26 March 2011

Spode and Aesops Fables

I was recently enjoying reading a 44 Scotland Street novel by Alexander McCall Smith. It is worth buying just for the title alone - The Unbearable Lightness of Scones. The Spode connection is that part of the tale features a 'blue Spode teacup'. These books are illustrated throughout with drawings by Iain McIntosh.

The 'blue Spode teacup' was illustrated with a Spode mug not a teacup - sorry I know I am being a bit pedantic here! Interestingly, and perhaps quite sadly, I was able to identify the pattern in the black and white illustration (I must get a life....as I can also tell you that TV's Poirot, amongst others, uses Spode too). The pattern is the lovely multi-scene pattern called Aesops Fables in its late 20th century version.

So here is some background to this delightful pattern.

Spode soup plate, printed in green (not brown, sorry, poor image) 
featuring The Lion in Love, c1830
Backstamp to the above
Aesops Fables pattern was first introduced in about 1830 at the end of the Spode period (c1770-1833). It is a multi-scene pattern which illustrates stories from the famous Aesop’s Fables series. The pattern had a specially engraved backstamp which incorporated the name of the fable illustrated on the piece. Pieces made after 1833 in the Copeland and Garrett period have an amended backstamp to incorporate the new name of the company.
Copeland & Garrett octagonal plate,
printed in green featuring
The Lion The Bear and The Fox, c1835
from Lovers of Blue and White
The designs were taken from illustrations used in the 1793 edition of the Reverend Samual Croxall's. The Fables of Aesop With a Life of the Author and Embellished with one Hundred Twelve Plates. Croxall was published many times and in many formats and illustrated by many artists.

The early Spode pattern is found mostly in green with other colours including blue being rare. A full list of subjects used can be found in Spode Printed Ware by D. Drakard and P. Holdway (details are on my booklist).

Copeland catalogue page (detail) showing Fables, 1882
Later in 1879 three designs from Aesop's Fables were registered with the British Patent Office by the Spode company. These were: The Stork and the Frog with registered number 331597 on 28th January; The Eagle and the Tortoise with registered number 333235 on 12th March and The Pot and Kettle with registered number 333236 on 28th March. Although based on the same fables these are completely different but equally stunning designs and follow the style of the Aesthetic Movement of the period.

In the late 1990s the pattern was reintroduced as part of Spode's Blue Room Collection and in 2002 as part of the Signature Collection on a large size dog bowl.

See also my Spode ABC.