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The True Tale of How One Man's Horse Enabled the Discovery of European Porcelain
As told by Joseph Marryat*

We are not told what kaolin Böttger employed in his first essays, but the kaolin of Aue, the basis of Saxon porcelain, was discovered by a singular chance. In 1711, John Schnorr, one of the richest ironmasters of the Erzgebirge (Germany), when riding on horseback near Aue, observed that his horse's feet stuck continually in a soft, white earth, from which the animal could hardly extricate them.

The general use of hair-powder at that time made it a considerable object of commerce, and the idea immediately suggested itself to Schnorr that this white earth might be employed as a.substitute for wheat flour, which was then used in its composition. He carried a specimen to Carlsfeld, and had a hair-powder prepared, which he sold in great quantities at Dresden, Leipzig, and other places.

Johann Friedrich BöttgerBöttger used it among others, but remarking on the unusual weight of the powder, he inquired of his valet whence he had procured it. Having ascertained that it was earthy, he tried it (as an ingredient in his trials), and to his great joy found that he had at last gained the material necessary for making white porcelain. The kaolin continued to be known in commerce under the name of ‘Schnorrische weisse Erde’ – Schnorr’s white earth. Its exportation was forbidden under the severest penalty and it was carried to the manufactory in sealed barrels by persons sworn to secrecy.

Böttger's discovery soon became the object of the most lively jealousy, and it was equally natural that every means to obtain the secret should be tried by other nations, as it was that the Elector should take every precaution to keep it to himself. Strict injunctions to secrecy were enjoined upon the workmen, not only in regard to strangers, but also towards their comrades, but notwithstanding this, even before Böttger's death, one of the foremen had escaped from the manufactory and gone to Vienna, and from that city the secret spread over Germany, and many rival establishments were set on foot.

*Joseph Marryat, A History of Pottery and Porcelain, Medieval and Modern, London, 1857.

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