Very Rare Shakespeare Series Tile by Mintons

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An eight inch with Shakespeare scene.


Six inch single colour Shakespeare alternate tile


  • Style/technique: Aesthetic multicolour print
  • Manufacturer: Mintons China Works
  • Dimensions: 8" x 8"
  • Date: circa 1880
  • Colours: 4 printed


It is pretty certain that every collector of Victorian tiles is familiar with Mintons Shakespeare series, it being both the most popular series and the largest being twenty four in the set. Well most people think that there are twenty four, there is however an incredibly rare twenty fifth tile.

Many people are also familiar with the multicolour versions, bizarrely called 'monochrome' in the Mintons catalogue - you'd have thought that even if Mintons marketing department had made the mistake the colour printers would have corrected it but it seems not. The multicolour series in greys are not too uncommon, the browns, which I prefer are considerably less often found, probably about as frequently as Thompsons Seasons. There are only eighteen of the multicolour Shakespeares.

Then there are eight inch versions of the series, made larger by the addition of a pleasant border. This larger size, in the misnamed 'sepia monochrome', appear in the catalogue as pattern number 1710 and with the typo 'Skapespeare Series'.

The rare twenty fifth tile in six inch monochrome, or nineteenth in the multicolour variations becomes even rarer when looking for the eight inch version especially in sepia. This is it, the rarest of all the Shakespeare series*, so rare that few people are aware that it actually exists.


*We do have to add one caveat here, Mintons did do special order colour combinations so occassionally one does see for example black Shakespeare prints with turquoise glaze or coloured in corner motifs which are 'standard' special order colours, they would do others on special request.

We associate Victorian design with fussiness but they well recognised that over fussy was not good design in all situations. Mintons recognised this, may of their layouts of tiles for walls are decided plain, they also recommended 'alternate' tiles to go with the picture series, here is an image from their catalogue.

The alternate tile here illustrated with the Aesop's Fables series is far from uncommon so it is most surprising that the Shakespeare alternate tile, which also incidentally goes with the gastronomical series as the corner motifs match, is so rare.




Pattern number 1723

Mintons did do a popular and very similar bold stylised aesthetic multicolour tile, pattern number 1723 which also appears in eight inch version with border and some colour combinations but that still doesn't explain the rarity of the Shakepeare alternate tile.

This is one of those designs that get the label, possibly, probably or even by Christopher Dresser without any supporting evidence. Artists and designers have always had similar influences and kept up with trends, they went to the same exhibitions and lectures and read the same books and magazines. This is probably more likely to be have been done by Moyr Smith than Dresser but I doubt we'll ever know for sure.


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