( Originally Published 1905 )
THE making of glass is an art so old and is so dignified by its antiquity that to learn about its earliest history would take us back at least fifteen hundred years before the Christian Era.
There is a glass bead still preserved, covered with Egyptian hieroglyphics which have been deciphered, showing that it belonged to Queen Hatasou, wife of Thothmes II, who reigned at Thebes 1500 B. C. The Egyptian workmen not only made beads, but attained great proficiency in the art of glass-making, and could produce bottles, cups, amulets, and images. Less pleasant things were coffins of glass in which rich and powerful persons were sometimes interred.
About the Christian Era the price of a drinking glass was half an as, the value of an as being about one cent, which shows that enough glass was made to allow of its being sold at a small price. Cicero (about 80 B. c.) mentions glass, linen, and paper as common articles of Egyptian merchandise.
From that day to the present the manufacture of glass has been of immense commercial importance, and besides contributing to the comfort and healthfulness of our dwellings, has played a large part in giving us luxuries.
The clever Venetians early led the world in the manufacture of glass of exquisite beauty, and they still preserve their pre-eminence in this field of art. The whole history of Venetian glass-making, the laws which govern it, the almost royal privileges which belong to the makers, and the gathering together in the thirteenth century, upon the island of Murano, all this class of workers is too long a subject to be dealt with here. It is most interestingly told in Mr. Crawford's novel, " Marietta, A Maid of Venice."
Turn where you will in old records and inventories toward the end of the Middle Ages and you will generally find some mention made of Venetian glasses. These workers sent looking-glasses to England by the end of the thirteenth century, and their ornamental cups and beakers, holding within the glass itself particles of gold, were eagerly sought by those wealthy enough to buy them.
In that most interesting old book, Holinshed's " Chronicle, of which the most valuable part, " The Descriptions of Britain and England," were written by William Harrison, we find this account of the use of glass in the year 1577, and for the immediately preceding years.
After speaking of the different foods which may be found at a nobleman's table, " whose cooks," he adds, " are for the most part musical-headed Frenchmen and strangers," he describes the rich plate on which they are served, and then goes on:
"As for drink, it is usually filled in pots, goblets, jugs, bowls of silver, in noblemen's houses ; also in fine Venice glasses of all forms ; and for want of these elsewhere, in pots of sundry colours and moulds, whereof many are garnished with silver, or at the leastwise with pewter, all which notwithstanding are seldom set on the table, but each one as necessity urgeth, calleth for a cup of such drink as him listeth to have, so that, when he has tasted of it, he delivered the cup again to some one of the standers by, who, making it clean by pouring out the drink which remaineth, restoreth it to the cupboard from whence he fetched the same. By this device much idle tippling is furthermore cut off. . . . It is a world to see in these our days, wherein gold and silver most aboundeth, how our gentility, as loathing those metals (because of the plenty) do now generally choose rather the Venice glasses, both for our wine and beer, than any of those metals or stone wherein before time we have been accustomed to drink ; and such is the estimation of this stuff that many become rich with only their new trade unto Murana (a town near to Venice, situate on the Adriatic Sea), from whence the very best are daily to be had, and such as for beauty do well near match the crystal or the ancient murrhina vasa whereof now no man hath knowledge. And as this is seen in the gentility, so in the wealthy communality the like desire of glass is not neglected, whereby the gain gotten by their purchase is yet much more increased to the benefit of the merchant. The poorest also will have glass if they may; but sith the Venetian is somewhat dear for them, they content themselves with such as are made at home of fern and burned stone; but in fine all go one way — that is, to shards at last, so that our great expense in glasses (besides that they breed much strife toward such as have charge of them) are worst of all bestowed in mine opinion, because their pieces do turn to no profit."
The use of glass for windows was one of the greatest improvements of medieval times, and in Whitaker's " Loidis et Elmete " he says:
" The earliest stained glass which we read of, at least in the north of England, was in the possession of the Monks of Rivaulx, about 1140. At this precise period the narrow lights began to expand, and as the use of it grew more and more general, the surfaces of windows became by degrees more diversified and wider."
