This study intends to offer an exclusive and exceptional overall perspective of the ceramic production in the Ajoie area, made possible thanks to the wide production range and completeness of the sources available. Not only will the study consider things from a technological point of view, but also from a historic and socio-economic side. The research proves, on a regional scale, how much strong historic changes and the legal framework can influence the economic background in the long term (1750-1900), since they have effects on the access to resources and on the dissemination of knowledge and products. All segments of the ceramic production, from roof tiles to plates, to stove tiles, are considered, and the ceramic factory of Cornol (1760-1824) is the heart of this study. Such new knowledge is based on recent archaeological excavations and on the study of public archives and specific bibliography.

The archaeological site, which was excavated between 2003-2007, was discovered after an urban landslide near the Cornol factory. The huge amount of archaeological finds is explained by the fact that this place was used as a landfill for all the fragments produced by the factory. The debris recovered included raw materials, also at different levels of the production chain, and external materials that will all be explained in a short description. Only the remains of the factory itself will be clarified more thoroughly (in chapters 4.3.7 and 4.4). Such ruins and fragments form a collection of 50.000 pieces that have all been cleaned, assembled and filed following the classic method. The decision to consider these elements in a more privileged manner derives from the need to achieve an in-depth knowledge of the Cornol ceramics factory . On the other side, historic sources allow us access to information regarding the actors of such ceramic production processes, but also to certain technical and commercial factors, even though the company archives are non-existent. Information was gathered in seven public archives and includes general census, civil certificates, notary deeds (wills, post-mortem inventories, rent contracts, marriage contracts, passports), cadastral documents or corporative archives. The lack of reliable information was compensated by the many explored sites and cross-studies carried out.

The study of producers, production and commercial aspects involves all fields of the ceramic profession from potters, furnace workers and tile makers. Archives offered data regarding the origins of the artisans and their movements on the territory (local, migrants, endogamic) but also give information about how the know-how was passed down and about the means of production (apprenticeship, family tradition, economic recoveries). Studying the corporate archives and licences allows us to understand more about the conditions of competitiveness or monopoly. However, the exclusivity of the potters of Bonfol does not result from a juridical or administrative decision, but from the unique quality of the refractory clay they use.

However, the information regarding the quality of life and level of specialization reveals constant poverty among the members of the pottery community as well as a lack of dynamism that would eventually lead to a disappearance of such artisanal form of work in the region.

Thanks to the properties and estates it was possible to locate workshops and deposits, and this represents a key fact, since during the whole time lapse considered, the double limitation of raw material and wood used as combustion weighed a lot due to transport costs.

Production mainly consists of tiles, stoves and plates since demand is influenced by construction regulations (obligation to cover in tiles) and by economic policies. Offer aims to be functional and economic and independent potters have various channels of distribution : direct sale, wholesale, shops and door-to-door. The area of distribution is surprisingly big. Potters and tile makers connected to an institution (tile maker of the castle of the city of Porrentruy, palace potters) produce on commission. An estimate of the amounts produced allows us to affirm that volumes were certainly big : millions of pieces. Quality was, on the other hand, object of constant criticism. Bonfol soon stands out as a specialized village among sixteen potter areas in the region of Ajoie. 34 tile factories are described to understand the importance of the development of this form of artisanship, forming the first monograph at the regional level.

Researches in the archives and the excavations allow to understand more about the owners, staff and main techniques used in the ceramic production of Cornol. Staff was a rather heterogeneous and unpredictable group of people, yet joined together by the technology of fire. The factory, which was a big competitor of the iron and steel industry for its consumption of wood, was marginalized to the regional context for the whole time it operated. Archaeological finds and architectural information allow us to understand more about the techniques used and volumes produced. The analysis of what remains also gives us the chance to know more about the amount of raw materials available and how they were imported and accessed.

The Cornol ceramics factory (1760-1820) went through various phases of exploitation which go from its founding, thanks to a dynamic lawyer, to its decline during the French Revolution and to its complete closure under the Bern Regime. Funding strategies, management, recruitment, supply and sales have all been discovered thanks to the study of the three main archives. Thanks also to the many remains found and to the information collected in documents it is now possible to account not only for the techniques used throughout its history, including raw material and infrastructures, but also for the manpower that almost always came from other regions bringing such precious know-how with them. As regards production, it is well-explained in the catalogue and compared to contemporary forms of production in order to date and locate the influences of European artistic customs of the time. Ever since the beginning, clients addressed were not just local - since they were also rather poor - but also included people from outside the frontiers of the Old Bishopric of Basle, in particular in Basle, but also in other places around Switzerland. Regardless of the advantage of having such top quality clay, excellent artisans and a good reputation, the factory fell victim of the revolution, like many other similar sites. Its strategy for survival was constant : aiming to quality and to diversification within the field of ceramics, with the creation of a tile factory starting in 1803, also producing stanniferous earthenware.

Among the causes of the decline of the Cornol factory, the main ones are revolutionary events, the English and French competitors (Loraine), the long disagreements between the owners, in particular Rengguer and Delphis, and the fact that throughout its history, it was lead by staff that was not originally from that region.

Translation: Julie Robert-Charrue