THE COLLECTIONResearch & publications

Trade cards

In 1891, Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild acquired a collection of printed paper ephemera to do with commerce. Most of the material came from the collection of his architect Gabriel Hippolyte Destailleur (1822–1893). After the prints arrived at Waddesdon, they were rearranged and pasted into four leather-bound volumes and this is how they appear today.

The volumes contain over 700 trade cards (early shop advertisements) and related items, mostly from France, but also from Germany and elsewhere on the continent. They date from the early seventeenth to early nineteenth centuries and are for suppliers as diverse as hat-makers, stationers, goldsmiths, print-sellers and confectioners. Together they offer a unique insight into the commercial and social world of the past.

In 2004 it was recognised that this little known collection which is rich in research possibilities, should be made available to a wider audience. This catalogue is the result. It was made possible through Leverhulme and British Academy funded research projects which was a joint venture between the University of Warwick and Waddesdon Manor.

Cataloguing the trading cards

This guide introduces you to some of the catalogue and advanced search fields and explains how they work and what sort of information they contain. Remember that although on-line catalogues appear to mechanise the research process, how someone classifies material is subjective. You may want to experiment with different ways of searching in order to find relevant material for your studies and even visit the trade cards to see them for yourself.

Catalogue fields

Cards without evident dates {nd} have been dated by other evidence, indicated in the notes. Where no evidence has been found, the cards are dated stylistically. This is a speculative and subjective art and may contain many errors. It is hoped that future research enabled by the catalogue will help to clarify many of the dates of the cards and the traders. Where advertisers’ active dates match the date range of a card dated stylistically, they are also speculative. Remember the database reads ‘circa’ as meaning plus and minus five years.Each card’s accession number is formed from the generic number for the trade card volumes (3686), the volume number (1-4), the folio number and the item number. Thus 3686.1.6.8 is a print located in the trade card volumes, in volume one, on folio six and is number 8 in the volume.Under the Physical Description heading, the full text as it appears on the card has been transcribed and translated into English, with the help of Julie-Anne Lambert. Words that break over lines have also been added in full to allow being selected when word searching. Inscriptions and annotations are included.

Advanced search fields

Types of object: what the card appears to have functioned as, given available evidence. This could involve two object types, e.g. as a trade card and a visiting card. Overlaid prints are prints that have been pasted over with other prints and are only partially visible under light or by lifting up the upper print, where possible.

Trades: Trades have been grouped into sectors. Be aware that a trade like ‘engraver’ could appear in two sectors – printmaker = Fine Art Activities and metal engraver = Metalwork Activities, so combine searches if necessary. ‘Not Applicable’ means that the print is not associated to a trade – not all the prints in the collection are trade cards!

Services: these are activities provided by different traders not readily classified as products, such as ‘provides accommodation’. Explore the drop down menu to see the full range.

Products: Individual products are entered according to the language used on the card. Illustrated products are entered according to the main language of the card. Individual products reflect items as they are mentioned or illustrated. At the individual product level, there are no blanket terms: e.g.: choosing the term ‘écritoires’ will only bring up those cards where writing cases are mentioned or illustrated without qualification; it will not bring up a card that only mentions, for example. ‘écritoires de poche’. You can select multiple products.

Product material: when mentioned or illustrated in card.

Subjects: this field encompasses textual and visual content. Explore the drop down menu to see the categories used.

Research keywords: these are interpretative categories that researchers may find useful to consider particular themes.

Images of interiors / products: if the card has images of shop signs, interiors, exteriors or products.

Trade Card of Simon Lété l'ainé, Musical Instrument Maker, A La Ville de Paris, 1800-1820, acc. no. 3686.3.46.115