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Antique Collectors' Dictionary (B1)

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Billet: The thumbpiece of a tankard lid; also a moulding consisting of short cylinders.

Billiard Table: Billiards is mentioned as early as 1429 in France as an indoor recreation, and the billiard table as we know it, with top covered with cloth and having raised padded sides, was probably being made in France in the fifteenth century. By the middle of the sixteenth century the game was established in England, but the oldest surviving English billiard table (of oak) dates from the end of the seventeenth century.

'Billies & Charlies': A famous range of fakes-lead figures, medallions, etc.-made by two Londoners at the end of the nineteenth century and so popular with collectors that it is said the fakers are now faking the fakes of William and Charles.

Billingsley, William (1760-1828): Maker and decorator of porcelain, born at Derby and apprenticed there at the Derby factory as china painter, advancing to the position of head decorator by 1790, famed particularly for his flower painting. The first of his ventures in the manufacture of porcelain was at Pinxton, then he went to Mansfield and later to Torksey, Lincolnshire, and then to Worcester (about 1808), finally setting up on his own at Nantgarw in 1813, Swansea in 1814, back to Nantgarw 1817-20, then to Coalport, where he worked for John Rose who obtained his formula. He died in poverty in 1828. Billingsley seems the most attractive of all the English arcanists (those who had to work with him probably thought otherwise); he failed and failed and failed again; but the superb Nantgarw and early Swansea porcelain that remains to us is his monument.

Bilston: Town in south Staffordshire where decorated enamelware was produced during the eighteenth century. Much painted enamelware attributed to Battersea (q.v.) was probably made at Bilston in the second half of the eighteenth century. (Bilston was a considerable pottery centre for most of the nineteenth century.)

Birch: A wood that takes staining well and was much used in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century for painted, japanned and gilt furniture.,/P>

Bird Cage Clock: A lantern clock, composed entirely of metal, the case being rectangular with a framing of turned angle pillars, the space between the pillars filled in by front and back plates and side doors.

Bird Call: Whistle, often of pottery, in the form of a bird.

Bird's Eye: A veneer patterned with spots.

Biscuit: Porcelain, stoneware and pottery after the first baking and before the application of glaze.

Bismuth: A metal sometimes added to pewter, which it hardens.

Black Egyptian: Basalts (q.v.).

Black-glazed Ware: Red earthenware body covered with a lustrous black glaze as made in the eighteenth century by Whieldon and other Staffordshire potters and at Jackfield, Salop. Such wares are sometimes called 'Jackfield' wares.

Black Work: Black silk embroidery on linen; Tudor; probably introduced into England from Spain and sometimes called 'Spanish Work'.

Blanc-de-chine: See Te-hua porcelain.

Blobs: Pimples of glass applied in molten state to glassware as decoration. Also known as mascaroons, prunts, seals.

Block Foot: Furniture leg ending in a rectangular base.

'Blue and White': Pottery and porcelain painted in cobalt blue under the glaze. This form of decoration probably originated in the Near East and was first applied to porcelain by the Chinese in the fourteenth century.

Blue Dash Chargers: Tin-enamelled ware circular dishes with a border of blue dashes round the rim, made from the early seventeenth century to the middle of the eighteenth.

Blunderbuss: A short musket of large bore flaring at the muzzle, probably first made in Holland in the 1620's. They were never intended to fire nails and odd bits of old iron, but were charged with powder, a wad, a measured quantity of balls or shot and then another wad; no doubt effective at close range, the main idea was to frighten by means of the broad flash.

Bocage: The floral or foliage background to figures or groups so favoured by eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century porcelain-makers.

Boccaro: The term derives from the name given by the Portuguese to Mexican red pottery and is applied to several types of reddish stoneware, notably the Chinese wares of Yi-Hsing as imported into Europe in the seventeenth century.

Bog Oak: Wood obtained from trees found submerged in peat bogs in Ireland.

Bohemian Glass: Glass was made in Bohemia from the Middle Ages. Enamelled glass dates from the latter half of the sixteenth century, superb cut-glass from c. 1700; Zwischengoldglaser or 'gold sandwich' glass was an eighteenth-century development. In the first half of the nineteenth century a great variety of excellent glass was made, cut and engraved, tinted glasses of many types, spun glass and millefiori, glass painted with transparent enamel colours, cased glass.

Bokhara Rugs: Turcoman rugs of which there are several types, notably the Royal Bokhara which usually has a red ground with blue and ivory patterns, the Tekke Bokhara, on which the distinguishing pattern is large and small octagons in blue or ivory on dark red or brown ground, the Katchli Bokhara, with the field divided into four by broad bands, the decorative motifs being Y-shaped and in blue on a dark red or brown ground.

Bolection: A moulding projecting above the surface of the framework enclosing a panel.

Bolt and Shutter Maintaining Power: The device that keeps the power of a clock running for a few minutes while the clock is being wound.

Bombe (French='blown-out'): Term applied to furniture with a swelling outline towards the base.

Bonbonnires: Small box, often elaborately shaped, for sweetmeats; of gold, silver, enamelled ware, porcelain.