Hamerton, in " Paris in its Old and Present Times," describes the Louvre as it was in 1368. He says that the rooms were low, panelled with wood, with narrow barred windows, on the glass of which were painted the arms of the person to whom the room belonged.
In the " Comptes du vieux Louvre " it says : " The King's cabinet or study was lighted by one large window with painted glass, and four smaller ones, and it was hung with black drap de Caen." This was also in 1368.
In England the manufacture of glass was either unknown or neglected during the Middle Ages, and it was not till Queen Elizabeth invited Cornelius de Lannoy to settle in London that works in glass were first produced. Glass objects were much esteemed, of whatever form, and James Howell, in his " Familiar Letters," writes to his uncle from London in 1625 as follows :
" The curious sea-chest of glasses you are pleased to bestow on me, I shall be very chary to keep as a monument of your love.'
The gossipy Pepys writes in his diary for 1661 that a Captain Lambert who had recently returned from Portugal says " that there are no glass windows, nor will they have any." His easy way of speaking of glass windows shows that they were in common use in England at that time, and in fact Harrison, already quoted, says:
" Of old time, our country houses, instead of glass did use much lattice, and that made either of wicker or fine rifts of oak in checkerwise. But as now lattices of horn are quite laid down in every place, other lattices are grown less used, because it is come to be so plentiful, and within a little so good cheap, if not better than the other."
This was nearly a hundred years earlier than when Pepys wrote.
An interesting case of glasses, while of a later period than those of which Howell wrote, is shown in Figure 104. It was made to hold not only various kinds of wine, but glasses for drinking and a tray to set them on as well. Of the old Venetian glasses from. which they drank vernage, catepument, raspis, muscadell, romnie, bastard lire, osy caprie, clary, and malmesey, as well as some liquors of greater " strength and valour," few remain. Few also of the bottles or decanters have escaped the midden, but in Figure 105 are a pair of decanters such as the Venetians made three hundred years ago, and which no doubt were seen on the tables of all who could afford such luxuries. In fact bottles of one form or another, either with or without a wicker-work covering, have been in use uninterruptedly from the earliest times.
After bottles, goblets and drinking-glasses claimed attention, and a whole world of care has been given to their form and decoration. The glass found in this country, and which was in use among the colonists, came usually from England, whence most of our luxuries were imported, and was often of the style known as " cut glass," - that is, flint glass polished and ground till it receives a sparkle and brilliancy that render it extremely beautiful. During the eighteenth century much of this rich glass was sent to this country, and being quite strong, it has in many cases survived hard usage.
Less often we find drinking-mugs and glasses of German manufacture, which are generally classed, not always correctly, under the head of " Bohemian." It is true that the region forming the boundaries of Bohemia on the one side, and Saxony, Bavaria, and Silesia on the other, saw the rise and growth of the glass industry in Germany. The forests on the mountain sides, and the abundant supply of clean quartz sand which is so indispensable in glass-making, were all found here, and though there is not much literature concerning the development of the industry, two authorities remain which do much to clear up its history.
Whether the art of painting on glass came to Germany through Venice, which had long had intercourse with the East, or whether the painted glass windows had inspired some clever German to try the like on drinking-vessels, will never be known. It is probable, though, that the knowledge came from Venice. Georg Agricola, who was born at Glauchau, in March, 1490, went to Venice and studied the working of glass kilns both there and at Murano. In 1556 he published at Basle a work called " De re Metallica," which was of great benefit to the growing industry. The second authority is Johann Matthesius, who published a book on glass-making in 1562, in which he mentions that the drinking of liquor from glass was not much practised beyond his own district of Bohemia and Silesia, al-though we know that glass drinking-vessels had long been imported from Venice.
Two specimens of the glass work of Bohemia are given in the next Figure (106) , the stein showing the splendid ruby engraved glass with which we are even yet familiar, and the tall pitcher decorated with enamelled paintings. This style of work is commonly called "Fichtel Glass," since it first originated at the kilns in the Fichtel Mountains, in the northeast of Bavaria. They still retain this name, no matter where their place of manufacture. The decoration on the jug is an ermine cloak, in front of which is a shield surmounted with a crown, — a favourite form of decoration in the eighteenth century.
