Monday, October 28, 2013

Unusual Artifacts: A Silver Snuff Grater, 1700

Silver Snuff Box with Built-in Steel Grater, 1700
Made in Britain
The Victoria & Albert Museum

A box with a hinged lid and two compartments, this snuff grater was designed to hold a block of compressed powdered snuff in the smaller compartment while the larger compartment, fitted with a perforated grater, would have held the grated snuff powder. The lid was made to close very tightly—an essential state for keeping snuff dry and sniff-able.

Boy, but that just sounds like terrible stuff.  Nevertheless, it was quite popular and it made for some attractive containers and tools like this one.  The lid of this grater is engraved with the monogram “HE” for the Edmonds family of Yorkshire, and with the family crest of a three-masted ship in full sail.  It was made around 1700.

Oddly enough, snuff, and tobacco in general, was thought to have some handy medicinal uses.  Aside from being addictive and completely ruining one’s nasal respiration, I can’t see what else it could do.  But, again…we do have some lovely containers left behind from this revolting habit.  

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