‘As it’s called in the Trade’ – more generous help to the research project

Thanks again to the vast number of interested, and interesting, individuals who follow the Antique Dealer research project we continue to build an archive of the Cultural History of the Antique Trade.  And this time our thanks go to our friend and colleague, Dr Howard Coutts, Curator of Decorative Art and Ceramics at The Bowes Museum, in County Durham.  Howard very generously donated a small box of antique dealer related ephemera that he recently discovered in a charity shop – Thank You Howard!

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Material for the proposed book ‘As it’s Called in the Trade’. Early 1980s. Photograph, Antique Dealers Project, University of Leeds, 2017.

The material appears to be an outline draft structure and associated images for a publication entitled ‘As it’s Called in the Trade’, composed by the writer Brian Jewell, apparently in the early 1980s. Brian Jewell (1925-2006) was a prolific author, with at least 20 publications, ranging from local history subjects to military history.  He appears to have been something of a specialist in military history, indeed he also appears to have been in an editorial role for the journal ‘Soldier‘ in the early 1990s (‘Soldier‘ has been published since the Second World War, and continues to be produced), whilst running something called ‘War Room – Collection and Sound Archive’ in Harrogate, West Yorkshire.  Jewell also produced a small number of books on collecting in the 1970s and 1980s, including, Antique Sewing Machines (1985), Smoothing Irons: a history and collector’s guide (1977), and Collecting for Tomorrow (1979) – and was obviously preparing to produce a book on collecting antique furniture, as this archive demonstrates.

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Photographs and draft structures for ‘As it’s Called in the Trade’. Photo., Antique Dealer Project, University of Leeds, 2017.

I don’t know why his proposed book ‘As it’s Called in the Trade’ did not hit the press, but the small amount of archive material that Howard donated to us suggests that considerable work had already been done.

The material consists of a few pages of draft structures for the book, with title and chapter headings (all relatively conventional for the time, as one would expect), and a large amount of black and white photographs of antique furniture, all from Bonhams auctioneers, from what must have a been a series of English and Continental Furniture auctions in 1980 and 1981.

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18th century ‘library chair’. Original photograph copyright Bonhams Auctioneers.

Back in those days, the major auction houses used to classify auctions into collecting categories – ‘English Furniture’ ‘French Furniture’ ‘Continental Furniture’ etc etc…today of course the big auction houses are much more keyed into evolving and expanding markets and titles of auctions often follow sophisticated marketing and promotional techniques  – hence auctions titled ‘Interiors’ and the numerous ‘curated’ auctions in more recent times.

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One of a pair of ‘George III Pier Tables’, original photograph, Bonhams Auctioneers, 1981.

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Verso of ‘Pier Table’ photo – with details of price realized and buyer. Bonhams Auctioneers, 1981.

What is of particular interest to the antique dealer project in the small archive is how it further illustrates the synergies between the developing literature on the history of objects such as ‘antique furniture’ and the wider art market structures – the relationships between discourses if you like. This is made much more evident when one examines the back of the photographs – all of which have a range of art market information on them.

In this instance, this pair of ‘George III Pier Tables’ was sold at Bonhams auction on 28th July 1981, when they made £7,200, and were recorded as being sold to the dealer ‘Turpin’ – (M. Turpin Antiques, which was then run by the well known dealer ‘Dick’ Turpin, who was at the time trading from Mansion Mews, London SW7).

 

Other photographs similarly illustrate furniture sold at the auction house of Bonhams in 1980 and 1981. The ‘library chair’ in the photograph above for example, was one of a set of eight chairs sold at Bonhams on 25th March 1980 for £10,500 to the dealer ‘Williamson’ (possibly R.G. Williamson, then trading in Devon).  Other photographs just record the description of the object, auction lot number, and priced realized, such as this ‘George III mahogany serpentine chest’ which was sold at Bonhams on 17th July 1980 for £1,250. (There are probably buyer’s premiums to add to these figures of course, which in those days was c.10%).

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A ‘George III…chest’. Original photograph Bonham Auctioneers, 1980.

All of this is not unusual of course – why wouldn’t a publication that intends to provide illustrations of antique furniture seek photographs of antique furniture that have recently been circulating on the art market.  But there is an interesting genealogy here, if we remember that many of the founding texts that focused on the history of English Furniture, which began to appear with increasing frequency from the period 1900 onwards, had also drawn their illustrations of key objects from the corpus of photographed examples circulating in the antique trade in the period. Attention to the meanings of this observation is something that the project is considering, and I’d like to say thank you again to Howard Coutts for providing us with yet another example of the significant interaction between discourse and the market.

Mark

 

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