THE PROTECTOR OF MANKIND (THE GUARDIANS OF HAYDEN Book 1)
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Jackson, which contains over eleven thousand marks reproduced in facsimile. There is no other book on the subject within measurable distance of this encyclopaedia. It is obvious that in the present volume only a limited number of marks can be illustrated, but the author has given typical examples covering the London marks, which are the most important, and a few examples from most of the provincial assay offices as well as from Scotland and Ireland.
These will be found in the Appendix pp. It is admitted that, from a public point of view, the hall-marks stamped on silver by the various assay offices have a very definite meaning. We suggest that they might perform an educational service by throwing open their assay office to public inspection. Neither the Royal Mint nor the Bank of England may be said to be an inaccessible holy of holies.
As custodians of historic archives of no insignificant value, there is no reason why such records should not be as readily accessible to the general student as are the papers in the Public Record Office which divulge bygone State secrets. Possibly if the assaying were placed under Government supervision, as has so often been strongly advocated, these things might come to pass.
They are proudly jealous of their reputation and rightly anxious to guard the public interest. To-morrow they could be swept aside by an Act of Parliament, and all silver could be assayed and stamped at the Royal Mint or by Government assayers. In regard to the date letters the London Assay Office has consistently, with one exception, , adhered to twenty letters in each alphabet, that is from A to U omitting J.
But the provincial offices were wofully erratic and exhibit a looseness and want of system in not adhering to the same arrangement of alphabets in succeeding periods. It is not necessary to follow these eccentricities in detail, a few examples will suffice. Some of these were used for more than one year. In the next two periods, to and to , the alphabet ends at T. Later alphabets run to Z. Chester employed an alphabet sometimes ending in X, sometimes in V, and sometimes in U, and one series runs from A to Z excluding J from to The result of the somewhat chaotic alphabet marks has been to focus the attention of the collector too much on this particular side of the subject.
The identification of marks, the outward symbols of time and place, have reduced the study of old silver to a somewhat lower plane than it should occupy by right. It is proper that such determining factors should have their place, but not the first place. There was a time when china collectors ignored paste and glaze and laid particular stress on marks, and it is a very happy accident that a great portion of English porcelain and much of English earthenware is unmarked.
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The collector of old silver, however, cannot hope to escape from marks; they are an integral part of the subject, and coming as they do under the strict surveillance of the law, they offer protection to his investment and have the comforting assurance of gilt-edged security. In regard to marks it is interesting to read what Mr. Few however have, I believe, regarded them in any other light than as a proof that the article so marked is made of the metal which it professes to be, and that the metal itself is of a certain purity.
And this is in fact the real ultimate object and intention of these marks; but besides this the archaeologist can deduce from them other important and interesting information, as by them he can learn the precise year in which any article bearing these marks was made.
It is therefore to these marks that I am about to direct attention with a view to elucidate their history and peculiar meaning. He was the first collector who realized their importance. It seems amazing that up to nothing appears to have been known to the intelligent layman or the public at large of these symbols which had appeared on plate for some six hundred years. It suggests the idea that the marking was regarded in the nature of a trade secret.
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In the light of this it may be conjectured that the chaotic arrangement of alphabets came about not by accident but by design. See Chronological List of Specimens illustrated in this volume, p. This of all the marks should be the most intimate and should indicate the personal touch, as something coming from the craftsman to the possessor.
It is the heirloom which the old silversmith hands to posterity. His mark signified his pride in his art, that is in the days when craftsmen were artists and whatsoever their hand found to do they did it with all their might. What would one give for a few human touches in connexion with our old silver! But this is in the realms of fancy, and the fortune is literally fabulous. Cannot the guilds dig out their romantic history from their archives? But no such thing. All these initials of makers are empty of such vanities.
We can do better with prints. Those who possess the engraved work of Ryland have the satisfaction of knowing that he was hounded by Bow Street runners and hid, like the modern Lefroy, at Stepney, and that he was hanged for forgery.
