The vast collection of The National Archives includes nearly 3 million ‘ornamental’ and ‘useful’ designs, registered by the Board of Trade Representations and Registers of Designs, between 1839 and 1991. The BT Design Register, as it is commonly known, aimed to foster design innovation; put simply, registration gave copyright protection to the designs.
Many classes of materials and products were registered, including metal, wood, glass, earthenware, paper hangings (wall paper), carpets, and six classes of textiles including shawls and lace. The representations of the designs take many forms: drawings, tracings, photographs, small samples of the products, as well as whole artefacts, e.g. embossed envelopes, straw bonnets, collars, gloves and printed cotton handkerchiefs.