Posts tagged ‘Antique Silver Dealers’

August 30, 2022

How (of Edinburgh, Limited) – rare antique dealer’s catalogue, 1937

Our collections of antique dealer catalogues have had a few more additions over the past months. The latest example of these rare pieces of ephemera is a catalogue produced in 1937 by the world-famous antique silver dealers How (of Edinburgh, Limited). As early 20th century antique dealer catalogues go, it’s quite a large, and obviously expensive to produce, catalogue of stock; it’s 12 inches high, by about 9.5 inches wide and contains 71 pages of black and white photographs of the antique silver that How (of Edinburgh, Limited) had in stock at the time. I guess such catalogues would be sent out to loyal customers, but you could also buy a copy of the How (of Edinburgh, Limited) catalogue for 5 shillings.

How (of Edinburgh, Limited) catalogue, 1937. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

How (of Edinburgh, Limited) were established in 1930 by Lt-Commander George Evelyn Paget How (Royal Navy, retired) FSA, Scotland. George How was born in Edinburgh in 1894, and spent much of his youth with his uncle, Lord Cuncliffe, who apparently taught the young How about antique silver. He purchased his first piece of antique silver, a George II silver basting spoon for £32 6d in 1911 in Gibraltar, whilst he was a cadet in the Royal Navy; he still had the spoon in 1936, shortly before the issue date of the How (of Edinburgh, Limited) catalogue.

G.E.P. How, perhaps from the 1920s Photograph, Antique Collector Magazine, June 1935.

How (of Edinburgh, Limited) opened their first shop in North Street, Edinburgh, in 1930, before moving to fashionable Charlotte Square, Edinburgh by 1932. The business opened a shop in London by 1933, first in Berkeley Square, then Stratton Street (the location suggested in the dealer catalogue), before settling in Pickering Place, St. James’s after the Second World War.

George’s wife, Jane Prentice How (1915-2004) joined him in the business in the mid 1930s and was herself a leading expert on antique silver, a member of the Plate Committee at Goldsmiths Hall in London, and, by all accounts, a formidable antique dealer in her own right. Jane, known as ‘Mrs How’, continued the business of How (of Edinburgh, Limited) after the death of her husband. Many leading antique silver dealers of the day, including Hugh Jessop, John Bourdon-Smith and Brand Inglis, worked at How (of Edinburgh, Limited) at some stage in their careers as dealers.

The catalogue offers a fascinating insight into a leading antique silver dealer’s stock in the 1930s, including, as one might expect given the status of How (of Edinburgh, Limited) as one of the leading antique silver dealers, some rare and important examples of antique silver. Here, for example, is a rare, early, ‘Tigerware’ jug with silver-gilt mounts, made in London in 1556 – (see below):

How (of Edinburgh, Limited) catalogue, 1937. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

Or this mid 17th century ‘Commonwealth’ period silver salver, made in London in 1657 – (see below):

How (of Edinburgh, Limited), catalogue 1937. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

The stock also included examples of the work of the world famous silversmith Paul de Lamerie (1688-1751), always much sought after. Here, for example, is a silver ‘small dish on four feet’ (it’s actually a silver sweetmeat-dish), dating from 1730 – (see below):

How (of Edinburgh, Limited) catalogue, 1937. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research project, University of Leeds.

This dish, which appears to have been one of a pair, turned up at auction at Christie’s in London on 5th July 2005 (lot 19) in a sale of ‘Important Silver, the property of a European Collector’, when it sold for £7,200 (the Christie’s auction sale catalogue suggested that the engraved Arms in the centre were a later addition – (see below):

Christie’s Auction Catalogue (online), 5th July, 2005. Copyright, Christie’s.

The How (of Edinburgh, Limited) catalogue also illustrates antique silver with very illustrious provenances. These examples, ‘The Lencker Tazza’ (silver-gilt, made by Elias Lencker in about 1570), and the silver-gilt beakers, made in Augsburg in about 1600, were both formerly owned by the Rothschild family – (see below):

How (of Edinburgh, Limited) catalogue, 1937. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.
How (of Edinburgh, Limited) catalogue, 1937. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

However, (I couldn’t resist the pun!) one of the most interesting (to me at least) aspects of the How (of Edinburgh, Limited) catalogue is the inclusion in the catalogue of an example of a ‘Certificate of Authenticity’ issued by How (of Edinburgh, Limited). The certificate also directly relates to some of the suggested categories and classifications beneath each of the photographs of the objects in the catalogue – ‘Quality of Object’ – ‘Condition of Object’ – ‘Condition of Marks’, graded variously as ‘Fair’, ‘Good’ and ‘Exceptional’ throughout the catalogue and, as one might expect, as ‘exceptional’ in the certificate example.

How (of Edinburgh, Limited) catalogue, 1937. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

Many leading antique dealers and trade organisations, such as the BADA (British Antique Dealers Association) and LAPADA (The Association of Art and Antique Dealers) have offered certificates of authenticity, and many continue to do so, but the How (of Edinburgh, Limited) certificates of the 1930s demonstrate the long genealogy and enduring legacy of authenticity in the market for antiques.


