The primary sourcebook for china button collectors is the book, Guidelines for Collecting China Buttons by Ruth Lamm, Beatrice and Lester Lorah, Helen W. Schuler, Lillian Smith Albert and Jane Ford Adams. China collectors refer to this book simply as the Guidelines. This book was initially published in 1970 by the National Button Society through The Boyertown Publishing Company in Pennsylvania.
A second edition was published in 1994. There is no discernible difference between the two editions except the binding and the cover. The first edition is a hardback. The second edition is a paperback. There are 151 pages and the photographs are black and white. The Guidelines is currently out of print. A used copy will occasionally show up on eBay, on Amazon or on Z's Wife at Flickr. Fortunately, a scanned version of the Guidelines is now available to read on the National Button Society website.
Janet White has created an excellent guide to the Guidelines at Baubles and Buttons. In February 2014, the website was temporarily down for maintenance. A pdf shapshot of the website is posted here if you need immediate access to Janet's research or wish to save a copy for future need. Janet has also written "Compulsively Collecting Calico China Buttons," an article for Bead and Button Magazine. Judye Stewart also has an excellent article detailing many rare, hard to find and unlisted chinas referenced in the Guidelines.
Speaking of calicoes, many years prior to the publication of the Guidelines, Mr. Wilfred Morgan published three small pamphlets showing drawings of the known calico patterns in 1940. There are black and white drawings only and no photos. The images on the covers are fascinating, however. Click on the cover image to access a pdf of each pamphlet.
As of February 2014, Thomas Skovronsky and Inga Ladd are currently working on a new calico book. Read about The Calico Project here.
Other Books and Pamphlets
The Big Book of Buttons is the acknowledged primary resource for button collecting in general. A new second edition has recently been published. It is a beautiful book. It includes a short chapter on utalitarian china buttons which contains a color plate showing fifty-nine excellent china buttons. While it is an excellent resource, it is not a substitute for the Guidelines.
The Snouffer booklet provides a short history of the discovery of the Snouffer China buttons. Lovely colored images are also included.
A fascinating article written by a fascinating man, this research relates to the problems of china button identification from the point of view of an archaeologist. The bibliography is also particularily useful. The only downside is that you must create an account with JSTOR to read the article online and the font is a real challenge if the reader has any vision impairment. To access a more easily readable version of the article, please click here.
More Articles about China Buttons
Just Buttons issues about china buttons.
Apr 1943 Article about Stencils. p 3 Aug 1943 Article about Stencils. p 6 Aug 1944 Article about Stencil Buttons. p 11 Sep 1946 Calicoes p 312 Masters, Mrs. Violet Nov 1946 Article about Stencils. p 6 Sep 1949 Article about Stencils. p 292-293 July 1952 Calico Buttons p 225-6, 239-40 Crockett, Pliny July 1952 Old China Buttons p 229-230, 232 Bushnell, Clara M. Sep 1952 Article about Stencils. p 281 Oct 1956 Article about Bird Cage Shank buttons. p 11-12 Mar 1957 Button Making, Excerpts from Chambers Encyclopedia, London & Edinburg, 1901 p 115-117 Robinson, Marion F. May 1959 Article about Stencils. p 153-154 Oct 1959 Article about Igloos. p 15-16 Aug 1960 The Little Chinas p 220-222 Jun 1962 Ceramic Buttons p 171-174 Torley, Lavonna May 1964 Calicoes p 143 Dec 1970 The Human Side of Button Lore p 77 Aug 1972 Agates, 1871 p 627-628 Oct 1972 Article about Bird Cage Shanks p 30-31 Feb 1974 "Small Chinas" from the Steamboat Bertrand p 135-142 Switzer, Ronald R. Mar 1976 Porcelain p 156-157 Rogers, Mae Apr 1976 Little China Buttons p 177-9 Rogers, Mae Jan 1977 A Small Unlisted China Button p 11 Jul/Aug 1978 Ginghams, Calicoes and Stencils p 193-4 Ferguson, Bob May/Jun 1979 Calico Jewels p 19-21 Ferguson, Jo and Bob
