Thursday, July 1, 2010


1. Imports and European manufacture., 2. Printed cottons., Gossypium, Annals, reg, see, shāls Read more: Cotton - 1. Imports and European manufacture., 2. Printed cottons., Gossypium, Annals, reg, see, shāls

Fibre made from the long, soft hairs (lint) surrounding the seeds of the cotton plant (Gossypium). In the right climate (temperate to hot), cotton is easy to grow; it is also cheap to harvest and easily packed into compact bales for transport and export. Indigenous to India, the Sudan and Ethiopia, it was later grown in Egypt, China, western Central Asia, North America and elsewhere. Cotton is a very versatile fibre: used alone it can produce very fine, light and quite strong textiles (lawn and muslin), and used alone or in combination with other fibres it can make extremely durable and heavy fabrics (e.g. for use in bedspreads, rugs and carpets). It takes dyestuffs very well and can be painted or printed with designs. The first mention of cotton is in the Annals of Sennacherib of Assyria (reg 705–681 bc), although it became important there only after the introduction of Islam in the mid-7th century ad. It was imported into the Middle East and North Africa in the 1st century ad and from there was traded throughout Spain and gradually through the rest of Europe. This article provides an overview of the production and use of cotton in the Western world. (For a discussion of the properties, manufacture and conservation of cotton see Textile.)
1. Imports and European manufacture.

In England in the 16th century the term ‘cotton’ appears to have been applied to cheap, thick woollens, but almost simultaneously real cotton was also being made. Through the establishment of the East India companies in the Netherlands (1597), England (1600) and France (1664), raw cotton and painted cottons were imported into Europe from India. They were known first as calicos, as they were imported from the port of Calicut in south-west India. Despite the distances involved in importing cotton, by the end of the 17th century it was displacing the cheaper types of linen. The popularity of cheap, lightweight Indian fabrics and especially of the painted cottons alarmed manufacturers in Europe. Textiles from the ‘Indies’ were accordingly prohibited for sale in England in 1699 and in France in 1717. They could, however, be re-exported both to other countries in Europe that did not have indigenous industries and to the American colonies. Lightweight, mixed fabrics of silk and cotton or pure cotton were very suitable for the American summer climate. Imported Indian textiles—including those for which the patterns were sent from Europe to be made in India—were, with such other ‘luxury’ items as porcelain and silk, hugely influential on the decorative arts in Europe and contributed to the rise of chinoiserie.

The huge popularity of the imported cotton led to imitation, and the ease with which cotton could be grown in a suitable climate inspired English colonists to set up plantations in the southern American colonies. A rearguard action was fought in England against the production of such cottons, and an act of 1736 allowed that it was legal in England to produce ‘fustian’, a fabric with a linen warp and a cotton weft; this was to prove very important to textile printing in the United Kingdom (see §2 below).

From its introduction into Europe, cotton was woven into cheap materials for underwear and stockings, and by the mid-18th century it was used for cotton velveteen and corduroy; an English corduroy waistcoat (London, Victoria and Albert Museum) is so decorative that it is comparable with contemporary silks. Also in the 18th century there was a steadily growing quilt-making industry in Bolton, Lancs: production was based on two types, one with a looped pile (caddy), and the other flat-woven in double cloth, imitating hand-quilted covers made in Marseille and hence called ‘Marseille’ or ‘Marcella’ quilts The second technique was also used for men's summer waistcoats and for ladies’ pockets, of which there are a few examples from the 18th century and many from the 19th, woven on power looms with jacquard control.
Although the finest Indian painted cottons continued to be imported throughout the 18th century into Europe despite the restrictions, there was an increasing emphasis on the import of the raw fibre. Large factories were established in Lancashire for the production of cotton fabrics. Robert Peel, grandfather of the 19th-century prime minister, was a Lancashire cotton manufacturer who controlled spinning mills, weaving and cotton-printing factories. Lancashire cottons of all kinds dominated the European market for most of the 19th century. Cotton was also combined with worsted wool to make furnishings and men's waistcoats, thus meeting a new demand in the 19th century from a burgeoning middle class. Most of these fabrics were made on the borders of Lancashire and Yorkshire, and some made in Halifax were exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London. Cotton was also used to make enormous shawls in the 1850s and 1860s. The designs originated in the shāls woven from delicate goat's wool in Kashmir in the late 18th century. By the late 19th century jacquard-woven cottons manufactured on power looms were also creating serious competition for the Irish table-linen industry. The growth of the Lancashire cotton industry was reflected in a decline in the Indian cotton industry. The export of American cotton to newly established cotton industries in other parts of Europe hastened this decline still further. The collapse, however, of virtually all the European cotton industries in the second half of the 20th century led to a revival in India of both hand- and machine-woven fabrics. Good cotton and the use of traditional patterns and cheaper modern dyestuffs are favourable to the Indian manufacturer.
2. Printed cottons.