While the Germans ran to a great extent to the use of colour in their glass, the English glass is distinguished by cutting and engraving, the crystal of the glass being left its natural tint. Just which art was the earlier in use it is hard to say, and both styles of decoration were brought to a great degree of perfection.
Pepys mentions in February, 1668, that he went to " the Glasshouse, and there shewed my cozens the making of glass, and had several things made with great content; and among others, I had one or two singing-glasses made, which make an echo to the voice, the first that I ever saw; but so thin, that the very breath broke one or two of them." He speaks a year or two later of having his name engraved on some decanters, which gave him " great content " also.
Figures 107 and 108 show engraved decanters of great beauty, and 109 and 110, engraved beakers, one of them with cover. Such shaped glasses were in use from the seventeenth century, and the one with the tulip in its basket is undoubtedly of Dutch origin. They used one more " g" in spelling grog in the eighteenth century than we do now, and it must have been a steady head which has carried home safely the contents of more than one glass of such a size as this. Two pretty pieces, also engraved, are shown in the next Figure (111) , and belong to the Water's Collection, at Salem, Massachusetts.
There is a certain elegance about cut glass which engraved glass never has, a brilliancy and a sparkle which always makes it pleasing. Figures 112 and 113 show some good old pieces, still bearing their weight of years sturdily.
Conceive what elegance a tall sugar-bowl like the one in Figure 114 added to a table on which the other furniture was porcelain, or some fine English ware, or even pewter polished to the brightness of silver. Such pieces as this are treasured relics in many old families, and some years ago could be picked up for very small sums. I bought a pair, of which this is one, in New, York City, for three dollars. They are very hard to find now. In the next Figure (115) is found quite a singular piece; it is even taller than the one in Figure 114, and is a beautiful dark green. Even rarer still are such objects as the cut-glass vase, of the old " hob-nail " pattern, shown in Figure 116, which I saw one day in an antique shop " and took a snapshot at. Going there a few days later to get a better picture of it, I found that it had been picked up by some lover of fine glass and taken out West.
In Figure 117 is shown a collection of English glass. The two covered dishes were used for sweet-meats, and the wine-glass at the end is tiny enough to be what was known as the " minister's glass," which was always two or three sizes smaller than those of his congregation. This glass is also interesting, since it is among the earliest I am able to show coming under the head of "bell-shaped," which form was copied directly from the Venetian pattern, and it dates to early in the eighteenth century. The glass in Figure 118 is known as the " drawn-bowl " shape.
They are called " drawn " glasses because they seem to have been drawn from a single piece of glass, both bowl and stem having been formed by drawing out with a single spiral movement. They come in many sizes, and on tall or short stems, and are nearly as early as the " waisted " ones, some fine examples of which are shown in the next Figure (119).
The drawn-bowl glasses never are " knopped " in the centre, like the first and third glasses in Figure 119, but they are frequently decorated with a twisted ribbon of white glass, or a twisted tear of air, while those for tavern use frequently had a bead of air introduced at the top of the stem. These choice varieties of glass were made for wealthy patrons, who used them to drink wine from. Even in America many were in use, and in the Figure 120 can be noted many examples which did duty at Mount Vernon, when President and Madam Washington had guests to dinner. In fact all the elegant articles shown in this picture belonged to them, and it is well to note the fine glass candelabra on the top shelf, which must have been very ornamental when lighted up with candles.
The very choicest of all the glasses were engraved, most often with floral forms, sometimes with wreaths of grapes and leaves. A point to be noted in the row of glasses in Figure 118 is the extreme solidity of the stems and bases, which are very different from the slender stems of the modern wine-glasses. These old glasses were made so that they could not upset easily, — a very necessary qualification in days when temperance was far less considered than it is at the present time, and when squire, and parson too, were frequently taken from under the table, so potent had been the contents of these seemly glasses. I should call all these glasses spirit glasses, since the beer and wine-glasses all held more copious draughts. Some of the liquors and cordials which were drunk from these small glasses were imported. Among such were Clove or Caraway Waters, Oil of Venus, Oil of Hazel-nuts, Parfait Amour, Essence of Tea or Coffee, Free Masons' Cordial, and many others.
