Wednesday - 27 August 2014

Leather drinking vessels from the 17th century

26 February 2013Written by Roland Arkell

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 encouraged interest.

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 centuries.

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 (London 1894).

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 £1700.

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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