Some of the past National Button Bulletins with articles on utilitarian chinas:
Vol. 4 Jul. 1945 No. 3 Stencils (p. 184-185) Vol. 5 July 1946 No. 3 Thoughts on calicoes (p. 157) Vol. 8 Mar. 1949 No. 2 Original Crown Staffordshire card (p. 112) Vol. 11 Mar. 1952 No. 2 Early history of calicoes (p. 77-78) Vol. 11 May 1952 No. 3 Proposed Classifications for China Buttons (Jane Ford Adams) (p. 134-141) Vol. 14 May 1955 No. 3 Vermiculated (worm) calico design (p. 139) Vol. 17 Nov. 1958 No. 6 Calico (p. 283-286) Vol. 18 Jan. 1959 No. 1 Background notes on calicoes (p. 9-10) Vol. 18 Mar. 1959 No. 2 Bull's eye patterns (p. 54-56) Vol. 18 May 1959 No. 3 Pairs of similar calico patterns (p. 112-113) Vol. 18 Sep. 1959 No. 5 Hobnail rim patterns (p. 57); Bird cages (p. 200-203); Bull's eye pattern 16 (p. 203); Igloo (p.203-204) Vol. 18 Nov. 1959 No. 6 Whistle (p.257-262) Vol. 19 Jan. 1960 No. 1 Gaiters cataloged and described (p. 8-11) Vol. 19 Nov. 1960 No. 6 Inserted two-way self shanks (p.260-262 Vol. 20 Jan. 1961 No. 1 Six additional two-way self shank patterns (p. 26-27); four-hole hobnail rims (p. 27-29) Vol. 20 Mar.196 No. 2 Sew-thru China Buttons with Radiating Rims (p.80-84) Vol. 20 May 1961 No. 3 Prosser's U.S. China Button Patent (Jane Ford Adams); Sew-Thru China Buttons with Smooth Beveled Rims (p. 110-113) Vol. 20 Sep. 1961 No. 5 Sew-Thru China Buttons with Smooth Beveled Rims, continued (p. 198-202); Two additional inserted two-way self shank patterns (p. 202-203); Stencils (p. 203-209) Vol. 20 Nov. 1961 No. 6 Catalog of China Mounds (p.262-264), fisheye (p. 264-265) Vol. 21 Mar. 1962 No. 2 China Buttons with Oval Eyes (p.61-64) Vol. 21 May 1962 No. 3 Deepwell (p.108-110); two new stencil patterns (p. 110) Vol. 21 Sep. 1962 No. 5 Additional stencil patterns (p. 223) Vol. 21 Nov. 1962 No. 6 Catalog of Two-hole Hollow-eye China Buttons, part I (p.258-262) Vol. 22 Jan. 1963 No. 1 Catalog of Two-hole Hollow-eye China Buttons, part II (p.16-20) Vol. 22 Mar. 1963 No. 2 Three-hole (p. 56-63) Vol. 22 May 1963 No. 3 Calico designs of gold (p. 132-134) Vol. 23 Mar. 64 No. 2 F. Bapterosses & Co., Paris, china stencils (p. 62-65) Vol. 24 Nov. 1962 No. 6 Additional stencil patterns (p. 272-273) Vol. 25 May 1966 No. 3 Pictorial catalog of calico patterns (p. 120-130) Vol. 27 Jan. 1968 No. 1 New calico patterns (p.16-19) Vol. 28 Sep. 1969 No. 5 Excerpts from "Reports of Artisans" from the 1867 Paris Exhibition. Vol. 30 Mar. 1971 No. 2 Additions to catalog (p. 65) Vol. 30 Nov. 1971 No. 6 Sample cards not previously seen (p. 316-318) Vol. 31 May 1972 No. 3 Two-hole sew through bird cages (p. 127); sample cards with unlisted patterns (p. 129-132) Vol. 32 Jan. 1973 No. 1 Scalloped edge gaiters (p. 155) Vol. 39 Jan. 1980 No. 1 Hand-painted calicoes (p. 37); differentiating from glass (p. 37) Vol. 39 Nov. 1980 No. 6 Guidelines for preparing representative trays (p. 251-254) Vol. 44 Jul. 1985 No. 3 Unusual, Albert Parent & Co. (p. 108-110) Vol. 50 Oct. 1991 No. 4 Unusual pattern (p. 182) Vol. 50 Dec. 1991 No. 5 Stencils (p. 205-206)
Thanks to Vicky Mayhall for providing portions of this list. The rest of the issues listed are taken from the Cumulative Index of The National Button Bulletin (1946-1992).