This is a thoroughly interesting book which goes far beyond a description of the forms of this engaging kind of folk art. A very large range of figures are illustrated, and we learn a lot about them, including who designed them, and where the ideas for the figures came from. In several cases, Oliver fascinatingly publishes the magazine print or engraving which was the source for the design.
Beyond that, however, Oliver goes into the lives of the potters, the techniques of production - the whole social history aspect. This part is rivetting and is full of original quotations and contemporary depictions of the processes involved. Much of the information comes from the Report of the Royal Commission on Children's Employment in Industry of 1843 - which in fact reported on adult employment as well, and gives us a unique window into the everyday life and opinions of the early Victorian working class.
There is more insight when we look at what the figures prortrayed - how quickly potters responded to popular enthusiasms, and how in an emergency an existing figure would be given a new topical title for immediate sales! There is useful advice, too, on collecting. When Oliver wrote in 1971 Staffordshire figures were having a "flat" period with prices low. Subsequently they became very expensive. As they are out of favour again at present, the collector can again pick up bargains, and this book will be a valuable guide to what is good, what is fake, and how to tell a repro from the real thing.