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The Cowtan Order Books (1824-1938): an Analysis of Wallpaper and Decorating Records and their use as Historical Sources, doctoral thesis by Wendy Andrews (2017)

The Cowtan order books   Wendy Andrews Cowtan order books 2

Copyright V&A Museum

Wallpaper and wallcoverings offer a valuable source of evidence for building historians. Materials, production techniques, designs and installation methods can reveal when buildings were completed or remodelled, how rooms and spaces were used and who occupied them. This thesis examines the significance of the Cowtan & Sons Order Books at the Victoria and Albert Museum, in which over 27,000 wallpaper orders, including dates and customers’ names and addresses, are held. The orders contain thousands of samples of English wallpapers and wallcoverings supplied to royalty, aristocracy and the middle and upper classes from the early 19th to the mid 20th centuries. The thesis argues that the Cowtan Order Books provide insights into the relationship between manufacturer, decorator and customer and provide an unparalleled and previously untapped source of evidence for the interior history of a wide range of elite and middle class buildings including country houses, vicarages, hospitals, commercial premises, palaces and castles in the UK, Ireland and around the world.

Download the PhD here.