May 23, 2020

Antique Silver Dealers – Jay, Richard Attenborough & Co. archive

It’s amazing what turns up at auction sometimes – during ‘Lockdown’ I seem to have ‘’ constantly running in the background whilst I’m writing on my PC; last week, at Keys Fine Art in Aylsham, Norfolk, a rather dishevelled old album caught my eye. Lot 217, described as ‘Vintage Album containing various photographs of hallmarked silver and other artworks’ sounded rather intriguing, and I recognised the type of photographs and that it was probably a silver dealer’s album – so I had to buy it of course; it was a bargain I think, just £12 plus commissions and postage, so cost about £24 all told (and thank you to Keys Fine Art Auctions for packaging the lot so well and posting it so promptly!).


‘Vintage Album’, Keys Fine Art Auctions, Norfolk.

The album arrived in the post this week. I guess the album itself dates from c.1900 – it has an old title on the original red leather spine ‘Photographs & Records of Cups and Presentation Plate’ – although it has been recovered in plain brown paper at some stage, and as you can see it is in a very distressed condition.

The album turned out to be a fascinating record of the well-known London-based silversmiths and antique silver dealers ‘Jay, Richard Attenborough & Co Ltd‘.  In some business letters, dating from the 1920s and which have been pasted into the album, Attenborough described themselves as ‘Goldsmiths, Diamond Merchants and Watchmakers’; they traded from 142-144 Oxford Street, London, from c.1905 until the late 1950s, although like many 20th century antique silver dealers (such as Harman & Lambert, or Birch & Gaydon), Attenborough can trace their genealogy into the 18th century – their business letterhead states that they were established in 1796. The Attenborough business was acquired by the silversmith James Charles Jay in 1887 and by 1904 had become Jay, Richard Attenborough & Co Ltd – the business seems to have closed sometime in the 1960s? They were listed as ‘antique silver dealers’ in the London Trade Directories in the 1920s-1950s. As silversmiths, Attenborough also sold antique silver and indeed the album exemplifies the continued tradition within silversmithing of buying and selling second-hand and antique silver. The famous firm of S.J. Phillips, for example, began as silversmiths and jewellers in the 19th century and many other antique silver dealers can trace their origins as silversmiths.

The contents of the album are mainly photographs of modern silver made by Attenborough in the 1920s to the 1950s, but there are also many photos of 18th and 19th century antique silver, including this amazing George II silver basket – in the style of Paul de Lamerie (1688-1751).

George II Silver Basket; Jay, Richard Attenborough & Co Ltd album, photograph c.1930s?

Some of the most interesting photographs in the album illustrate pieces of antique silver that have been remounted as presentation pieces by Jay, Richard Attenborough & Co in the 1920s and 1930s.  This silver punch bowl dating from 1870 has been remounted for presentation in 1924.  There is a long description of the object in the album; ‘Silver Punch Bowl, weighing 144 ounces, standing 14 inches high, and measuring 18 inches across. It is entirely wrought and chased by hand, and bears the Victorian Hall mark for the year 1870. The body of the bowl is decorated with repousse work in high relief of figures of horsemen and footmen in armour, symbolising battle scenes from early English history. The pedestal foot is ornamented with a series of wreathed designs of oak leaves and acorns; the whole forming a remarkable and unique specimen of the silversmith’s art. It was originally on [sic] the collection of the late Viscount Chaplin, who was a great patron of the turf, and a thorough sportsman, also a political associate of the Rt. Hon. Joseph Chamberlain. The inscription engraved on the foot is as follows:- Monday, 14th July, 1924 ‘To have the honour to meet H.R.H. The Prince of Wales’ Souvenir of ‘At Home’ at the Jamaica Court. BRITISH EMPIRE EXHIBITION, WEMBLEY.’

The album also contains dozens of photographs of commissions for presentation cups and plate that the firm created in the early and mid 20th century. Here, for example, is ‘The Spectaclemakers Cup’, made to commemorate the tercentenary of the granting of the Royal Charter by Charles I in 1629; ‘made in May 1930 for Sir Osborn Holmden’ – who was made Master of the Worshipful Company of Spectaclemakers in 1928.

The wide range of commissions for silver that the firm undertook is illustrated by these two further examples – a large silver presentation salver, made as a gift to William Lawrence Stephenson Esq. on his retirement as chairman of F.W. Woolworth & Co. Ltd. in 1948.

And the winner’s trophy for the Miss World Competition in 1955, which that year was held in London.

That year, the fifth edition of the now highly contentious and outdated competition, Miss Venezuela, Susanna Duijm, won the competition; here she is, holding the trophy made by Jay, Richard Attenborough & Co Ltd.

As well as the photographs of modern and antique silver, the album also contains a small number of fascinating watercolour designs for cups and medals, including these beautiful watercolours for designs for a medal for the Vegetarian Cycling and Athletic Club, dating from the 1930s.  The Club was established in 1888 and is still going.

The Attenborough album is an amazing document, one that clearly demonstrates how the practices of antique dealing, and those of contemporary design, have been in continuous flux.  The album will be making its way to the Special Collections at the Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds in due course!


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