Patriots who chose only home-brewed " cordial waters " might, in 1766, go to Richard Deane, who, at his distillery on Long Island, could supply them with Aniseed, Orange, and Clove Waters, All Fours, or the Cordial of Cordials, Golden Cordial, Cordial of Health, Royal Water, Royal Usquebaugh, Red Ratifie, Cinnamon, Cardamun, and Angelica Waters, Ros Solis, Stoughton's Elixir, Whiskey, Brandy, Rectified Spirits of Wine, as well as Aqua Mirabilis or Wonderful Water, and Aqua Coelestis, or Heavenly Water! It must have been after the perusal of this list that Benjamin Franklin wrote his "Drinker's Dictionary," consisting of many strange and curious words which signify intoxication. But though he deprecated getting " tann'd, jagg'd, glaz'd, or crack'd," he wrote the following pretty recipe for punch:
Boy, bring a bowl of china here,
Fill it with water cool and clear ; Decanter with Jamaica ripe,
And spoon of silver, clean and bright, Sugar twice-fin'd in pieces cut,
Knife, sieve and glass in order put, Bring forth the fragrant fruit, and then We 're happy till the clock strikes ten.
For the drinking of punch in England, and the more popular flip in this country, came a glass of generous size, which was capable of holding nearly a quart. Cider mugs were often made of pottery, though no doubt it was often partaken of from flip glasses, particularly if it was " royal mulled " or " damasked." Molasses, spruce, and persimmon beer were some of the temperance drinks of the day, while tiff, Sampson, and hotch patch are but a few of the mixed condiments. Israel Acrelius, in his " History of New Sweden," 1758, mentions half a hundred beverages now no longer recognised by name or taste.
A large flip glass is shown in Figure 121, beautifully engraved, and beside it on the table lie the other necessaries for a " convivial evening," as our great-grandfathers would have said. The iron implement lying in front of the bowl is a loggerhead, which was heated red-hot and then plunged into the flip, causing it to mantle high, and imparting to it the burnt taste which was so much esteemed. The way our ancestors lived, the things they ate, how they were clothed, what they read, and how they amused themselves, are subjects of unfailing interest. But when we come to what they drank, we stand aghast! It was no doubt the fact that they had to work unceasingly and largely out of doors which was their salvation.
There was much glass of a finer quality which found its way over here, like the two tall goblets shown in Figure 122. They are of English glass, not decorated with engraving, but with a pretty floral pattern in gold, and also with gold rims. One of these glasses is filled with cotton to show the pattern. These goblets are about a hundred years old, and are from a set of five, which are still in good condition, out of the original dozen. The gold is not impressed in the glass as in the modern gold-decorated glass, but is on the surface, and much more likely to wear off. The two goblets shown in Figure 123 are also quite unusual, and of about equal age. They are made of ground glass, after the fashion of the lamp-shade in Figure 118. On the base are cut very deeply several rays, and the glasses are enormously heavy, so that they are inconvenient to use when filled with water. These are also of English origin.
Three glasses, very beautiful in both execution and design, are given in Figure 124, the one on the left being particularly noticeable, since on one side it has the American eagle and shield, and on the other a coat-of-arms with the three princes' feathers. It seems incredible that glasses of such beauty as these, and those for wine which have been given, should have been wantonly destroyed; yet Madame de Sévigné writes in 1675 that it was customary after drinking the King's health to break the glass, and " roystering blades," both in this country and Europe, during the last ten years of the eighteenth century, had a fashion of biting out a piece of the wine-glass and grinding it with the teeth, and swallowing it, the pleasure to the company being to see how a newcomer stood it. Mortimer, the artist, did it, so Southey says, and never recovered from it.
