Fabrics and Fashion Plates: Patterns from Ackermann’s Repository
These gorgeous images come from a scrapbook, British Patterns of Manufacture, which collected the fabric patterns featured in Ackermann’s Repository for the benefit of students at Bradford Technical College. Ackermann’s Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions, and politics is a famous source for early 19th century fashion and style.
Dyeing was a major industry in 19th century Bradford, hence its importance at the Technical College, and at the Institute of Technology and University that succeeded it. Hence also the Special Collection of dyeing and textile history books which we have inherited. Patterns is typical of these books because it includes fabric samples. It’s impossible to convey via digitised formats just how bright and tactile these fabrics are. Tucked away inside books, they have not been harmed by light or dust or handling so remain vivid, contrasting wonderfully with their often drab bindings, leading to a lovely surprise when the volumes are opened.
I chose Patterns for this exhibition because it is a personal favourite, offering a different perspective on the Regency period: there are the whites and pastels one might imagine, but also bold, even garish, hues and designs.
We don’t know what happened to the issues of the Repository from which these patterns were taken; I wonder if any West Yorkshire library has a run of the title missing its patterns? To see the fabrics for real, check out other runs of the Repository in libraries (e.g. via COPAC). Of course, there are various digitised versions online; this blog post from Two teens in the time of Austen is a useful guide to the archive.org versions and also recommends this fascinating article about Rudolph Ackermann himself.