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Antique Collectors' Dictionary (P1)

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Pilaster: A rectangular pillar engaged in a wall and projecting only a fraction of its breadth. Carried over from architecture to furniture, pilasters are employed at corners of bureaux, cabinets, etc., also to divide fronts and frame doors.

Pinchbeck: An alloy (comprising chiefly zinc and copper) of a gold colour invented by the London clock-maker Christopher Pinchbeck, `the only Maker of the True and genuine metal' which, it was claimed, was not to be distinguished by the nicest eye from real gold. It was used for many small items in the eighteenth century.

Pinewood: Timber from a genus of resin-producing trees, having a straight grain and being easy to work. Little used before the Restoration, it was employed for carcase work in veneer furniture and for such carved and gilt furniture as picture frames and cabinet-stands. During the eighteenth century it was used a good deal for carvers' pieces.

Pinxton: A small porcelain factory was established at Pinxton, Derbyshire, by William Billingsley in 1796, perhaps in partnership with John Coke, on whose estate the factory was situated. Coke almost certainly provided the capital to launch the enterprise. Billingsley pulled out in 1801 but the factory continued in being till about 1812, latterly under the management, perhaps ownership, of John Cutts, a painter responsible for much of the decoration.

Most of the porcelain produced, mainly table wares and small vases, was in the style of Derby; but after Bi1linUsley left there was a considerable deterioration. Output was always small and Pinxton porcelain is accordingly scarce. A largeheaded arrow is a recurring mark.

Pipe Rack: Various types for holding clay pipes include (1) metal frame for cleaning pipes on a hot oven-also known as a pipe-kiln; (2) wooden stand fitted with a pierced disc, on a central standard, through which the stems of the pipes passed; (3) a hanging rack of wood constructed to hold pipes in a horizontal position supported on indented uprights; (4) a wooden fixture with a backboard fitted with two narrow cross bars pierced to receive the pipes.

Planewood: Timber of the maple-leaved plane which, according to the Cabinet Dictionary (1803), was used instead of beech by country furniture-makers for painted chairs.

Plaque: An ornamental plate affixed to furniture, chimneypieces, etc. Wedgwood plaques are notable; metal, chiefly bronze, plaques for the decoration of furniture were favoured during the Regency.

Plaquette: A small plaque (like a medal) for the decoration of furniture and domestic utensils.

Plate: Wares of gold, solid silver or silver-gilt. Because of possible (and frequent) confusion the terms `gold plate' and `silver plate' are often used; this is particularly the case with the latter in order to distinguish such wares from Sheffield plate, electro-plate, etc.

Plateau: A stand resting on a plinth or short legs, serving as a centre ornament for the dining-table. In fashion during the late years of the eighteenth century and early in the nineteenth century. Some are in fact a mirror in a metal frame and may have a low decorative gallery.

Plate Money: The largest coins ever made, square-shaped, being sometimes 40 lb. in weight (the copper equivalent of what was the silver value); a Swedish curiosity issued in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Plate Pail: A bucket or basket-like container for carrying plates from the kitchen to the dining-room; used in big houses during the eighteenth century when such a journey could be an arduous one. Nearly always of mahogany, the shape was usually circular or polygonal, there would be an open section for easy access, and the handle was most often of brass.

Plinth: In architecture, the square base of a column, and by analogy the base of a piece of furniture, etc., when not supported on feet.

Plique a Jour: See Enamel.

Plumwood: Yellow wood with red heart, very hard, used in country furniture.

Plymouth: The first hard-paste porcelain to be made in England was made at Coxside, Plymouth, by William Cookworthy, who patented his formula and founded the Plymouth factory in 1768. But in 1770 the factory, which seems to have been financially unsound from the start, was moved to Bristol, and in 1773 Cookworthy withdrew from the venture. Inevitably Plymouth porcelain is scarce. The body is very hard. Clumsiness of execution and decoration is typical, with frequent smoke stains, firecracks, specks and warping and running. Decoration includes underglaze blue (which looks greyish), enamel painting, and things like salt cellars and sauce boats are often ornamented in relief with shells, coral and seaweed, but much Plymouth porcelain is undecorated.

And much Plymouth porcelain is unmarked. A few pieces bear the complete name PLYMOUTH, and the inscription `Mr. W. Cookworthy's Factory Plymouth 1770' has been recorded. But many marks were used and continued to be used after the factory was removed to Bristol. Characteristic is the `2/4' mark, the vertical stroke of the four being shaped like a two.

Pole Screen: Small screen, often oval in shape, mounted on a tall pole which usually stands on a tripod base. These screens are adjustable, and the panel is frequently of needlework.

Polish (Furniture): The use of oil, linseed particularly, to preserve furniture is of considerable antiquity. From the twelfth to the sixteenth century it was the usual practice to paint furniture. Polishing with oil, turpentine, beeswax, was practised from the sixteenth century. Walnut for use in furniture was sometimes heated and made to `sweat' and then polished with its own oil. `French' polish was introduced into England from France about 1820 and much old furniture was scraped and French polished in the nineteenth century.

