A group of 17th century black leather drinking vessels – three bottells, two jacks and pair of bombards – surfaced at a recent sale held by Brightwells of Leominster.
Collected by the late husband of the vendor,
these epitomised old school collecting taste (it's no accident that
the definitive work on the subject, Black Jacks and Leather
Bottells by Oliver Baker was published in 1921).
Here they were estimated here at levels that
While such vessels were the mainstay of
tavern culture from pre-medieval times, these were from the last
flowering of the leather drinking vessel in the 17th and 18th
The choice entry was a pair of bombards, the
large single-handled jugs with a capacity of a gallon or more that
take their name from a medieval cannon. The pair here stood 18in
(46cm) high and were silver mounted - although later in their life
Estimated at £3000-4000 at the sale on
January 23, they took £3800.
Bottells and Jacks
Jacks are so-called as their silhouette
resembled the sleeveless coat of the same name worn by archers. The
better of the two examples offered here, a typical form measuring
around 15in (38cm) high, took a quadruple estimate £2300, the
other, slightly smaller, took £680.
Condition also dictated varied results for
the three bottells, the water-carrying vessels from which the
modern word bottle is derived. The largest example at 9in (22cm)
and the most intact, complete with its stopper, trebled hopes at
The other two measuring 7in (18cm) each sold
more in line with expectations at £520 and £600.
The material that replaced leather as the
drinking vessel of choice was pewter. The surprise of this sale was
the performance of a somewhat battle-scarred late 17th century
pewter lidded tankard standing 8in (20cm) high with a reeded band,
hinged flat cover and a volute thumbpiece.
It was repaired, but shot past its £100 top
estimate to finish at £2600.
The buyer's premium was 17.5%
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