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Josiah Spode I is credited with the introduction of underglaze blue transfer printing on earthenware in 1783-84. The Worcester and Caughley factories had commenced transfer printing underglaze and over glaze on porcelain in the early 1750s, and from 1756 overglaze printing was also applied to earthenware and stoneware. The processes for underglaze and overglaze decoration were very different. Overglaze "bat printing" on earthenware was a fairly straightforward process, and designs in a range of colors including black, red, and lilac were produced. Underglaze "hot-press" printing was limited to the colors that would withstand the subsequent glaze firing, and a rich blue was the predominant color. To adapt the process from the production of small porcelain teawares to larger earthen dinnerwares required the creation of more flexible paper to transmit the designs from the engraved copper plate to the biscuit earthenware body, and the development of a glaze recipe that brought the color of the black-blue cobalt print to a brilliant perfection. When Spode employed the skilled engraver Thomas Lucas and printer James Richard, both of the Caughley factory, in 1783 he was able to introduce high quality blue printed earthenware to the market. Thomas Minton, another Caughley-trained engraver, also supplied copper plates to Spode until he opened his own factory in Stoke-on-Trent in 1796.
This method involved the engraving of a design on a copper plate, which was then printed onto gummed tissue. The colour paste was worked into the cut areas of the copper plate and wiped from the uncut surfaces, and then printed by passing through rollers. These designs, including edge-patterns which had to be manipulated in sections,were cut out using scissors and applied to the biscuit-fired ware (using a white fabric), itself prepared with a gum solution. The tissue was then floated off in water, leaving the glaze pattern adhering to the plate. This was then dipped in the overglaze and returned to the kiln for the glost firing. Blue underglaze transfer became a standard feature of Staffordshire pottery. Spode also used on-glaze transfers for other wares. The well-known Spode blue-and-white dinner services with engraved sporting scenes and Italian views were developed under Josiah Spode the younger, but continued to be reproduced into much later times.
During the 18th century many English potters were striving and competing to discover the industrial secret of the production of fine translucent porcelain. The Plymouth and Bristol factories, and (from 1782-1810) the New Hall (Staffordshire) factory under Richard Champion's patent, were producing hard paste or true porcelain similar to Oriental china. In the artificial or soft-paste porcelain, imitating French production like Sèvres, silica or ground-up flint was used in the clay to give it strength and translucency. The technique was developed by adding calcined bone to this glassy frit, for example in the productions of Bow china works, Chelsea and Lowestoft, and this was carried on from at least the 1750s onwards. Soapstone porcelains further added steatite, known as French chalk, for instance at Worcester and Caughley factories.
The bone porcelains, especially those of Spode, Minton, Davenport and Coalport, eventually established the standards for soft-paste porcelain which were later (after 1800) maintained widely. Although the Bow, Chelsea, Worcester and Derby factories had, before Spode, established a proportion of about 40-45 per cent calcined bone in the formula as standard, it was Spode who first abandoned the practice of calcining or fritting the bone-ash with some of the other ingredients, and used the simple mixture of bone-ash, petuntse (china stone) and china clay, which since his time has formed the technical body of English porcelain, and to many other parts of the world. A standard English paste may be taken as 6 parts bone-ash, 4 parts petuntse and 3.5 parts kaolin, all finely ground together. This is essentially the same as true porcelain but with the addition of a large proportion of bone-ash.