Polonaise Carpets: Persian but with Western influence suggested by the balanced composition and foreign motifs (these superb carpets are something of a puzzle to the experts). Woven of wool but more frequently of silk, and incorporating gold and silver thread, many shades of many colours are exquisitely blended, the larger areas of lighter tones contrasting with small pockets of vivid deep colouring.

Pontil Mark: See Punty Mark.

Pontypool Japanned Ware: Local (Pontypool, Monmouthshire) metal ware japanned with a by-product of coal developed by the Allgood family from the latter half of the seventeenth century. Small things such as trays and dressing boxes are typical.

Poplar: A timber ranging in colour from whitish yellow to grey; used for inlay in the sixteenth and early seventeenth century.

Porcelain: (1) HARD-PASTE. Hard or `True' porcelain contains two essential ingredients known to the Chinese as kao-lin (china clay) and pai-tun-tzu (china stone), both of which are products of feldspar rock in varying stages of decay. The main characteristic of kaolin is that it will take and retain almost any shape. Pai-tun-tzu, or petuntse, which is the more usual French form, acts as the cement. Kaolin requires a higher temperature to fuse it than does the petuntse. The mixture of refractory white kaolin and fusible petuntse unite in the firing into a dense, white, translucent, resonant material, namely porcelain. The temperature required to bring this about is approximately 1,450 degrees Centigrade. The mixture before firing is usually called the `paste'.

Porcelain comprises the `body' and the `glaze'. The latter is an outer skin containing petuntse and in hard porcelain is nearly always fired at the same time as and in one operation with the body. Rarely, the glaze is applied later in a second firing which will be at a somewhat lower temperature. Hard porcelain is translucent though the degree of translucency may vary greatly. It should also `ring' when struck. And it should be so hard that it will withstand efforts to cut it with the edge of a file. Worth bearing in mind is that for the Chinese the criterion for porcelain is that it `rings' when struck, whereas for the European translucency is all important.

It is generally agreed that porcelain was first made by :lie Chinese in the late seventh or early eighth century A.D. A merchant writing in 851 tells of drinking vessels made of a clay as fine as glass through which the shimmer of water could be seen. The body of surviving specimens cannot be scratched with steel and is white and translucent; but it is said that kaolin was not used. Those Chinese porcelains with which we are most familiar-of the Ming and Ching dynasties-do contain kaolin and a greater proportion of petuntse than is usual in European porcelain. This means that the wares are somewhat softer and did not require such a high firing temperature as the European.

The Chinese kept their secret and their monopoly for a millenium and it was not till the early years of the eighteenth century that Johann Friedrich Bdttger produced the first true porcelain to be made in Europe, which led to the founding, in 1710, of the Royal Saxon Porcelain Manufacture at Meissen, near Dresden. A factory was established at Vienna some ten years later and by the mid-eighteenth century there were a number of German factories producing hard porcelain. S6vres, which at first had made soft-paste porcelain, introduced a hard-paste body in 1770. It may be said that on the Continent soft-paste formulae were used only until such time as the hard-paste formula could be obtained.

But this was not so in England, where true porcelain has been but little made. William Cookworthy experimented for many years before founding his factory at Plymouth in 1768. He made hard-paste porcelain there till 1770 when the factory was removed to Bristol. Cookworthy soon withdrew from the enterprise which continued under Richard Champion till about 1782. Some hard-paste porcelain was made at the small New Hall (Staffordshire) factory from about 1780 to 1812. All the other English factories made soft-paste porcelains. But from the early years of the nineteenth century `bone china' was the staple English product.

Porcelain: (2) SOFT-PASTE. Soft or `artificial' porcelain differs from hard-paste porcelain (see above) in that it is a `softer' material, that it requires less heat (about 1,100 degrees Centigrade as against 1,450 degrees Centigrade for hard) to fuse it, that it can be scratched or cut with metal (the edge of a file) that the glaze was always added afterwards.

It was inevitable the European potters desirous of producing a ware that would partake of the translucency of Chinese porcelain should introduce glass into the mix. This was first done successfully at Florence about 1560, the product being known as Medici porcelain. Surviving examples are very rare indeed. It was not till the beginning of the eighteenth century that any great quantity of porcelain was produced. St Cloud was probably the first successful French factory (from before 1700), followed by Chantilly, Mennecy, Vincennes, S6vres; in Italy, Nove (before 1730), Doccia, Capo-di-Monte ...

Whereas in Europe the basic ingredients were clay and ground glass, in England bone-ash and, in a few cases, soaprock, were preferred to glass. Bone-ash makes for easier working and seems to have been first used at Bow about 1750, then later at Chelsea, Derby and other centres. Soaprock was first used at Bristol in 1748, other factories to use it being Worcester, Caughley, Liverpool.

