A look at the design, market and legacy of Victorian pottery

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Book Review: "Majolica: British, Continental and American Wares, 1851-1915" by Victoria Bergesen


It may seem a bit odd to review a book that is not only 21 years old and already out of print, but I felt it was important to let other collectors know about this important resource available to them. This is a MUST-HAVE book for any serious collector of majolica. I would like to encourage anyone who does not already have a copy to pick one up on the secondary market.

Published in 1989 in England this 224 page book was only available as an import for a relatively brief time. The author is Victoria Bergesen, an American expatriate living in England who has made the study of British ceramics her life's work.


This book is very different from all the other general majolica books that have come out in the past 30 years in that it's not a picture book. In fact the photographs, what few there are, are the weakest component of the book.

There are really two features of this book that makes it stand out. The first is an unmatched listing of all the known potteries that manufactured majolica during the period from 1851-1915. There is a small write up of each of the potteries listed including the years of manufacture and notable features of the company's work.
The second feature, in the back of the book, is a reproduction of the existing pattern numbers for the majolica shapes from Minton, George Jones and Wedgwood.
This listing has been invaluable to me over the years in helping to identify unknown and unusual pieces of majolica.
All you have to do is check the shape number on the bottom of your piece against the listings in this book to find out information on your piece. No where else outside of the British museums can you find such a complete list of majolica wares.

The book also includes information on decoding the diamond registration marks on the base of British wares and the symbols on the base of Minton wares. There is a large listing of important designers, decorators and modelers of majolica and the wares they worked on and sections listing the registered designs of various potteries as well as known marks of the potteries. In the back is an annotated bibliography that is bound to be a great resource to those doing research on majolica.

If you love majolica like I do and take your interest seriously, this is the book for you. I know I wouldn't trade my copy for any other majolica book in or out of print.

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