Bone China: Hard porcelain rendered soft, or half soft, by an admixture of bone ash; the standard body in England from the end of the eighteenth century.

Bonheur-du joar: A small fitted writing table on tall slender legs; mid-Georgian.

Bookcase: The bookcase was not made in England to any extent until there was a reading public that demanded it. By the late seventeenth century bookcases were to be found in college libraries and in the homes of a few book-lovers such as Samuel Pepys. The breakfront, or wing, bookcase was an early Georgian contribution, and later there was a demand for a bookcase with the upper stage glazed. The dwarf bookcase, with two or three tiers of shelves, came in during the Regency period.

Book Rest: Portable book rest for the support of large volumes and manuscripts. They were lightly constructed and comprised a squarish frame with horizontal bars pivoting in the uprights, the top bar being attached to an adjustable strut which supported the whole at the required angle. Mahogany usually. Georgian.

Boreman, Zachariah: Porcelain painter who worked at Chelsea till its close and then went to Derby and towards the end of the eighteenth century worked in London as an outside decorator. Landscapes were his speciality.

Bottger, Johann Friedrich (1682-1719): Alchemist in the service of Augustus the Strong of Saxony. Unable to produce gold, Bottger was set to work on the porcelain problem and by 1708 he succeeded to the extent of producing white unglazed porcelain, evolving a satisfactory glaze in 1709, in which year he also announced the invention of a very hard red stoneware. The Meissen factory was set up in 1710 to manufacture these wares. See Meissen.

Boulle Work: A process of inlay that derives from the Parisian ebeniste Andre Charles Boulle (1642-1732). This decoration of furniture is a form of marquetry in brass and tortoiseshell or horn, the patterns being cut out of the two materials (fixed together) in one operation. Earliest examples date from about 1680. Ormolu mounts usually go with Boulle furniture. Only a little furniture in the style was made in England, but French workshops produced large quantities of reproductions during the nineteenth century.

Boulton, Matthew: Noted eighteenth-century producer of ormolu, silver, Sheffield plate, steel-cut jewellery. Boulton is the only English manufacturer of ormolu who can be seriously compared to the best French makers. He did work to the designs of Robert Adam.

Bourne & Son: A firm noted for their stoneware; there were factories at Belper and Denby, Derbyshire; brown salt-glazed wares were a speciality from the beginning (c. 1812). The firm is still in existence.

Boutet, Nicolas Noel: Eighteenth-century French gun-maker, director of the Royal arms factory at Versailles, whose weapons were superbly ornamental.

Bow: The usual date to which the foundation of the Bow porcelain factory is assigned is 1744 and the co-founders are named as Thomas Frye and Edward Heylin, but no porcelain is known to survive from this early period. From 1749 porcelain with bone-ash in the body was produced, often decorated in relief and showing Oriental influences. The early paste is soft, thick, heavy; the products of Bow are much less fine than those of Chelsea; but many figures are lively and their very lack of sophistication finds favour with collectors today. The first use of transfer-printed decoration is often attributed to Bow, but examples are rare. From 1760 onwards a decline set in, there is a greyness about the paste, decoration got out of hand and figures lack the liveliness that is an attribute of Bow at its best.

Marks are many and confusing: the arrow, the dagger, the anchor, the bow and arrow, the anchor and dagger, the arrow so stylized as to comprise only a circle, a line and a point, the large 'B', the large 'n', many others including workmen's marks (the 'T' and 'T.F.' may be the initials of the founder, Thomas Frye).

It is said that William Duesbury took over the Bow factory in 1776, closed it down and removed the moulds to Derby.

Bow Front: Convex or swell front.

Boxwood: A hard wood of light yellow colour, with close, compact grain and fine, uniform texture; used in marquetry and inlay.

Bracket Clock: A portable clock, a mantel clock. Some such clocks were made with their own matching brackets but survivals are rare.

Bracket Cornice: Cornice supported by brackets.

Bradwell Wood: Probable site in Staffordshire of the Elers' (q.v.) pottery factory where they made their red ware from c. 1693 to c. 1700.

Branch: Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century term for a chandelier.

Branch Veneer: Veneer cut from the small branches of a tree.

Bras de Lumwe: French term for wall-light.

Brass: Alloy of copper with tin, zinc or other base metal.

Brasses: Handles, handle-plates and escutcheons on furniture.

Breakfast Table: A small table with hinged flap extensions supported on brackets; mid-Georgian onwards.

Breakfront: The front line of furniture as broken by projections and/or recesses.

Bristol Glass: Glass was made at Bristol in the late seventeenth century, and one manufacturer, Jacob Little (died 1752), is associated with opaque white glass. The famous 'enamel glass', made at other centres but never so superbly as at Bristol, is dense white, like porcelain, painted with enamels in imitation of china painting. 'Bristol-Blue', now a generic term for any dark blue translucent glass, should strictly be applied to the intense deep blue translucent glass, not necessarily made at Bristol, containing Saxon smalt, produced 1761-90.

