At the FT, Veronica McNiff on buttons:
Another recent exhibition, Button World, at the Manchester City Galleries, displayed a collection of more than 100,000 buttons owned by Alan and Gillian Meredith, whose collectors’ guidebook, Buttons, will be re-issued this autumn. Their collection includes a range of buttons from secret military devices to pieces of art; while Gillian’s focus is decorative buttons, Alan collects buttons that were once attached to livery, sportswear or school uniforms, or to the uniforms worn by employees of railway companies, shipping lines, the police and fire services and banks.
For the more casual collector, the British Button Society offers an identification service for buttons, including a website. The society’s work reveals the value of buttons as small clues to a broader history; during the Victorian era, for instance, any business worth its salt had uniformed men at the door, with signature buttons on display. Families had their own crested buttons, as did important buildings, and buttons commemorated special events both momentous and minor. When farmers met at ploughing matches, the officials wore the presiding agricultural society’s buttons.