Friday, January 25, 2013

"Dish" by Shax Riegler

There are those of us who have a real passion for collecting dishes, and now we have a fine book to indulge our dish lust, "Dish" by Shax Riegler. It might be the sort of book some of us should stay away from, though, for it's impossible to read a chapter without finding something new to love!

Riegler says that in the late 1600s, some dish collectors were said to have the maladie de porcelaine, or "porcelain sickness," a desire to acquire more and more dishes. (Guilty!) By 1880, this cartoon in Punch's Almanack was making fun of the dish craze by showing a young English lass wearing a dress made of dishes. I wonder what that cartoonist would think of this dress I saw at Anthropologie over Christmas!

There is so much to love about this book I hardly know where to begin, but I can tell you that one of my favorite chapters was the flower-laden one on patterns featuring "Flora & Fauna." In the opening spread, I was charmed to see so much floral chintz, as well as my Johnson Brothers Rose Chintz pattern at upper left.

Something I do not have, but would love to own, is a set of vintage monogrammed dishes. Aren't these monogrammed pieces exquisite? *Sigh.* I found my book, by the way, used but in excellent condition, for 79 cents on, and I've certainly gotten way more than 79 cents worth of enjoyment out of it! In addition to all the pretty photos, this book gives lots of fun facts and anecdotes. Here are a few of my favorites:

• In 1518, a rich Roman banker wanted to impress his guests by insuring that no plates were used twice during a banquet, so he had servants toss all the plates used during a course into the Tiber River. Afterwards, the pieces were retrieved from a net that had secretly been lowered into the river beforehand!

• The difference between a "plate" and a "dish"? A plate is 1/2 inch deep. A dish is up to 1-1/2 inches deep. ("Even so," says Riegler, "the words are often used interchangeably.")

• "The white china plate is the little black dress of the dining table," he says.

• What Riegler calls "the smeary effect" on flow blue is a result of cobalt pigment running during a piece's firing. One legend claims that many years ago, this mistake was considered to be ruinous to a batch of plates in an English factory, but the owner said "Oh, they will do for the American market." (Humph. I'd be insulted if I weren't so pleased such gorgeous "mistakes" were preserved—and now highly collectible!)

• Portmeirion Potteries in England was founded in 1960 and "launched its first Botanic Garden pieces in 1972 after founder Susan Williams-Ellis bought Thomas Green's 1817 book The Universal Herbal and decided to apply the illustrations to tableware." I didn't know that!

Oh, and my five patterns from yesterday? They're among those pictured in the back of the book, part of a list of the 100 most popular patterns ever as named by Replacements, Ltd. in North Carolina. If you're like me, you'll enjoy checking to see if any of your patterns are on this list!


  1. Good morning Angela,
    Isn't this the most wonderful book??!! I found it in the Metropolitan Museum of Art last summer when Lady B and I went into the city (NY) for our tea. To say I am a dish lover would be an understatement. You find the best things. Anyone who is the same should definitely have this book.
    Happy Day, Ruthie

  2. I'm so glad I'm not the only one who shares an obsession for dishware! Looks like a wonderful book, I'm heading off to right now to look for a copy. Heidi T.

  3. Interesting facts Angela. I'm not a dish collector and am taken aback that flawed china would be good enough for the American market. Always nice to find a book relating to a passion and of course I'm always looking for new gardening books for my library.

  4. What a wonderful book! I'll be looking for this one.

  5. Angela, you are THE BEST when it comes to sharing with your readers. I have purchased so many things you've written about on your blog that I wouldn't have known about otherwise. I think this book will be one of them!

  6. What a great book! I must be infected as well. Love the cartoon of the dress, and the pages of china pattern mosaics are lovely!

  7. Thank you, thank you Angela for writing about this book - I am going to get this one, it sounds great! When I saw that cartoon of the woman wearing the plates, I thought of the display of plates on the mannequin that you featured! Too funny. Is there a word for 'a collector of tea cups & saucers?' I know I have a hard time resisting. Joanie

  8. What a great book for the dish collector!! Thanks for the information about my little diamond-shaped dish. It was all alone on the shelf. I'm sure I would have passed up a club or a spade.

  9. Just the book for a dish collector like me. I guess I've been "infected" since I was a little girl! An interesting post; thank you!

  10. Sounds like an interesting book.

  11. Oooh...I'll have to look this book up! I love the pretty floral plates!

    thanks for sharing.
    Stop by to enter my current giveaway, if you wish.

    ciao bella
    Creative Carmelina

  12. What a fun book. Perfect for a china collector for sure.


Thanks so much for taking time to leave a comment! It makes my day to hear from readers!