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

Sunday, July 6, 2014

English Registration Codes on Majolica

There seems to be a lot of confusion among dealers and beginning pottery collectors when it comes to the English Pattern Registration diamond system in effect from 1842 to 1883.

The system had two purposes: to identify a piece of pottery as being of English origin; and to offer a degree of "copyright protection" to the designer of the piece. Many pottery companies took advantage of the system to protect their more original designs, though the degree of protection offered was fairly limited. These registration numbers are commonly found on the base of English majolica. Although by themselves they do not tell you anything about the manufacturer of the piece nor the age of the piece, they can tell you when the design was created and after what date the piece was created.

There were two basic code systems put into effect during this period. From 1842 to 1867 there was one system where the number designating the day of the week is found in the code on the right, the month on the left and the year at the top. Then from 1868 to 1883 there was another, where the number designating the day of the week is found in the code on the top, the month at the bottom and the year on the right. Here is a graphic to explain the two systems:

The Rd stands for Registered Design and appears on all registration marks.  The classification IV identifies the piece as pottery. (A piece of glass would have the designation III, a wood design would have a II, a metal design would have a I and so forth.)  The bundle refers to the number of items included in the classification. The other symbols, for month, day and year are self explanatory. 
So, if for example you take the code pictured at the top of this post, one can see that this registration mark comes from the second classification system. If you follow the table you can see that this code appears on a design that was registered on November 17, 1876.

The system is so well known among pottery collectors that even those creating majolica copies have tried to mimic it as can be seen by the example below. These rather pathetic attempts fool no one as they are always crude and rather ridiculous. 

Starting in 1884, the diamond registration system was replaced by a yearly numbering system. By this time the golden age of English majolica production had past, with most manufacturers tapering their majolica output. Within ten years production on most Victorian majolica would cease, and majolica pottery will have begun its long decline into a century of obscurity.