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Copper-plates were dear, but he had no poverty of invention, and since the days when as a child he saw angels following the reapers in the corn, he lived for posterity and left his record. But have gravers on silver and inventors of symmetrical goblets of gold less blood than those who drew lines on copper? There is something human missing in these strings of initials and bare names so sedulously gathered together by dry-as-dust compilers. Chippendale, Sheraton, Hepplewhite have created styles of their own. Of Sheraton we have personal details piquant enough to add fresh lustre to his satinwood creations.
There is the story of the one teacup in the back street of Soho, which was handed to his Scottish apprentice in the little shop whence he issued his religious pamphlets. In silver ware the Elizabethan and the Stuart periods run parallel with furniture; the names of makers are rarely known.
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In the initials were by law altered from the first two letters of the surname to the first letter of the surname and the first letter of the Christian name. In earlier years the maker had a device—a dolphin, a star, a cross, or any other symbol to denote his individual work. But the prentice grew older and was allowed to come out into the light. The public, caring more for the lion, et cetera , than for X, Y, and Z, know no better; as for the real makers the public know nought.
But we ask, is this the way to encourage our workers in plate? Syndicates have no bowels of compassion, but assay offices might be supposed to minister to the interests of the art of the worker in precious metals. To kill or to stifle individuality is a crime against Art. If Sheraton had been a silversmith his name would have been unknown.
By law it has been determined that the initials of the maker shall appear on each article of silver assayed; there is nothing in any statute concerning the middle man. He was fined a pipe of wine, and twelve pence a week for one year to a poor member of the company. Among the human touches left there are fragments recorded which are interesting to collectors. Sir Thomas Gresham, the great London goldsmith in the middle sixteenth century, carried on business in Lombard Street at the sign of the Grasshopper.
To this day there is a grasshopper as a weathercock behind the Royal Exchange. He entertained Charles II during his mayorality. Sir Robert, when he had well drunken, grew very familiar with the king, who wished to steal away without ceremony and proceed to his coach. On the look-out for links connecting the silversmith with things human we find an interesting shop card of Ellis Gamble, to whom by his own desire young Hogarth was apprenticed and learned to engrave on silver plate.
It was here that he drew heraldic beasts. His apprenticeship terminated when he was twenty years of age. There is preserved in Hogarth Illustrated by Ireland the engraving of the Kendal Arms during his apprenticeship, showing fine design. Among the eighteenth century American silversmiths there are some that stand out prominently, and the exhibition of old American plate held at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in brought them to notice.
There is the work of John Dixwell from to who was the son of Colonel John Dixwell, one of the regicides who fled to America in the early years of the Restoration. But Paul Revere, silversmith, has another claim to renown as a patriot. The story runs that he waited, booted and spurred, on the Charlestown shore for secret news to carry through all the countryside. We know the story of the opening shots at Lexington, the obstinate foolishness of the North Ministry and the deaf ear George III turned to the wisdom of Chatham.
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The higher standard mark has a significance peculiarly its own. By 8 and 9 William III, cap. Section 9 of this chapter of the Act contains in official terms an allusion to the grave scandals that had shaken the commercial stability of the country for many years.guijacpaguarsust.cf
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In addition to this the date mark was to be stamped to show in what year the plate was made. As the manufacture of silver plate of the old standard was illegal after the passing of this Act and the use of the old marks was equally illegal, it would appear that the provincial assay offices were precluded from stamping silver. That this appears to be the case is suggested by the reappointment of the provincial offices in York, Exeter, Bristol, Chester, and Norwich, at which cities mints had been opened for the coinage of the new silver, were reappointed by 12 William, cap.
The new standard was to be observed. From 25th March, , till no plate was therefore assayed at any of the provincial centres. In the town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne was appointed as an assay town with similar privileges and restrictions as in the above-mentioned cities. This raised the standard of silver plate above that of the coin of the realm. Silver plate then dropped to the same fineness as the coin of the realm.