Bristol Porcelain: (1) Soft paste. The factory (originally a glass-house) founded about 1749 by Benjamin Lund and William Miller. Soaprock was used in the paste. Few examples survive, mostly service-ware, small items like sauce-boats. The marks 'Bristoll' and 'Bristoll 1750' are known. The factory transferred to Worcester in 1752 and wares which cannot be assigned with certainty to one or the other manufacture are designated 'Bristol/Worcester'. The term 'Lund's Bristol' is often used; so is 'Lowdin's Bristol' (William Lowdin was the original owner of the glass-house).

(2) Hard paste. The Plymouth factory of William Cookworthy was transferred to Bristol in 1770. Cookworthy withdrew from the venture in 1773 and it was carried on by Richard Champion until closure in 1782, after which Cookworthy's patent passed to New Hall.

Champion looked to Meissen and Sevres for his inspiration. Some figures were made, but tableware was the staple product. A wide range of porcelains were manufactured, ranging from lavish made-to-order services to 'cottage Bristol' of a humble kind.

The cross in various crude shapes is the main mark, sometimes accompanied by a date or a number. The crossed swords of Meissen were used a lot.

Bristol Pottery: Delftware was made at Bristol from the midseventeenth century, first at Brislington and then at Temple Back and Redcliffe and other factories, until the late eighteenth century, from which period and for most of the nineteenth century various types of earthenware were made. The delftware is scarce and difficult to identify; the earthenware is similar to the general Staffordshire wares.

Britannia Metal: An alloy, consisting of 90 per cent tin and 10 per cent antimony, which has a white silvery appearance, invented in the mid-eighteenth century. A cheaper alloy containing 94 per cent tin and 5 per cent antimony has a small addition of copper, which gives it a slightly yellow colour.

Britannia Standard: Adopted for silver in 1697 when, to stop silversmiths melting down the coinage, the standard of purity was raised to 11 oz. 10 dwt. pure silver to each pound troy. The old standard was resumed in 1720, but the Britannia or Higher standard was left optional.

Brocade: Originally a textile fabric with the design worked in gold or silver thread; later, silks so decorated were called brocades. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries some furniture was upholstered with brocade covers.

Broken Front: See Breakfront.

Broken Pediment: A pediment broken by means of omitting the apex, a favoured device with cabinet-makers in the eighteenth century.

Bronze: An alloy of copper and tin in varying proportions but averaging nine parts of copper to one of tin. The ease with which it can be cast and worked have ensured its popularity since Neolithic times.

Broussa Rugs: Silk rugs from or near city of Broussa; Turkish designs, brilliantly coloured and with metallic threads. Ghior diz knot, 500-600 to square inch, make for fineness and a pile that does not break open when bent backwards. Nor do these rugs curl. Silk fringes.

Brown Bess Musket: A long-arm with short wooden stock, precursor of the modern infantry weapon, weight about lO lb., length of barrel 46 in., equipped with the bridle lock and capable of firing 6 shots a minute but inaccurate beyond 80 yards. This musket was the British Army's principal firearm in the eighteenth century; the name possibly derives from the fact that the barrel was browned by pickling to reduce glare and rusting.

Brussels Carpets: Carpets woven as velvet, the looped thread cut to form a pile, but in wool and other coarse materials. This was the type of carpet made at Wilton and Kidderminster (qq.v.).

Buen Retiro: Porcelain factory transferred from Capo-diMonte (q.v.), when Charles became King of Spain in 1759, to the grounds of the royal palace of Buen Retiro, near Madrid. Soft porcelain of good quality was made until the factory closed in 1808. The mark is the fleur-de-lys in various forms.

Buhl: See Boulle.

Bun Foot: Flattened version of the ball foot (q.v.); dates from about 1660.

Bureau: A French term that appears in England in the late seventeenth century, but it has not been clearly distinguished from other terms such as secretary, scrutoire and escritoire used for writing desks or cabinets. By 1803 Sheraton could say (in his Cabinet Dictionary) that the term was 'applied to common desks with drawers under them'. In combination the word is used for Bureau-Bookcase, Bureau-Cabinet, BureauDressing-table, Bureau-Table; Bureau-Writing-table, TallboyBureau. A Bureau plat is not used of an English piece of furniture but refers to a writing-table with a flat top and drawers beneath as made in France from the beginning of the eighteenth century.

Burmese Glass: (also Queen's Burmese) Smooth but unpolished semi-opaque ware shading pink to yellow.

Burrs: Knotted wood taken from the outside of the trunkor the stump-of a tree, which shows a mottled figure, valued for veneering.

Butterfly Table: A table in which the supports for the droptops are not the legs but hinged pieces of wood shaped like a butterfly's wing.

Bustelli, Franz Anton (1723-63): Master modeller at the Nymphenburg porcelain factory from 1754 to 1763 and esteemed as the greatest artist working in porcelain in the eighteenth century. The master of the rococo style, he drew his strongest inspiration from the theatre, and figures deriving from the Italian comedy are his masterpieces.

Butler's Tray: A standing tray, often of the X-shaped folding type, 'a sideboard for the butler' made for most of the eighteenth century. A gallery round the top is quite common and some are oval in shape.