Wedgwood, the great potter, set the fashion of making shallow bowls or cups, mounted on stems, which he called " tazzi." Sometimes these had handles. Tazzi were also made in glass, and Figure 125 is one in Bohemian glass, very prettily decorated with a raised all-over pattern and lines of gilt.
That the glass from Italy, Bohemia, and England was to be found in America very early in our history is shown by both inventories and advertisements. Colonel William Smith, of St. George's Manor, Suffolk County, in 1705, was worth £2,589 40s. He died a few years later, and in his inventory is mentioned, " 1 case Venice glasses, £3. Flint glasses, £3.14.0." Captain Giles Shelly, New York, 1718, had an enormous amount of household gear, and as many as " 45 beer glasses."
Governor Montgomery, at Fort George, New York, had among other fine things a complete set of cut-glass cruets, as well as water and champagne glasses. In the " Boston News Letter " for August 24, 1719, there were advertised :
"Fine glass Lamps and Lanthorns well gilt and painted both convex and plain. Both suitable for Halls, Staircases, or other Passageways, at the Glass Shop in Queen's Street."
Thomas Lepper, in 1754, had on sale " all sorts of bottles, from one quart to three gallons, and upward, as well as a variety of other glassware." There were " cream-jugs, syllabub, and sweetmeat glasses, cruet stands, flowered wine and water glasses, glass salvers, small enamelled, shank wine-glasses, flowered, scalloped, and plain decanters, jugs and mugs, salver and pyramids, glasses for silver, salts and sweatmeats, poles with spires and glasses, smelling bottles, sconces, tulip and flower glasses of the newest patterns, finger bowls and tumblers of all sorts," advertised for sale in New York before 1760.
You could buy in New York in 1773, "Very rich Cut Glass Candlesticks, Cut glass Sugar Boxes and Cream Potts, wine, wine-and-water glasses, and Beer glasses with cut shanks, Jelly and Syllabub Glasses, Glass Salvers, also Cyder Glasses, Orange and Top Glasses, Glass Cans, Glass Cream Buckets and Crewits, Royal Arch Mason Glasses, Glass Pyramids with Jelly Glasses, Globe and Barrel Lamps, etc."
A most unusual article, at least in this country, is shown in Figure 126 standing on a beautiful Sheraton candlestand. This is a glass globe filled with water, which was used to concentrate the light of the candles, and throw it upon a particular spot.
A less choice arrangement of this order, glass bottles of very thin glass filled with water, was used in both England and Holland during the eighteenth century, and doubtless earlier, by the lacemakers to throw a shaft of light on their work. Sometimes a single candle on a stand was surrounded by bottles, and the workers drawn in a circle, on chairs and stools of varying heights, had only this to make the most delicate and eye-destroying of all fabrics.
In our own country the first glass factory was started in 1607 near the ill-fated Jamestown, in Virginia, and, like the Egyptians of old, we made beads. We used them for barter with the Indians. It is said that occasionally beads are found near Jamestown, striped green and white like gooseberries, and it is thought they may have been made here.
After the various settlements were a little more secure, the necessity for glass bottles stimulated the colonists to pay bounties to men of this calling who would come and settle here. Salem, Massachusetts, a most progressive town in its early days, had a brick kiln in operation in 1629, and a glass-house in 1639. Window glass was brought over here easily as ballast, but round or hollow glass was more perishable; and to encourage home production, many enactments were passed in Massachusetts, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York. None of these early ventures were particularly successful, but by the eighteenth century many bottle factories were started, most of which have passed out of the hands of the original owners.
The factory at Glassboro, New Jersey, was started in 1775, and the one at Kensington, Pennsylvania, a few years earlier. These two establishments are still in operation to-day, and are the oldest ones in America which still exist. The first glass bottles were coarse and of a dark green glass, although blue and brown colouring was produced by using oxide of cobalt and manganese. The making of even the roughest bottle takes more skilled labour than one would think at first glance, and when it comes to a fine object, graceful in shape and elegantly ornamented, the work becomes an art.
