JAIC 1998, Volume 37, Number 1, Article 5 (pp. 49 to 67)
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Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 1998, Volume 37, Number 1, Article 5 (pp. 49 to 67)




Ceramics, by their very nature, usually break when dropped, thrown, or struck with sharp impact. Surely, as soon as humans discovered that firing clay was stronger than sun-baking, the first breakages must have occurred. It was perhaps quite a surprise how the vessel (or artifact) broke and could not easily be made whole again. Still, it is reasonable to assume that very early attempts were made, and pottery was considered valuable enough to repair as early as around 5000 B.C. (Williams 1988).

Early pottery restoration was never thought of as an especially worthwhile or respected task. In Ecclesiaticus, chapter 22, of the Old Testament, Apocrypha, we are told “He that teacheth a fool is like one that glueth potsherds together” (quoted in Skeist 1977, 4). In 1837, the profession of “China and Earthenware Mender and Rivetter” required an apprenticeship fee and capital of 5–20, while the fees for a cabinetmaker and upholsterer were quoted as 30–70 and 150–500, respectively (Lanmon 1969). Only after the founding of organized conservation were prominence and acknowledgment given to a field that requires more than patience and a good pair of hands (Hodges 1975).

Copyright 1998 American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works