The History of the Tea-Cup (Photo source: screen capture from site)

The History of the Tea-Cup (Photo source: screen capture from site)

You might not stop to think about the history of a relatively mundane object such as a tea cup but it has a history nonetheless, a history that was explored in an 1878 volume appropriately titled The History of the Tea-Cup. It’s not completely clear if the author of this book, Rev. G. R. Wedgwood, was a member of the famous Wedgwood family but it seems oddly coincidental that he should write such a volume if he wasn’t.

In any event, the book is a rather compact affair, tallying just over 150 pages in all. In spite of the title only about half of the book is devoted to tea cup history, with the rest taking on other aspects of tea culture. Wedgwood opens with an overview of drinking utensils throughout history going back as far as the ancient Assyrians and Egyptians and also covers such important civilizations as the Greek and Romans, as well as various others. None of which has anything to do with tea but it sets the foundation for what’s to come.

Which is five chapters specifically devoted to the tea cup, but before he gets to that Wedgwood takes one chapter to look at the cultivation of tea. This is a fairly standard look at the topic for this era which goes beyond cultivation into such topics as processing, tea history and the tea trade.

The first chapter on tea cups – The Tea-Cup – Combinations – finds Wedgwood waxing rhapsodic about his topic but not really saying much. He comes back down to Earth in the next four chapters and recounts what appears to be a fairly thorough look at the art of pottery and tea cup making in England, including two very detailed chapters on the nuts and bolts of how to make a tea cup.

Though he claims that the Wedgwood name “stands out above them all” in this field and devotes a number of pages to founder Josiah, the author doesn’t actually make it clear whether he’s a part of this dynasty. The rest of the book is comprised of four chapters mostly devoted to tea culture, with the last (fittingly, given Wedgwood’s occupation) called Tea-Drinking in the Religious Circle.

For a free electronic copy of Wedgwood’s book, look here.

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