James Gillray’s caricature of Thomas Tyrwhitt Jones (1765 – 1811), entitled Independence (1799), was copied and used as a decorative design on English pottery during the early nineteenth-century. The potteries would employ an engraver to etch the desired image onto a copperplate. The plate was heated and inked in the normal way, before being overlaid with damp tissue paper and passed through a rolling press. The tissue paper was then peeled from the plate, wrapped around a piece of pottery and burnished to leave an impression on the body of the vessel. Finally, the pot was soaked in order to remove the paper and could then either be sold or passed to a painter who would add colour to the design.

Copperplates used for engraving pottery transfer sheets can be distinguished from normal printing plates because the image, particularly the text, did not have to be engraved back-to-front. This was because image was pressed onto the inked underside of the wet paper, which was then lifted, placed onto the vessel and rubbed from the reverse side, meaning that it remained the right way around. This presumably made the whole task a lot quicker, easier and cheaper to accomplish than with conventional copperplate etching.

This plate, which is coming up at auction in the next couple of weeks, was used to print the text which appeared on the obverse of jugs carrying the Independence design. I have included a image of a creamware jug carrying the design on the right and you can read more about this object HERE.