An American Book Review
There are currently not many books about infant feeders or baby bottles, to
use the more popular term, on the market. Of course there is our own
Guide to American Nursing Bottles first edited by Diane Ostrander (1984)
and revised by Don Gifford (1992) and Frank & Sara Jean Binder (2001), and
there is also a most informative article by Charlie Harris about Callet
nursing bottles (Keeping Abreast, 33:4, 25-28), but if one checks the
websites of book retailers, it is nearly impossible to find a reasonably
priced volume still in print.
The situation is different in France where at least two
professionally edited volumes about the history of baby bottles are
available and can also be delivered to the United States: a richly
illustrated overview called "Bébés au biberon" (Babies with Baby Bottles) by
Marie-Claude Delahaye (Paris: Editions Hoëbeke, 2003) and just off the press
"LeBiberon. A travers les âges" (The Infant Feeder Through the Ages) by
Ludovic Clément who is also the editor and owner of currently perhaps the
best website on the subject,
While the first-mentioned volume is a wonderful picture book
presenting historically fascinating art work and photo material, especially
commercial advertisements, the newly released volume is a concise and
superbly edited guide book for the collector. It offers a chronological
review of the development of this nursing container from the days when
France was a Roman colony to contemporary bottle designs with silicone
nipples. The paperback volume also contains numerous illustrations and
black-and-white photos, a list of French bottle companies, an excellent
bibliography, and a listing of websites and museums.
Of course the text is all in French, but the illustrations make
clear what the text describes. Since much of the development of this
liquid-feeding device is internationally similar (at least in countries of
Western civilization), a comparison with American products is not difficult.
From an artistic though not sanitary aspect, the most fascinating
biberons (derived from the Latin verb bibere = to drink) of the
19th century are probably the richly decorated glass bottles,
particularly of the Robert company first located in Dijon, then Paris (one
still comes across such culturally relevant collectibles on Ebay auctions).
Collectors certainly also appreciate the polished pewter bottles from the
early 19th century, real works of art and also documented in
If I may make a suggestion to the prospective reader: Don’t just
consult the print medium (whether you speak French or not), but check also
the above-mentioned website which is a treasure trove of information and a
colorful supplement to the book. And don’t worry about the language barrier
- you’ll find your way through !
Gert Niers, Ph.D.