Finding an original dated ivory and silver ‘dug out’ case is scarcer still.
The example at Reeman Dansie (20% buyer’s premium) in Colchester on April 28 came for sale from the descendants of Edward and Evelyn Grandly of Westcott, Dorking.
Some 34 people were watching it on thesaleroom.com in the run-up to the sale. Estimate at an attractive £500-800, it sold online at £2500.
In the 17th century the wearing of spectacles did become more widespread, although they were still considered aids for the elderly. Many were made in German centres such as Nuremberg and Regensburg and imported.
Although these were catalogued as sunglasses, frames with tinted lenses were considered to be therapeutic. The diarist Samuel Pepys purchased a pair of spectacles with green lenses from the London maker John Turlington in December 1666 in the hope that the tint might relieve a soreness in his eyes caused, he supposed, by working in candlelight.
They will have looked like this pair: a bow form made to sit (like later pince-nez) on the bridge of the nose. Spectacles with temples (arms) were an 18th century invention.
There is a Scottish link. The interior of the lid is engraved and stained with figure of St Andrew carrying the cross flanked by the initials AS and the date 1663. The case was in good order although it was a little warped and the glasses have a break at the bow.
Another draw at this sale was a group of six Meissen dinner plates from the ‘Stadhouder’ or ‘Holländische’ service: a gift from the Dutch East India Company to Willem V of Orange, Stadhouder of the United Provinces of Holland, c.1772-74.
As detailed in the monograph by Abraham L den Blaauwen, Het Meissen servies van Stadhouder Willem V (1993), the service, painted with titled views of the Netherlands and the Netherlands East Indies, originally comprised more than 435 pieces.
The rococo decoration was a little old-fashioned at the time – probably because Willem V already possessed 12 similar plates bearing his arms which, Meissen records state, were painted by Christoph Wilhelm Plesch (1716-79) in April 1766.
The service seems to have travelled with Willem V when he went into exile in England in 1795.
Approximately 360 pieces were sold as part of the collection of William Beckford of Fonthill Abbey and these were subsequently sold in 1868 in 75 lots.
A large portion is now displayed in the Paleis Het Loo National Museum in Apeldoorn but pieces do come for sale from time to time.
These half-dozen plates came by descent from the collection of the late Sir Thomas Lane Devitt, 1st Bt (1839- 1923), chairman of Lloyds Register of Shipping, who most likely purchased them at the end of the 19th century.
Estimated at £2000-3000 each (all were in decent condition with minor wear), they made prices between £6200 and £8400 each – pretty much in line with sums realised by others at auction in London and New York in recent years.