About 1810, and until the last quarter of the century, glass bottles were made here in various shapes and with different devices. Among the earliest were those bearing portraits of Washington and Lafayette, those with eagle and shield, and some with a car drawn by a horse, and also one showing an early locomotive; but, of course, these were later still. About 1840 were made the log-cabin devices, of which there were several on bottles, in pitchers, like the one I show in Figure 127, and in small square panels, which were mounted for breastpins, one at least of these being treasured in California, since a drawing of it was sent to me only the other day. The log cabin was so favourite a device that it was seized upon for use as a whiskey bottle, and is marked on the back, " G. Booz's Old Cabinet Whiskey." Still later than this the same shape was used for " Holtzermann's Stomach Bitters." This was a patent medicine, and such a bottle is shown in another figure.
A fine group of old glassware is given in Figure 128, the most attractive pieces being the row of cup plates with historic scenes and portraits, which form the front row. Beginning at the right, the first cup plate shows the log cabin, the design being very plain, even in so small a space. This design was made about 1840, and it is not yet known whether these pieces were made in this country or, like the historic china, in England. Next comes "Henry Clay," date 1844; then the " Benjamin Franklin Steamboat "; then " Fort Meigs "; next " Eagle and Shield," followed by one of the rarest, showing the Bunker Hill Monument and having these inscriptions: " Bunker Hill Battle, Fought June 17, 1775." " From the Fair to the Brave." " Corner Stone laid by Lafayette, June 17, 1825, Finished by the Ladies, 1841."
The last plate on the row is another portrait of Henry Clay, and there is also a portrait of President Harrison, although it is not given here.
That there are many of these cup plates tucked away out of sight I am quite sure. I am also sure that they will be rummaged out directly, and that my correspondents will want to know their value. Of course, they do not begin to be so valuable as the old blue china cup plates, which bring exorbitant sums, but one with a portrait or scene on it, in good condition, is worth one dollar. I have known of seven being bought for twenty-five cents for the lot.
The era of patent medicines set in about 1850, and distinctive forms for bottles were eagerly sought. There was no limit to the ingenuity displayed in the choice of shapes, and a collection of these bottles is certainly quite ornamental, if not particularly interesting.
In Figure 129 the fish is marked under the eye, " Dr. Fish Bitters. W. H. Ware. Patented 1866." The Indian in rich brown glass is marked on the side, " Brown's Celebrated Indian Herb Bitters. Patented 1867." The cannon does not tell what it contained, but is merely labelled, A. M. Bininger and Co., 19 Broad street, New York." The graceful jug is nothing but a whiskey bottle, and is marked, " Wharton's Whiskey. 1850. Chestnut Grove." This probably came from the City of Brotherly Love.
" Van Dunck's Geneva, Trade-Mark," is found on the bottom of the toby in Figure 130, and the nice old squatty bottle of rich green glass betrays its Dutch origin, since it is a Schnapps bottle, but is probably not so old as the one shown in the next Figure (131), which has an earlier type of neck. The man's figure in mottled ware (Figure 132) is marked Monk, 1849." This bottle is not glass, but one of those rare specimens of Bennington ware, which came from the Vermont pottery which was started in 1847, and whose brief career lasted about ten years. Beside it is the most modern piece of all, which was brought out in the Cleveland campaign.
I wish to refer to two very unusual glass portraits, called " Jefferson " and " Madison.," which are mounted in strong gilt frames, and which are marked " Desprez, Rue de Recolets, No. 2, à Paris." I am able only to give drawings of these, but it would be interesting to know if any more such portraits are to be found here (Figure 133).
In Figures 118 and 134 are given several articles of opal glass, candlesticks, cups, and some small plates and lamps. About 1820 this glass was quite fashionable, and was used also for rosettes to loop back curtains, and upon which mirrors were stood. There is a cheap quality of glass made to-day which is milk white in colour, and which should never be confused with this charming old opal glass, which has playing over its surface the fleeting shades of blue and rose, which make it resemble the gem for which it is named.
