Antique Glassware Part 1

THE making of glass is an art so old and is so dignified by its antiquity that to learn about its earliest history would take us back at least fifteen hundred years before the Christian Era.

There is a glass bead still preserved, covered with Egyptian hieroglyphics which have been deciphered, showing that it belonged to Queen Hatasou, wife of Thothmes II, who reigned at Thebes 1500 b. c. The Egyptian workmen not only made beads, but attained great proficiency in the art of glass-making, and could produce bottles, cups, amulets, and images. Less pleasant things were coffins of glass in which rich and powerful persons were sometimes interred.

About the Christian Era the price of a drinking glass was half an as, the value of an as being about one cent, which shows that enough glass was made to allow of its being sold at a small price. Cicero (about 8 B.C.) mentions glass, linen, and paper as common articles of Egyptian merchandise.

From that day to the present the manufacture of glass has been of immense commercial importance, and besides contributing to the comfort and healthfulness of our dwellings, has played a large part in giving us luxuries.

The clevcr Venetians early led the world in the manufacture of glass of exquisite beauty, and they still preserve their pre-eminence in this field of art. The whole history of Venetian glass-making, the laws which govern it,the almost royal privileges which belong to the makers, and the gathering together in the thirteenth century, upon the island of Murano, all this class of workers too long is asubject to be dealt with here. Itis most interestingly told in Mr. Crawford's novel, "Marietta, A Maid of Venice."

Turn where you will in old records and inventories toward the end of the Middle Ages and you will gen erally find some mention made of Venetian glasses. Tliese workers sent looking-glasses to England by the end of the thirteenth century, and their ornamental cups and beakers, holding within the glass itself par ticles of gold, were eagerly sought by those wealthy enough to buy them.

In that most interesting old book, Holin shed's "Chronicle," of which the most valuable part, " The Descriptions of Britaine and England,"were written by William Harrison, we find this account of the use of glass in the year 1577, and for the immediately preceding years. After speaking of the different foods which may be found at a nobleman's table, "whose cooks," he adds, "are for the most part musical-headed French- men and strangers," he describes the rich plate on which they are served, and then goes on:

"As for drink, it is usually filled in pots, goblets, jugs, bowls of silver, in noblemen's houses; also in fine Venice glasses of all forms; and for want of these elsewhere, in pots of sundry colours and moulds, whereof many are garnished with silver, or at the leastwise with pewter, all which notwithstand ing are seldom set on the table, but each one as necessity urgeth, calleth for a cup of such drink as him listeth to have, so that, when he has tasted of it, he delivered the cup again to some one of the standers by, who, making it clean by pouring out the drink which remaineth, restoreth it to the cupboard from whence he fetched the same. By this device much idle tippling is furthermore cut off. It is a world to see in these our days, wherein gold and silver most aboundeth, how our gentility, as loathing those metals (because of the plenty) do now generally choose rather the Venice glasses, both for our wine and beer, than any of those metals or stone wherein before time we have been accustomed to drink; and such is the estimation of this stuff that many become rich with only their new trade unto Murana (a town near to Venice, situate on the Adriatic Sea), from whence the very best are daily to be had, and such as for beauty do well near match the crystal or the ancient murrhina vasa whereof now no man hath knowlcdge. And as this is seen in the gentility, so in the wealthy com- munality the like desire of glass is not neglected, whereby the gain gotten by their purchase is yet much more increased to the benefit of the merchant. The poorest also will have glass if they may; but sith the Venetian is somewhat dear for them, they content themselves with such as are made at home of fern and burned stone; but in fine all go one way — that is, to shards at last, so that our great expense in glasses (besides that they breed much strife toward such as have charge of them) are worst of all bestowed pieces do turn to no profit." in mine opinion, because their

The use of glass for windows was one of the greatest improvements of mediaeval times, and in Whitaker's "Loidis et Elmete " he says: "The earliest stained glass which we read of, at least in the north of England, was in the possession of the Monks of Rivaulx, about 1140. At this precise period the narrow lights began to expand, and as the use of it grew more and more general, the surfaces of windows became by degrees more diversified and wider." Times,"

Hamerton, in " Paris in its Old and Present describes the Louvre as it was in 1368. He says that the rooms were Ioav, panelled with wood, with narrow barred windows, on the glass of which were painted the arms of the person to whom the room belonged.

In the "Comptes du vieux Louvre" it says: "The King's cabinet or study was lighted by one large window with painted glass, and four smaller ones, and it was hung with black drap de Caen." This was also in 1368.

In England the manufacture of glass was either unknown or neglected during the Middle Ages, and it was not till Queen Elizabeth invited Cornelius de Lannoy to settle in London that works in glass were first produced. Glass objects were much esteemed, of whatever form, and James Howell, in his " Familiar Letters," writes to his uncle from London in 1625 as follows: "The curious sea-chest of glasses you are pleased to bestow on me, I shall be very chary to keep as a monument of your love."

The gossipy Pepys writes in his diary for 1661 that a Captain Lambert who had recently returned from Portugal says " that there are no glass windows, nor will they have any." His easy way of speaking of glass windows shows that they were in common use in England at that time, and in fact Harrison, already quoted, says:

"Of old time, our country houses, instead of glass did use much lattice, and that made either of wicker or fine rifts of oak in checkerwise. But as now lattices of horn are quite laid down in every place, other lattices are grown less used, because it is come to be so plentiful, and within a little so good cheap, if not better than the other."

This was nearly a hundred years earlier than when Pepys wrote.

An interesting case of glasses, while of a later period than those of which Howell wote, is shown in Figure 104. It was made to hold not only various kinds of wine, but glasses for drinking and a tray to set them on as well. Of the old Venetian glasses from which they drank vernage, catepument, raspis, muscadell, romnie, bastard lire, osy caprie, clary, and malmesey, as well as some liquors of greater strength and few remain. Few also of the bottles or decanters have escaped the midden, but in Figure 105 are a pair of decanters such as the Venetians made three hundred years ago, and which no doubt were seen on the tables of all who could afford such luxuries. In fact bottles of one form or another, either with or without a wicker-work covering, have been in use uninterruptedly from the earliest times.

Fig. 106 German Glass ANTIQUE GLASSWARE.

Fig. 1 Oak Table and Joint Stool.Mr Fig. 1 1 Liquor Case and Glasses m m. Fig. 2 Cavalier Table. Fig. 2 5 Stump Bedstead. Fig. 3 Balustkk Table.Fig. 3 Salts and Jug tm.Fig. 3 7 Plates and Platters V.

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Source

The Collector's Manual by N. Hudson Moore, Amy Richards. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1906.

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