Not until the import of painted cottons from India in the 17th century was there any real attempt in Europe to create a pattern by printing instead of by weaving. There had been some linens printed in the 15th and 16th centuries with printer's ink, but the colours were not fast. The impact of Indian painted cottons was huge: the fabric itself seemed impossibly fine to the European customer, and the use of vibrant colours encouraged competition (see Textile, §III, 1(ii)(f)). By the late 17th century both the Dutch and the English were printing rather hesitantly in madder colours. The cottons produced have a naive charm but do not compare in quality with the cottons from India. By using different mordants, however, colours ranging from nearly black to pale pink could be achieved; it took another half century to achieve indigo printing. Despite the difficulties of using it, indigo yielded a crisp, fast blue that was particularly good for the large-scale, monochrome, copperplate-printed textiles made from the 1750s. English printers led Europe in these developments, and some of the finest furnishing copperplate textiles printed by Robert Jones at Old Ford or the Bromley Hall factory have never been equalled and were even imitated later by French factories. From the late 17th century a large number of snuff handkerchiefs were produced in Europe, the majority of which were copperplate-printed. Some printers concentrated specifically on the production of handkerchiefs, while others produced them as part of their range. Although many 18th-century handkerchiefs depicted such topical or political subjects as the Trial of Dr Sacheverell or the Brentford By-election, by the 19th century they were being produced for a much wider market. By the mid-18th century English block-printed textiles were printed in a full range of colours, which could copy both the patterns and the colouring of contemporary dress silks. Block-printing of cotton was used to great effect by William Morris (1834–96) in the 19th century.

By the 1730s English printed fustians were being exported to the American colonies and, from the 1770s, pure cottons. A parliamentary act of 1774 permitted the use of British all-cotton cloths for printing, provided that they had three blue threads woven into their selvages to distinguish them from French and Indian cottons. This act was not repealed until 1812. The raw cotton, however, might have originally come from the southern American colonies. Even after American Independence (1776), English traders continued to export their cottons, thus discouraging the Americans from setting up their own cotton-printing industries. Only in the later 19th century were American cotton printers sufficiently skilled to compete with the English.

In France it became legal to print cottons in 1759. Factories were set up in various regions, notably in Rouen, Nantes and Jouy-en-Josas. Significantly, there is evidence that Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf (1738–1815), founder of the Jouy factory, bought his cottons for printing from the East India Company sales in London because French cottons were not fine enough. It is not always easy to identify a cotton printed in Mulhouse in France in the late 18th century from one printed in Lancashire, especially if it has a dark ground (very fashionable at the time), which would make it impossible to see the obligatory three blue threads of an English cotton dating from between 1774 and 1812.

Factories for printing cottons were also set up in other parts of Europe, especially in Germany, Switzerland and Bohemia. Most of their products were made to be sold locally or in nearby states. In Italy the factories produced printed cottons for local use, and the mezzara of Genoa, large shawls with patterns inspired by those of contemporary imported Indian painted bedspreads, became particularly well known throughout Europe. Another development, of the mid- and late 19th century, was the production of cottons printed for overseas markets. Turkey red printed cottons were produced in Scotland for the African market and in Moscow for the Central Asian and Swiss markets. Printed cottons were traded in both Europe and America through the use of pattern cards, which were sent by an agent to his counterpart abroad; the recipient then ordered the required fabric by number. Nathan Meyer Rothschild (1777–1836) from Frankfurt am Main was a particularly successful cotton printer: he traded Lancashire printed cottons all over Europe and established his family's fortune in Britain.
Bibliography and More Information about Cotton

* J. Taylor: A Descriptive and Historical Account of the Cotton Manufacture of Dacca, in Bengal (London, 1851)
* D. King: ‘Textiles and the Origins of Printing in Europe’, Pantheon, xx (1962), pp. 23–30
* M. Edwards: The Growth of the British Cotton Trade, 1780–1815 (Manchester, 1969)
* J. Irwin and K. B. Brett: Origins of Chintz (London, 1970)
* F. Montgomery: Printed Textiles: English and American Cottons and Linens, 1700–1850 (London, 1970)
* A. L. Eno, ed.: Cotton Was King: A History of Lowell, Massachusetts (Lowell, 1976)
* S. D. Chapman and S. Chassagne: European Textile Printers of the Eighteenth Century (London, 1981)
* Colour and the Calico Printer (exh. cat., Farnham, West Surrey College of Art and Design, 1982)
* J. Brédif: Toiles de Jouy: Classic Printed Textiles from France, 1760–1843 (London, 1989)
* V. Gervers: ‘Cotton and Cotton Weaving in Meroitic Nubia and Medieval Ethiopia’, Textile History, xxi/1 (Spring 1990), pp. 13–30
* B. Lemire: Fashion's Favourite: The Cotton Trade and the Consumer in Britain, 1660–1800 (Oxford, 1991)
* W. Hefford: The Victoria and Albert Museum's Textile Collection: Design for Printed Textiles in England, 1750–1850 (London, 1992)
* R. Barnes: Indian Block-printed Textiles in Egypt: The Newberry Collection in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 2 vols (Oxford, 1997)
* D. Swallow: ‘The India Museum and the British-Indian Textile Trade in the Late 19th Century’, Textile History, xxx/1 (Spring 1999), pp. 29–45
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