Some exceptionally fine girandoles are shown in the following Figure (135), with beautiful glass prisms, and in Figure 136 some candlesticks with extra holders for the candles, and coloured glass bases.
Before closing this brief chapter on glass, mention must be made of one of its most familiar uses, - that of mirrors. The early ones came from Venice, and great must have been the delight of the fair sex when such objects replaced those made of polished metal, which up to that time had been the only ones in use. The Duke of Buckingham is given the credit for establishing in 1673 the first factory for the manufacture of looking-glasses in England, the term " mirror " often referring to a convex glass, which might. or might not have sconces for candles on each side of the frame. The early Venetian glasses in richly carved frames were very beautiful, and few enough, if any, found their way over here. Indeed, looking-glasses were taxed as unnecessary luxuries by the Pilgrim Fathers, when they sought to raise money for the expense of the Indian wars.
In England they became popular at once, and both men and women wore them, a small bit serving to loop up a gallant's hat, and one of similar size was mounted on my lady's fan or hung at her side. In Massinger's play of " The City Madam," he says, " Enter Lady Frugal, Anne Mary, and Milliscent, in several postures, with looking-glasses at their girdles." In " Cynthia's Revels," the same author says :
"Where is your page? Call for your casting bottle,
And place your mirror in your hat as I told you."
The branch of glass-making which had the greatest success in France during the seventeenth century was the manufacture of mirrors. In 1665 eighteen work-men from Venice were established at a factory in the Faubourg St. Antoine, at Paris, and very soon after another factory was started at Tour-la-Ville, near Cherbourg. Both of these prospered, and were finally united. The plates of glass which are in the famous Salle des Glaces at the palace of Versailles were made at Tour-la-Ville. The process of casting plates of glass was revived in 1688 (for the art had been practically lost since Roman times), and it became possible to make larger sheets of glass than when the plates were produced by blowing.
But though the manufacture was extensive, the prices of mirrors were high. Only those who were possessed of means were enabled to have such luxuries.
There is a little anecdote told by St. Simon which proves that looking-glasses were not cheap in France as comparatively late as 1699. The Countess of Fiesque, a friend of Mademoiselle de Montpensier, purchased an extremely fine mirror.
" Well, Countess," said one of her friends, " where did you get that? "
" I had," replied she, " a troublesome estate, which produced only corn. I have sold it, and bought this mirror with what it brought me. Have I not done well? "
This glass, costly as it was, was exceeded by at least one other, which, in 1791, was valued at thirty thousand dollars in gold. This famous mirror, surrounded by a frame of jewels and gold, belonged to Queen Marie de Medici, and hangs in the Louvre at Paris, showing still to the world that the extravagance and luxury of the present day was far outdone by the lavish magnificence of the Renaissance.
These early mirrors had a bevelled glass, the bevelled edge being about an inch wide and following the shape of the frame. An interesting one in a simple frame is given in Figure 137, and shows not only the bevelled edge, but also the small sizes in which the pieces of glass were made. Very often in the upper sections some ornament was used, either in the quicksilver, or of painting. Rarely you find one in a Japanned frame, in which case the glass will be very small, and there is another early style, which has a frame of bits of looking-glass with strips of gilded wood.
Handsome glasses like that shown in Figure 138 were commonly called pier glasses, and were hung over a table. They were carved and gilt, or carved from the natural wood and not gilded, or the two were combined, as in our example, which shows a bird, which, if it had a longer bill, might well belong to the style which Chippendale used on his glasses. All the furniture makers made mirror frames, many of them of great beauty, and some of them so overloaded with ornament that to the present idea they seem absolutely grotesque. It takes a Chippendale to put on such a frame, waterfalls and Chinese pagodas, Mandarins and umbrellas, and then to crown the whole with such a bird as never was seen, and have the thing look charming !
There were some men from the middle of the eighteenth century who published their designs for these articles of ornament, and of these probably the most famous were Ince and Mayhew. Hepplewhite made some fine designs, many of which had frames enriched with inlay, and in the days when the so-called Empire styles prevailed the glasses followed the fashion of the other articles.
