Sunday, 13 February 2011

Butchery & Bakery in 17th Century England

As I have learned during my ongoing infatuation for English Georgian drinking glasses, there are two absolute certainties which you must keep in mind when developing an obsession for any material objects that come within the category of 'antiques': A - nomatter how knowledgeable you think you may be becoming about any specialised area, there is always someone lurking round the corner that knows a damn sight more than you do about it; and B - that person has either written the definitive book about it, or has consulted it on a daily basis in order to assist them in attaining their authoritative position.

With glass, that book is 'Eighteenth Century English Drinking Glasses, by L.M. Bickerton, and for English, base-metal candlesticks, the above tome - written by Eloy Koldeweij - seems to be the one, as I have just discovered. The Bickerton book can be picked up for about £50, and the Koldeweij one for between £90 and £150, plus delivery. Delivery is not cheap - it weighs about 10 pounds, and seems to have about 600 photographic illustrations - I will not know for sure until I have acquired my copy.

There is a massive conflict of interest here, which teeters on the brink of paradox. In order to obtain your object of choice - if 'choice' it is - at a price which suits your budget (we are talking bargains here) one has to rely on the fact that the seller or auctioneer does not know the value of the item they are selling, even if they have a clue as to it's age or provenance. But then the value of said item is entirely dependent on it's desirability, and the more people that seek out these objects, the more desirable they become. If you need to finance your obsession by selling on the odd item at a a good price, the potential buyer needs to know the maximum value of it before he is willing to part with the cash. Sooner or later, your average car-boot salesman will own a copy of Bickerton or Koldweij, in much the same way as your average burglar used to own a copy of Miller's Antiques Guide before the internet made it obsolete.

I was trawling through a Christie's auction catalogue the other day and came across a late 17th century brass candlestick which looked - to my eye - pretty similar to others that I had seen for about £200, and not visually as nice as the one I bought recently at auction for £40. The Christie's one sold for £10,000. That was when I started to look for the definitive book on the subject because, unlike the world of glass, I do not personally know any experts on base-metal candlesticks.

Of course, I derive great pleasure from the hunt for these type of things, but it is a strange, excruciating pleasure. I have never been attracted to sado-masochism, but I suspect that the pleasure derived from it is similar to mine when competing for glass, or - more recently - candlesticks.

I read a few years ago that - following clinical tests - every sado-masochist tested by the research scientists who made the report, had one thing in common: mild, frontal-lobe brain damage. The brain-damage is not the sort which is noticeable from the outside, as they all lead perfectly ordinary lives when not down the club, trussed up in leather and being beaten by dominatrice, and - if questioned - those on the receiving end of the lash would have said they were leading perfectly ordinary lives on their nights off too.

Perhaps all those years of drug and alcohol abuse are starting to pay off?


  1. Have you considered the SM alternative?

  2. I think, like you sort of said in the 3rd paragraph down Tom, that something is only worth as much as somebody is willing to pay. A lot of your average car booters only buy to make a quick buck with no thought for the craftsman-ship involved which is a bit sad to my way of thinking. I still love the candlesticks you bought. I think you had a bargain. Hope you get your books. Knowledge is endless.

  3. Yes Moll, it is endless, but there's no fools like us old ones (I speak for myself, btw). I've just bought another from eBay tonight... looks like an early 18 century bronze one to me... hee hee!

  4. I get older but no wiser so I guess you could include me in that as well. I love bronze. Put a picture up when it arrives.

  5. I will - I am childishly excited, so probably will be childishly disappointed as well... but I don;t think so. The plan is to collect as many good, early candlesticks as poss over the next year or so, then auction them in London - if I can bear to part with them. If my power gets cut off, then maybe I will use them all.