In l835 George Baxter patented a printing process which was to revolutionize the production of full color prints. Before this an engraving had to be hand tinted to produce a colored version, but first by printing the basic image in black outline from an engraved plate, then adding as many as twenty different colors, each printed from a separate plate, Baxter was able to produce exceedingly large amounts of an image in color very quickly and inexpensively.
When one of Baxters employees left him in l848 to team up with another printer by the name of F.W.Collins they patented a process similar to Baxters,but for printing on pottery. These men were able to evade the restrictions of Baxters patent by reversing the printing process.
Three separate colors- red-yellow and blue were printed first, then the black outline of the image was added. Felix Pratt a Staffordshire potter and the proprietor of F.& R Pratt and Co in Fenton, realized the commercial possibilities in producing multicolored wares. This factory produced the lids of thousands of small ceramic pots each year as packaging for products such as hand cream, rouge, meat and fish pastes, soothing salves and ointments, these lids were perfect to show off the new decorating technique.
Between l845 and about l875 Pratt and Company’s beautifully decorated pot lids with their wonderful scenes such as those from daily life, portraits of royalty and historical figures also animals, in fact, every picture imaginable were to be seen in most Victorian homes.For forty years the engraver Jessie Austin working with Pratt and Company created the engravings that decorated the lids, producing more than 450 designs over his long career.
Austin first made a drawing of his subject, then from the drawing a series of four copper plates were engraved, one for each of the three primary colors ( red blue and yellow ) and one for the black outlines. The pot lids were given a preliminary firing, then the colors were printed. By overlapping colors and letting them blend it was possible to create the secondary colors such as green, pink, lavender and orange. The black outlines were printed last then the lids were left to dry for two days.After being coated with a clear glaze they were then fired a final time. Some lids were also gilded around the rim.
The subjects printed on these lids gave a clue as to the contents of the pot. If for instance bears were illustrated this meant that the pot contained bear grease which was used for many purposes one such use for cleaning leather. Scenes with fish or men fishing were used for pots containing fish pastes, likewise meat paste pots illustrated scenes with boars or cattle. The scenes alone gave rise to what the pot contained, very rare were words. necessary except for the caption.
Pratt Ware The Shrimping Scene.
This pot contained Bear Grease used for cleaning leather
Sentimental scenes of everyday life in Victorian times like a family shown saying grace before a meal or the family sitting around the fire.
The Village Wedding.
These are just a few of the beautiful Pratt Ware Pot Lids and are among my favorites which I think you will agree are delightful and well worth collecting. You can still pick them up at a reasonable price.
And last but not least is a picture of one I managed to purchase myself a few years ago although damaged.
My Pot Lid.. The scene is of a sleeping tramp being watched by one young boy from behind a bush while another boy attempts to steal his bundle. The caption is ” I see you my boy “