“P” for Pattern Book: Norwich Textiles exported to Central and South America in 1763.

“There are other woollen fabrics coming from England, whose consumption is even more important than drapery. (…) All these fabrics are as highly esteemed in Mexico as they are in Spain (…). Indeed, some manufactured in France are even finer than those produced in Spain, but nevertheless those made in England are superior, as regards the variety of length, breadth and colour.” (Translated from Jean de Monségur, 1709, chap. XXXVII)

Pattern book, Norwich, 1763, worsted wool samples mounted on paper, 27 x 16 cm. London, Victoria and Albert Museum, given by Mrs Bland, 67-1885.

This volume of patterns for wool worsted, is a counterpart of patterns, from n°1 to n°239, with their lengths, breaths, and prices, sent out from Norwich textiles manufacturers (England), Wednesday February 16th 1763, to Exon, on Mr John Kelly’s voyage for Spain.

Pattern book, Norwich, 1763, worsted wool samples mounted on paper, 27 x 16 cm. London, Victoria and Albert Museum, given by Mrs Bland, 67-1885.

The pattern book lists fabrics of different sorts produced in the manufacture such as “fine brocaded satins, mosaics and rose figures”, striped and flowered satins, damasks, shaded, brocaded and “striped calimancoes” named: “florettas”, “martiniques”, “esteratas”, “harlequins”. Small pieces of fabrics glued on paper and bound as a book make a collection of samples from the Norwich textiles manufacturers.

Pattern book, Norwich, 1763, worsted wool samples mounted on paper, 27 x 16 cm. London, Victoria and Albert Museum, given by Mrs Bland, 67-1885.

From 1760’s some firms in Norwich started to seek orders directly from consumers overseas. John Kelly was the trade agent of Stannard, Taylor and Taxtor, a leading firm of Norwich textiles manufacturers until their bankruptcy in 1769.

This book is a matching copy (“counterpart”) of a set of pattern cards that John Kelly took with him, in 1763, in order to develop the firm’s trade with Spanish merchant houses in Seville, Madrid and Málaga. John Kelly was instructed to promise to accommodate the manufacturers’ products to the taste of the customers he was visiting abroad. In case nothing in the cards was suited them, he was to adjust to their demands by imitating “any stripe, colour or figure, likewise to accommodate them to any length or breadth”.

As Clare Browne states, these fabrics “were produced in wide variety of weaves, colours, patterns, and finishes, some used for furnishing but the majority for women’s dress. Their relative fineness compared with woollen cloth made them less robust and quicker to wear out, a physical characteristic in keeping with their ephemeral appeal, like the pretty, playful names given to them by their manufacturers.”

De Español e Indio, Mestizo, Casta painting, Miguel Cabrera, Mexico, circa 1763, oil on canvas. Private collection, all rights reserved.

“As part of the international circulation of fashionable goods, Norwich textiles were exported through Rotterdam to the Iberian Peninsula, from where they were re exported to Central and South America.” As a result of taste for such colourful fabrics in the Spanish world, these English worsteds had a large success. This is reflected in portraits and casta paintings produced in Mexico in 1760-80s.

De Español y Morisca, Albino, Casta painting, Andrés de Islas, Mexico, 1774, oil on canvas, 75 cm x 54 cm. Madrid, Museo de América, 1980/03/06.

Acknowledgement:

Clare Browne, Fashion, Textile and Furniture, Victoria and Albert Museum London.

References:

Clare Browne, “Object in Focus V, John Kelly’s Counterpart Book of Patterns”, Fashioning the Early Modern. Dress, Textiles, and Innovation in Europe 1500-1800, ed. Evelyn Welch, (Oxford University Press, Pasold Studies in Textile History 18, 2017), p. 219-221.

The Letters of Philip Stannard, Norwich Textile Manufacturer (1751-1763), ed. Ursula Priestley (Norwich, 1994).

https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O77694/pattern-book-kellly-john/


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