Joslin Hall Rare Books

Curious, Unusual, Interesting & Occasionally Useful Books of the 16th-20th Centuries exploring the skills, trades, lives and ways of other times...

 Thursday, December 14, 2017

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Stephenson, Simon.
Representations of the Embossed, Chased & Engraved Subjects and Inscriptions which decorate the Tobacco Box and Cases belonging to the Past Overseers Society, of the Parishes of St. Margaret and St. John the Evangelist, in the City of Westminster.

London J. Clark: 1824.

A rather incredible production, this elaborate tobacco box was passed from overseer to overseer. The box was originally but a simple horn box for a pocket, and was purchased at a fair by Overseer Henry Monck. Upon leaving office in 1713 he presented it to the Society, and its members, out of "respect to the donor, ornamented it with a silver rim, on which his named was engraved". Thus began a tradition that each departing overseer would add some silver ornament to the box when leaving office. Having run out of room on the original box, an additional case was soon added, and then another, and then another, and then... and on and on through the 18th century and into the 19th. In addition, it was tradition that the new ornamentation or case would contain a pictorial or word record of significant events of the years since the last overseer. These scenes and ornaments were quite elaborate, not mere chased leaves. They included numerous interior scenes, portraits, architectural scenes, a depiction of the court scene when the box was held by a past overseer and the Society went to court to reclaim it, a full-blown scene of a British frigate defeating a French ship at sea, the Peace Proclamation of 1802, the China Fleet repulsing a French naval squadron, the Jubilee and Death of George III, the bombardment and capture of Algiers, a battlefield scene of the victory of Wellington at Waterloo, the interior of the House of Commons during the trial of Queen Caroline, and so on. The standard of engraving, both on the box and in this book, was quite high. A unique piece of commemorative silver, beautifully and elaborately documented.

10.5"x14.5", engraved pictorial title page plus 11 pages of text and 32 plates (numbered 1-34 two double-page plates numbered as 2 plates each) 2 page list of subscribers. Bound in old boards with a newer plain leather spine boards with soil, chips and a light vertical wrinkle/crease endpapers lightly soiled, and some very light soil here and there internally, but overall internally a fine, bright, wide-margined copy and a very crisp impression. With Henry A. Hunt's bookplate and a penciled note that he purchased this book at the J.C. Noble sale of 1890.

Inventory #: 21206
Price: $ 875.00      

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