Oh, Vienna! (1873)

A little while ago we received an enquiry that had us delving into the pages of SD 1705/MS1385, a different type of Exhibition-related volume than the Estimate Books we made available around this time last year. As of today you too can browse this item in its entirety, whilst here on the blog we’re going to look how this volume and its Estimate Book cousin, SD 1705/MS1469, fit together and ferret out some interesting statistics from its pages as well.

Although both volumes contain information about the items Minton took to the Vienna Exhibition in 1873 there are some significant differences between the two. Like the rest of the Estimate Books MS1469 has a specific printed layout which allows for detailed descriptions and breakdowns of costs for each line item, whereas MS1385 seems to have been written into a standard ledger, with crossed-out headings and other such adaptations to the layout. The item descriptions are also slimmed down considerably compared to those in the Estimate Book, though thankfully shape number references remain – it was via these that we spotted major discrepancies between the two sets of “V”-prefixed identification numbers used in each volume. At some point this confusing mismatch was attended to by the addition of some red-inked “V” numbers in the Estimate Book but a little more time spent comparing descriptions and shape numbers might be necessary to see if these cross-reference corrections were completed.

Although this “V”-prefix confusion makes things a little trickier than they otherwise should be it’s still possible to match items across the volumes and to compare the monetary figures attached to them. MS1385 includes both a “Stoke Price” and an adjacent column headed “Vienna Florins”, and in the Estimate Book figures are given either with or without breakdowns for specific parts of the production process (“Colour”, “Painting”, “Firing”, “Gold” etc.), depending on the piece. Whether this figure represents a cost or selling price has always been unclear and in this instance it seems as though it can be both: sometimes the Estimate Book figure is much lower than the ledger’s “Stoke Price”, suggesting it relates to the production cost, but for other items the values match across the volumes.

The most striking difference between the two volumes, however, is that MS1385 also includes a column for the purchaser of each piece sold at the exhibition, naming both individuals and institutions. In the same list there are items being “Returned to Walbrook”, a (thankfully!) small amount marked as broken, and even the ewer and basin that was “given to [the] policeman” at the close of the exhibition. No sooner had we digitised the volume than we were wondering what interesting statistics we might be able to tease out from its pages, so in the next post we’ll put our palaeography and maths skills to the test… with a little help from Microsoft Excel whenever the latter begins to fall apart! In the meantime, here’s the new volume and its Estimate Book buddy to peruse together.

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