Silver in Georgian Dublin: Making, Selling, Consuming, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Silver in Georgian Dublin

Making, Selling, Consuming, 1st Edition

By Alison FitzGerald


256 pages | 88 Color Illus. | 41 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Paperback: 9780367200220
pub: 2019-05-23
Hardback: 9781472427878
pub: 2016-08-17

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Georgian Dublin is synonymous with a period of unprecedented expansion in the market for luxury goods. At a time when new commodities, novel technologies and fashionable imports seduced elite society, silver enjoyed an established association with gentility and prestige. Earlier studies have focused predominantly on the issue of style. This book considers the demand for silver goods in Georgian Ireland from the perspectives of makers, retailers and consumers. It discusses the practical and symbolic uses of silverware, interpreted through contemporary guild accounts, inventories, trade ephemera and culinary manuscripts. For the first time the activities of Dublin's goldsmiths and their customers are considered in the context of the British Isles, acknowledging Dublin's 'second city' status in relation to London. How did the availability of new products like English porcelain and Sheffield Plate affect the demand for silver in Dublin, and how did silver imports from London affect the Dublin trade? To what extent do the practices of Dublin goldsmiths mirror their North American counterparts seeking to infer associations with the fashionable metropolis of London? Drawing on an extensive range of documentary and object evidence this wide-ranging analysis considers the context in which silver goods were made, used, valued and displayed in Georgian Ireland.


"This comprehensive study in Taylor & Francis’s Histories of Material Culture and Collecting 1700-1950 series combines recent scholarship with new research and places the achievements of Dublin goldsmiths in a wider international context."

--The Art Newspaper

"This ground-breaking work provides a fresh and exciting new perspective on the history of eighteenth-century Irish silver. …Based on meticulous research, this study uses a wealth of documentary and artefactual evidence and draws on the most current international scholarship. It complements the established tradition of connoisseurship in Irish silver studies, and makes eminently accessible a topic that was once decidedly more niche. Exceptionally well informed and highly readable, this study takes its rightful place as a key point of reference in Irish silver studies."

--Eighteenth-Century Ireland

'This study of the making, buying and uses of silver in eighteenth-century Dublin breaks much new ground. It moves away from rarefied connoisseurship, to place silver objects firmly in their economic, social and cultural contexts.  While showing what was distinctive about the Irish products, it places them authoritatively in wider worlds of fashionable consumption among the polite and would-be polite. Also, it emphasizes the ease with which styles current in continental Europe and Britain, and found in ceramics, decor and furnishings, could be adapted to silver. Alison FitzGerald’s accomplished and accessible book immediately takes its place as one of the most notable  in the gradually expanding literature on the applied and decorative arts in Ireland."

--Toby Barnard, University of Oxford

"Alison FitzGerald’s excellent new volume on the making and marketing of silver in Georgian Dublin is at once an eminently readable socioeconomic history and a major contribution to the scholarly literature. Building on the enlightening work of recent silver scholars and social historians who have deconstructed the trade and reconstructed the processes, FitzGerald has combed a wealth of primary sources to produce a compelling, clearly integrated, and exceptionally informative study."

--Beth Carver Wees, Ruth Bigelow Wriston Curator of American Decorative Arts, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

"Alison FitzGerald’s Silver in Georgian Dublin transforms the way we think about the eighteenth-century decorative arts, both in Ireland and beyond. It explores the whole range of silver objects made, sold and used in Ireland, from the finest dinner services to humble teaspoons. It compares Dublin goldsmiths to their counterparts across the eighteenth-century Atlantic world, in London, Philadelphia and Boston. In the process, it raises challenging questions about the Irishness of eighteenth-century Irish silver. Grounded in a comprehensive assessment of surviving objects and manuscripts, its analysis draws on the most up-to-date international scholarship. Silver in Georgian Dublin is a pathbreaking book. It will cement Alison FitzGerald’s reputation as a leading expert on Irish design and decorative art."

--John Styles, University of Hertfordshire and Victoria and Albert Museum

Table of Contents


1 The Business of Becoming a Goldsmith in Eighteenth-Century Dublin

2 Goldsmiths and Market Forces in Eighteenth-Century Ireland

3 Shopping for Plate in Dublin and London

4 Silver and Its Meaning in Georgian Ireland

5 The Silver Trade in Post-Union Ireland


About the Author

Alison FitzGerald is a Lecturer in the Department of History at Maynooth University, Ireland

About the Series

The Histories of Material Culture and Collecting, 1700-1950

The Histories of Material Culture and Collecting provides a forum for the broad study of object acquisition and collecting practices in their global dimensions from 1700 to 1950. The series seeks to illuminate the intersections between material culture studies, art history, and the history of collecting. It takes as its starting point the idea that objects both contributed to the formation of knowledge in the past and likewise contribute to our understanding of the past today. The human relationship to objects has proven a rich field of scholarly inquiry, with much recent scholarship either anthropological or sociological rather than art historical in perspective. Underpinning this series is the idea that the physical nature of objects contributes substantially to their social meanings, and therefore that the visual, tactile, and sensual dimensions of objects are critical to their interpretation. This series therefore seeks to bridge anthropology and art history, sociology and aesthetics. It encompasses the following areas of concern: 1. Material culture in its broadest dimension, including the high arts of painting and sculpture, the decorative arts (furniture, ceramics, metalwork, etc.), and everyday objects of all kinds. 2. Collecting practices, be they institutionalized activities associated with museums, governmental authorities, and religious entities, or collecting done by individuals and social groups. 3. The role of objects in defining self, community, and difference in an increasingly international and globalized world, with cross-cultural exchange and travel the central modes of object transfer. 4. Objects as constitutive of historical narratives, be they devised by historical figures seeking to understand their past or in the form of modern scholarly narratives. The series publishes interdisciplinary and comparative research on objects that addresses one or more of these perspectives and includes monographs, thematic studies, and edited volumes of essays.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / History / General
ART / European
ART / History / Modern (late 19th Century to 1945)
ART / Museum Studies
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Economic History
HISTORY / Europe / Ireland