14 December 2010

Recommended Reading 3 - Spode & Copeland Marks....by Robert Copeland

My copy of the book with Robert's thoughtful dedication

Spode & Copeland Marks and Other Relevant Intelligence by Robert Copeland; published  by Studio Vista; 1993, 1997 (2nd edition revised and enlarged);  ISBN 0-289-80172-9

The author of this book was a dear colleague of mine in his role as Historical Consultant for Spode and as Trustee of the Spode Museum Trust. I also regarded him as my Spode mentor.

Born into the Copeland family (owners of the Spode company for many years) Robert, or Mr Robert, as he was known on the factory, did not simply slot into a prearranged place in the company by virtue of his birth but learnt the business from the bottom up. He learnt all the potting skills alongside the usual business skills. Thus together with his other achievements, such as in sales and marketing, he was able to call himself Master Potter. He also developed a passion for the history of the Spode company and ceramics in general. He is the author of many books on Spode, Wedgwood and other ceramic subjects as well as unpublished research which forms part of the Spode archive. 
Robert Copeland at the NCS Summer School, 2009
This publication is the 'must-have' book, preferably in its 2nd edition, for anyone remotely interested in Spode. It covers the history of the Spode company from its early beginnings in the late 1700s to 1997.

Don't be misled by the title as it is not simply a book of ceramic marks. The clue is in the lovely subtitle 'And Other Relevant Intelligence'.

The layout of the book uses an old style page view with the main text taking up most of the page but important points and notable events summarised in a column alongside. This gives it a sort of quick-reference facility as well as being an enjoyable read in full.
A page showing Felspar Porcelain backstamps 
The Spode company, under whatever ownership, for some reason used many different backstamps. Over 300 are recorded and there are probably still more to be discovered as no formal record was ever kept. It is thanks to Robert's research that we know the approximate dates for the oldest of these marks. 

There is a catalogue of the marks for quick reference followed by a detailed look at each mark. The book includes essays on various important aspects of and patterns produced by the company as well as a full explanation of the pattern numbers recorded in the famous Spode Pattern Books.

Importantly Peter Roden's new research on the early history of Spode  is added in the second edition.

Since publication, new information has come to light about the discovery of another pattern book in 1988 (in a private collection; p117-118) originally thought to be Spode but which is now thought not to be Spode.

Robert died in 2010 and is greatly missed.