A series of costings books held in the archives at Sheffield reveal that Dresser produced approximately 80 designs for Dixon's between 1879 and 1883, not all of which are thought to have gone into full production.
The books show in detail how much each item cost to make, how they were made and (in most cases) who designed them. Many of the most famous Dresser designs appear in the costings for 1879 (three years after his inspiring trip to Japan), but this oval-form coffee pot with applied ebony handle and four strut feet turns up two years later in the book dated 1881.
'Made to Order'
Alongside a thumbnail sketch and production notes, the cost of this coffee pot is listed at £1.17s.3d, making it one of the most expensive items that Dresser designed for Dixon's. Perhaps only available on a 'made to order' basis, this, along with its pioneering design, may help explain its rarity. The vessel itself carries a registration mark for November 25, 1880, and a facsimile signature, and shares serial number 2278 with Dresser's design for a teaset which appears in the 1879 costings book.
Lyon & Turnbull had perhaps overcooked things a little when offering another seminal Dresser-Dixon metalwork design, a prototype lozenge-shaped teapot, as part of the Macintosh Patrick collection back in 2005. Failing to match its £150,000-200,000 estimate, it later entered the collection of the V&A together with two other teapots from the collection at a price just below £200,000.
More modest expectations of £20,000-30,000 for this oval coffee pot prompted competition from several parties at the sale in Edinburgh on October 29. The winning bidder was an unnamed European institution.
However, the new owners did say they had always admired Dresser's work and were "delighted to have been successful in buying this wonderful example. He was well ahead of his time and his radical designs continue to influence designers to this day".
The buyer's premium was 25/20%.