New Book | Material Literacy in Eighteenth-Century Britain

Posted in books by Editor on November 19, 2020

From Bloomsbury:

Serena Dyer and Chloe Wigston Smith, eds., Material Literacy in Eighteenth-Century Britain: A Nation of Makers (New York: Bloomsbury, 2020), 328 pages, ISBN: 978-1501349614, $135.

The eighteenth century has been hailed for its revolution in consumer culture, but Material Literacy in Eighteenth-Century Britain repositions Britain as a nation of makers. It brings new attention to eighteenth-century craftswomen and men with its focus on the material knowledge possessed not only by professional artisans and amateur makers, but also by skilled consumers. This edited collection gathers together a group of interdisciplinary scholars working in the fields of art history, history, literature, and museum studies to unearth the tactile and tacit knowledge that underpinned fashion, tailoring, and textile production. It invites us into the workshops, drawing rooms, and backrooms of a broad range of creators, and uncovers how production and tacit knowledge extended beyond the factories and machines which dominate industrial histories.

This book illuminates, for the first time, the material literacies learnt, enacted, and understood by British producers and consumers. The skills required for sewing, embroidering, and the textile arts were possessed by a large proportion of the British population: men, women and children, professional and amateur alike. Building on previous studies of shoppers and consumption in the period, as well as narratives of manufacture, these essays document the multiplicity of small producers behind Britain’s consumer revolution, reshaping our understanding of the dynamics between making and objects, consumption and production. It demonstrates how material knowledge formed an essential part of daily life for eighteenth-century Britons. Craft technique, practice, and production, the contributors show, constituted forms of tactile languages that joined makers together, whether they produced objects for profit or pleasure.

Serena Dyer is Lecturer in History of Design and Material Culture at De Montfort University. She has taught at the University of Warwick and the University of Hertfordshire, and was Postdoctoral Fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. She was previously Curator of the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture. She has published on albums, wallpaper, consumer culture, and childhood in the eighteenth century. Her book, Material Lives: Women Makers and Consumer Culture in the Eighteenth Century, is forthcoming with Bloomsbury.

Chloe Wigston Smith is Senior Lecturer in the Department of English and Related Literature and the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies at the University of York. She is the author of Women, Work, and Clothes in the Eighteenth-Century Novel (Cambridge University Press, 2013), as well as articles on women in literature, material culture studies and fashion culture. Her current British Academy funded project looks at domestic crafts in the Atlantic world.


List of Figures
List of Tables
Notes on Contributors

1  Serena Dyer (De Montfort University) and Chloe Wigston Smith (University of York), Introduction
2  Ariane Fennetaux (University of Paris), ‘Work’d pockets to my entire satisfaction’: Women and the Multiple Literacies of Making
3  Crystal B. Lake (Wright State University), Needlework Verse
4  Chloe Wigston Smith (University of York), Domestic Crafts at the School of Arts
5  Nicole Pohl (Oxford Brookes University), ‘To Embroider what is Wanting’: Making, Consuming and Mending Textiles in the Lives of the Bluestockings
6  Jon Stobart (Manchester Metropolitan University), Material Literacies of Home Comfort in Georgian England
7  Serena Dyer (De Montfort University), Stitching and Shopping: The Material Literacy of the Consumer
8  Alicia Kerfoot (SUNY Brockport), Stitching the It-Narrative in The History and Adventures of a Lady’s Slippers and Shoes
9  Sarah Howard (Independent Scholar, UK), Making, Measuring and Selling in Hampshire: The Provincial Tailor’s Accounts of George and Benjamin Ferrey
10  Emily Taylor (National Museums Scotland), Gendered Making and Material Knowledge: Tailors and Mantua-Makers, c. 1760–1820
11  Hilary Davidson (University of Sydney), Dress and Dressmaking: Material Evolution in Regency Dress Construction
12  Elisabeth Gernerd (Historic Royal Palaces), Fancy Feathers: The Feather Trade in Britain and the Atlantic World
13  Robbie Richardson (University of Kent), Tomahawks and Scalping Knives: Manufacturing Savagery in Britain
14  Laura Engel (Duquesne University), The Lady Vanishes: Madame Tussaud’s Self Portrait and Material Legacies
15  Beth Fowkes Tobin (University of Georgia), Learning to Craft

Select Bibliography

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