Its curator notes that button collecting is an act of passion, for some, almost an obsession. “Placing the miniature, Lilliputian button as the “hero” of an exhibition is a somewhat subversive act, meant to direct a special type of attention to it,” writes Dr. Doron J. Lurie. (A great resource for collectors at Button Country, here.)
10 Things to Know About Buttons
- The earliest known button was from Pakistan’s Indus Valley, made of a curved shell and about 5,000 years old.
- For centuries, buttons almost never appeared in straight rows, but were used singly as sartorial flourishes.
- Buttons were not originally used to fasten clothes (which was done with pins or lacing) but as decoration.
- The first button-makers guild formed in France in 1250, a time when buttons were still just for adornment.
- Buttons with buttonholes to keep clothing closed first appeared in late 13th century Germany.
- In the 17th century, a “button war” erupted in France between makers of new, cheap buttons in fabric or wound string, and manufacturers of traditional buttons made of bone, wood or metal.
- Buttons were once banned from churches due to concern about their excessive use for beautification.
- A Prussian King once ordered buttons onto the jacket sleeves of servants to stop them wiping noses on their arms.
- During the World Wars, the British and U.S. military used button lockets, which opened to store compasses.
- There is a formal classification system for buttons by age, use, materials and pictorial subjects.
Tel Aviv Museum Gilding the Lily exhibition information, here.