Summary : Sklo Union, Art Before Industry, Marcus Newhall

Book Title : Solo Union, Art Before Industry: 20th Century Czech Pressed Glass
Author : Marcus Newhall
Photography : Simon Bruntnell
Published By : Hope Fountain Books
Date of Publication : 2008
ISBN : 978 0 9560623 0 7
Pages : 178

There are few authors so well respected in Czechoslovakia as an authority on Sklo Union Glass as Marcus Newhall.  This respect has given him exclusive access to pieces of art which are featured in this book, which represents ten years of his life’s work. (…)

This large book contains a vast wealth of information regarding the history, manufacture, designers and pressed glass items produced in Czechoslovakia from 1945 to the 1990’s. The book has an accompanying Cd-Rom which contains a searchable reference library containing over 4,500 pieces of glass and product catalogues.

After the contents, acknowledgments and preface, there is a two page introduction. This is followed by the first chapter, which sets the historical context, over the next six pages.

Chapter two goes into detail about the histories of the factories, covering
Sklárna Nemšová, Rudolfova Hut’, Hermanova Hut’, Libochovice and Rosice. There are smaller sections on Krasno Nad Becvou, Jablonecké Sklárny and Sklárny Bohemia.

The subsequent chapter discusses design history, incorporating design influences, the overseas market, designs from the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s and other design factors. The chapter is peppered with photographic illustrations and includes four illustrations from catalogue pages.

Biographies of individual designers are included in the 78-page fourth chapter. The majority of these pages contain photographs of the individual designers’ work, with dimensions, pattern number or name, and year. The designers included in this chapter are as follows,

  • Rudolf Schrötter
  • Rudolf Jurnikl
  • František Pečeny
  • František Vízner
  • Adolf Matura
  • Pavel Pánek
  • Vladislav Urban
  • Václav Hanuš
  • Jirí Brabec
  • Vratislav Šotola
  • Miroslav Kubinec
  • Jirí Zejmon
  • Václav Zajíc
  • Miloš Filip
  • Jirí žoužela
  • Jan Schmid
  • František Zemek
  • E. Downey

Page 130 sees the start of chapter five, “Techniques and Moulds”. In addition to describing the manufacture of pressed glass, different techniques of pressing are described. Although a short chapter, just six pages, it includes photographs of different stages of the manufacturing process and images of glass produced by different methods.

The next two chapters are small, at four pages each. Chapter six covers the different applied decorations and colours used, whilst chapter seven focuses on advertising and commemorative products.

Exhibitions are the topic for the eighth chapter. Images relating to the exhibitions are displayed on all eight of the pages. Fifteen black and white photographs of exhibits are included in this section.

The final chapter, number nine, contains notes for collectors. Besides general advice on collecting Czechoslovakian pressed glass there are comprehensive pages detailing marks and labels, including dates that particular labels were used.

Whilst the book concludes with the bibliography and index, the inside of the back cover contains the Sklo Union CD-Rom. Instructions for using the Cd-Rom are included on the disc. There is a searchable database of over 4,500 items and it includes 17 product catalogues dating from the 1950’s to 1990’s.

Screen shot of one of the search functions on the Sklo Union Database by Marcus Newhall.

Until recently, this book had been on my Amazon wish-list for about five years. Now out of print it can be difficult to get hold of, especially with the CD-Rom included. It is hard for me to give an opinion on this book without sounding biased, but as a collector of pressed glass this books ticks all the boxes for me. It sets the historical context, introduces the designers and contains clear photographs of the production of the glass, as well as individual pieces. Even without the CD-Rom this book is well designed and incredibly informative. However, with the CD-Rom it enters a class of its own.  Within half an hour I had managed to find pattern numbers for several pieces of my glass, as well as managing to identify a Czechoslovakian vase that I have owned for eight years.  I honestly would not be without this book now.

Sklo Union. Art Before Industry: 20th Century Czech Pressed Glass by Marcus Newhall.

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