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Treasure and Curios

Silver and tortoiseshell snuff and patch boxes, 18th to 19th century.

Silver and tortoiseshell snuff and patch boxes, 18th to 19th century.

The enthusiasm of collectors can sometimes reach extraordinary lengths, with objects that can be bizarre, fascinating or simply attractive.

The Cullums were avid collectors of a wide variety of objects. These include memorabilia relating to famous historical people: a knife owned by Napoleon; a piece of Bonnie Prince Charlie's tartan; a lock of Sir Isaac Newton's hair. Other important collections include ceramics and armorial porcelain. The porcelain was manufactured in China for export, chiefly in the eighteenth century, when it was fashionable among wealthy families to have coats-of-arms emblazoned on their domestic china. The collection also features fine Toby jugs and examples of work from British porcelain factories.

As well as topographical prints, Mrs. Eva Wollaston Greene also presented her extensive collection of scent and snuff bottles to the borough's museums; these are exhibited in her two fine Edwardian display cabinets. The scent bottles, dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, are chiefly of coloured glass, including Bristol blue. Several examples are double-ended to contain both perfume and smelling salts and would have been carried by Victorian ladies in their reticules or handbags. There are also examples of 'Oxford Lavenders' - manufactured as cheap disposable containers for lavender water in the nineteenth century, but which are now highly collectable. The snuff bottles are primarily eighteenth-century Chinese work in a variety of materials - glass, coral and porcelain. The decorative lids or stoppers usually incorporate spatulas for extracting powdered snuff. One features the Chinese artists' celebrated and skilful technique of painting the design inside the bottle thus showing through the translucent glass.

Ceramic and enamel snuff bottles, Chinese, 18th century.

(Above): Ceramic and enamel snuff bottles, Chinese, 18th century.