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"Based around the matchless collections of British ceramics in the Victoria and Albert Museum, which curators began to assemble as early as the 1840s, this book charts the story of their development from the simple slipware drinking-vessel of the seventeenth century to the sophisticated enamelled and transfer-printed tableware of the early 1800s. The narrative takes us through successive changes of taste and manners, as British potters assimilated and adapted new, and often disparate, influences from Europe and the Far East. Ceramics, ubiquitous, disposable and quintessentially domestic, tended to reflect social changes quicker than other branches of the applied arts; for example, new fashions in dining and the taking of tea were responsible for major aspects of design and decoration, while the rapid rise of the Staffordshire figure enabled it to become a vehicle for satire, religion, or the commemoration of wildly popular but ephemeral events such as boxing matches and visits from touring menageries." "Keeping carefully chosen pieces, illustrated, at the forefront of his discussion, Robin Hildyard treats the subject variously by material, form, decoration or by broader theme, sometimes cutting across traditional boundaries in order to look behind established myths and the often misleading evidence of what has survived. The methods and history of manufacture are fully explored, from the workshop of the independent village potter to the industrialized nineteenth-century factory struggling with the stormy beginnings of trade unionism. The complex trade in ceramics both at home and abroad, and the transition from utilitarian household object to cherished item in collector's cabinet is also examined, along with the symbiotic relationship between collector and museum. This volume, filling the gap in current ceramic literature between narrower scholarly studies and the opulent catalogues of private collections, presents an expert and yet highly accessible view of a particularly rich seam of British material culture, guiding us from familiar ground into wider and sometimes uncharted territory."--BOOK JACKET.