Porringer: A deep bowl with upright sides and an almost flat bottom and two handles or ears. Unlike the posset-pot (q.v.) the porringer rarely has a cover and was intended for porridge and broth rather than hot drinks. The so-called bleeding-bowls were probably small porringers before imagination got to work on them.

Porter's Chair: Chair for use of servant on duty in the halls of large houses; upholstered in leather and with enclosed (arched) top to keep out draughts.

Portland Vase: A vase of cameo glass thought to have been made at Alexandria about the time of Christ. Its various owners included the Duchess of Portland; hence the name. The vase was lent to the British Museum and was smashed by an idiot in 1845 (it has been restored). But before this tragedy took place Wedgwood had made a copy of the vase in his jasper ware (q.v.), a task that took him three years, 1786-90. A number of specimens were made and there have been subsequent editions.

Posset-pot: A caudle cup, forerunner of the porringer, dating from the seventeenth century. The form is usually bell-shaped and nearly all posset-pots have (or had) a cover. Silver examples are the most esteemed, naturally, but they are very scarce and the collector is more likely to encounter specimens of pottery. See Porringer.

Potato Ring: Circular silver stand, probably for a bowl or dish, usually embossed and/or pierced; made in Ireland in the second half of the eighteenth century.

Pot Board: Low shelf under a dresser.

Pot Bracket: A pivoting iron bracket, from which pots could be suspended, that swings out over the fire.

Pot Crane: A pot bracket (see above) with a crane-like device for lowering or raising the pot(s).

Pothanger or Hake or Hook: The hook that hung from pot bracket and crane, sometimes with a ratchet for adjusting height.

Pot Lids: The lids of jars made to contain pomades, etc. Decoration is polychrome colour printing under the glaze done by a mechanical process. Nineteenth century.

Pottery: Generic term applied to all ceramic substances other than porcelain (though, all too often, porcelain is included under this heading); the two types of pottery are earthenware and stoneware (qq.v.). Pottery is simply clay baked to a certain degree of hardness which will vary according to the duration and intensity of the firing. Such elements as sand or calcined flints are added to certain wares.

Pounce: The powder formerly used to dry ink was so-called. The pounce-box or pounce-pot was the container-cumsprinkler. By extension a fine `powdered' (matted) effect on metal was termed `pouncing'.

Powder Blue: Ceramic decoration, under the glaze, in which the powdered pigment is blown on the ware; first used by the Chinese in the second half of the seventeenth century and later copied by many European factories (notably Worcester in England).

Pratt Ware: Earthenware decorated with high-temperature colours as made by Felix Pratt of Lane Delph. Robust jugs, often with decoration in relief, bearded faces, and figures, are quite common. The Pratt family were active throughout the nineteenth century.

Press Bed: A folding bed made to pack into a concealing press or cupboard.

Pressed Glass: Glass made in a mould without blowing. The mould is partly filled with molten glass and a plunger, conforming to the inside shape of the vessel being made, is thrust into the mould and presses the molten glass into the cavities of the mould. First made in the United States about 1827, the invention usually credited to Enoch Robinson, and soon taken up in England.

Pricket: A spike for holding a candle, used in candlesticks before the introduction of the socket or nozzle. The term seems also to have been applied to the candle itself.

Prie-Dien (French= pray God): Kneeling desk, usually of oak, the hinged kneeling step a box for devotional books. Also prie-dieu chair: low seat and tall straight back with flat top on which the arms rest when praying.

Privy Council Ware: See Shu Fn.

Prunt: Small piece of ornamental glass, often shaped or impressed to represent blackberry or raspberry, dropped or laid on to a vase or other vessel.

Pranus Vase: See Mei Ping.

Punch Bowl: Silver punch bowls began to be made after the Restoration; the earliest examples are quite shallow; those dating from the end of the seventeenth century are larger and usually have removable rims or `collars' (see Monteith). Large bowls of pottery and porcelain were made by English factories in the eighteenth century, and these also formed a profitable branch of the Chinese export trade.

Punch Glass: Made from c. 1690. The bowl should be plain, clear, unadorned. Hot punch became popular about 1763 and punch glasses with handles were made from that time.

Purity Mark: The mark or scar under old blown glass made by the punty rod, with which the glass was held after removal from the blowpipe. `Punty' is sometimes spelt `pontil'.

Purdonium: Square wooden box with hinged lid, padded seat, removable container, for storing coal at fireside; often in pairs; Victorian.

Puzzle Jug Pottery drinking jug, usually with a full, pierced neck, which contains a hidden tube that enables the contents to be drained by suction. Several apertures (including one that may be hidden) are available to the drinker; he must drink from one, which he can only do if he successfully blocks all the others. Made at various centres during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; humorous inscriptions are often found on these jugs.