to marginalise and underestimate the significance of this set of specifications. In this account we review the literature relating to the 1744 patent over the last 250 years and we show that these negative attitudes and beliefs are variably predicated on a number of works and claims that do not bear close scrutiny. We conclude that these ceramic specifications represent arguably the most important ceramic document in English ceramic history.

8) RAMSAY, W. R. H., & RAMSAY, E. G., 2007a. Bow: Britain’s pioneering porcelain manufactory of the 18th century. Paper delivered at the International Ceramics Fair & Seminar, Park Lane Hotel, June 2007, 16pp.

This paper summarises much of our work to date and presents evidence for our contention that Bow produced at least three recipe types namely a Si-Al-Ca hard-paste, phosphatic (bone ash)  soft-paste body, and a magnesian (steatitic) body. We conclude that possibly for too long English ceramic connoisseurship may have evolved under a mistaken self-belief of inferiority when compared with the splendours and technical triumphs which we tend to associate with Continental porcelains. In fact the technical, artistic, and entrepreneurial advances in English ceramics during the late 1730s-1740s, as represented by Bow, represent an unrivalled period in English decorative arts.

9) RAMSAY, W. R. H. & RAMSAY, E. G., 2007b. A classification of Bow porcelain from first patent to closure c. 1743 – 1774. Proceedings of The Royal Society of Victoria 119 (1): 1- 68.

Some 50 items of Bow origin are chemically analysed and based on these analyses the theoretical recipe in each case is calculated. Three major groups of Bow wares are recognized namely a hard-paste Si-Al-Ca body, a phosphatic (bone ash) group, and a magnesian (steatitic) group. In the case of the phosphatic wares five recipe classes and a high-lead subgroup are identified and a comprehensive visual classification for curator and collector is presented.This contribution is the first detailed investigation of variations in composition through an entire factory output and emphasises the urgent need for more detailed studies based on complete chemical analyses, as was initially done by Church (1881) and Eccles and Rackham (1922). This highly important contribution to ceramic scholarship fell into the doldrums during the 1930’s, 1940’s, 1950’s, 1960’s, and even to a certain extent during the 1970’s – termed the hobby science period. We emphasise the importance of composition in the study of English ceramics and conclude that the contribution to porcelain development by the Bow proprietors has been significantly underestimated.

10) RAMSAY, W. R. H., & RAMSAY, E. G, 2008. A case for the production of the earliest commercial hard-paste porcelains in the English-speaking world by Edward Heylyn and Thomas Frye in about 1743. Proceedings of The Royal Society of Victoria, 120 (1): 136-256

This paper investigates the prevailing notions regarding what constitutes hard-paste porcelain. We note that the concept of ‘true hard-paste’ porcelain is in fact an accident of both geography and timing and we agree with Professor Nigel Wood that the use of kaolin clay, while obligatory in Western hard-paste ceramics, is an optional additive in Asiatic wares. Based on a number of criteria we argue that Bow first patent porcelains are in fact hard-paste thus predating William Cookworthy’s production in Devon by a quarter of a century.


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