Very much desired by those who wanted something uncommon was a kind of glass which was known as " Bilboa." One is given in Figure 139.
The greater number of such glasses as these are to be found in Massachusetts, and have marble columns, generally pale yellow, at the sides. The frames them-selves vary very much, some being of gilt and marble, some combining these two with natural wood; and there are others with fine Italian metal work at the top, showing vases and scrolls. The one shown here is a solid affair of gilt and mahogany, and looks as if it had never seen Bilboa, from which port it is stated these mirrors were brought home by the Massachusetts sailors. No matter where they came from, they are beautiful objects, and the one which is given here belongs to Mrs. Nathan Osgood, of Salem, Massachusetts.
In the next Figure (140) will be found a Hepplewhite pattern, all gilt, and supported upon two Battersea enamel knobs. It is in fine condition, and forms a beautiful adjunct to any room, though particularly appropriate in a fine old house, where it has hung many years. It might be well to say a word of warning to enthusiasts who, regardless of their surroundings, are devoted to antiques. A certain propriety, which is often neglected, should be observed with reference to the placing of such things. Of course, if your old mahogany and china are heirlooms, there is nothing to say. Put them where you please and enjoy them. But if you live in a modern frame house, with low ceilings and modern arrangements, you need to be very careful how you install antiques which were made for other conditions. Also be careful how you mix ancient and modern objects together; the result is sometimes mirth-provoking, and one is obliged to face the owner with a solemn face, when one would like very much to laugh at the incongruities which are grouped there, and which their eager possessor expects you to praise with unction.
The three-light mantel mirror we are all familiar with, and with the small bedroom mirror with its painting on glass at the top. Somewhat on this fashion, but yet what we might well call " Empire," is the mahogany one given in Figure 141. It has choicely carved side-pillars, and a water-gilt mount at the top.
It is what is called a two-light mirror, and dates from about 1800. Still later is the cheval glass (Figure 142) , which is of veneered mahogany, with turned posts and top rail. The glass was considered a generous size when it was made, and measures two feet by three. Glasses like this in standards which varied but a little could be obtained till what was known as " the black walnut age " set in, during the fifties. They did not have much to commend them, and look as clumsy now as do their cousins, the great sofas with similar legs and heavy veneered arms. Many people think that because a thing is old it needs no further recommendation, and never look for grace of line, beauty of construction, or choiceness of material.
I am frequently asked if there is any way of detecting the counterfeit hollow glasses with which the markets are so heavily stocked. There is no infallible way, but before purchasing a glass it is advisable to flick it sharply with the finger. If it is an old one, it will respond with a sharp, metallic ring, which is entirely absent from the modern reproductions. The bases of the glasses are much larger in the old than in the spurious ones, and the modern glass is always brightened or " buffed " by machinery, which can be easily detected. In the middle of the base there is a rough, sharp place, as if the extra glass had been broken off, which is another mark of the antique pieces which is wanting in the modern, and frequently the foot is " folded," — that is, has an extra piece added in the form of a rim, which gave it extra strength and firmness. Glasses with this folded foot are extremely rare and consequently desirable. It is seldom found on specimens later than the seventeenth century.
In reference to the old German beer-glasses, the plain ones are the most common. They should have the appearance of having been blown from one piece of glass.
The grog-glasses, or " Rummers," as they are sometimes called, are always of ample proportions, and many of the old ones have a peculiarity which would easily escape notice. This is that the upper half of the glass is thicker than the lower half, magnifying the amount of liquor put in it, and at the same time reducing its quantity.
Many of the nice old glasses dating from the last of the eighteenth century are decorated with grapes and vine leaves. Others are fluted, and some have a lattice work, all of which ornamentation is engraved. In these it will be noted that the foot is much flatter than the earlier ones, and not quite so large. The collector of glasses has an exciting caxeer before him, for there is great difficulty in deciding on what is genuine and what is not. The most rare and desirable glasses are the old square-based goblets, sometimes engraved with the owner's name, and sometimes with stars or other devices.