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Butler's Antiques Newsletter Mid-October 2018  No. 98
As usual, I start by extending a warm welcome to my new customers and to those receiving my newsletters for the first time.

I thought that rather than waiting for the month's end, I'd send out this newsletter now as I am so delighted to have found a couple of particularly exciting antique wine accessories. 

Robin Butler

   A Visit "Up North"

It always amuses me that if one takes the A1 or M1 motorway north, before one arrives at 'The Midlands', the road signs regularly remind one that 'The North' is ahead, but it doesn't say how far to go to The North' (or when returning, where 'The South' starts either)!  Perhaps we should simply be thankful that we are going in roughly the right direction.

Earlier this month, I thought it would be a good idea to visit The Northern Antiques Fair, partly because it is in Harrogate, the most civilised town (or is it a city?) in Yorkshire, but also because there was an antiques fair there for many years which always attracted really good dealers and indeed, I exhibited there a couple of times myself in the 1980s.  On the way, Carol asked me what things in particular I was looking for, to which I gave my standard reply, "I'll know it when I see it".

In fact, I had in mind to try an find something a bit special, something out  of the ordinary and about which I could really enthuse in a forthcoming newsletter. 

Having stayed at a pleasant inn a few miles before our destination, we made an early start on the day of the fair to have a brief stroll around the town.  The town disappointed, but at the fair, I soon saw something that excited me - a set of four  full-bottle 18th-century decanters which were beautifully engraved with neo-classical motifs.  I am still delighted every time I look at them; they are very special.   You can see them below and also on my website by clicking here.  I hope it is obvious what appealed to me  - and that they might inspire you as much also!

A set of 4 decanters of c.1775 and 

a pair of coasters made about 10 years earlier. 

The wine goblet dates from c.1775 also.

   My other Harrogate Excitement

Coasters are an important wine accessory.  Not only do they prevent drips from a decanter from soiling a tablecloth, they also can prevent decanters from cracking against each other.

Originally they would have been put on the table after the dinner had been served and cleared (voided was the word they used at the time). The ladies would have withdrawn (to the withdrawing room, of course) and the gentlemen would circulate wines or port around the table (now without its tablecloth).  To run smoothly across a polished table, coasters were fitted with baize to their undersides, to ease their passage between one man and his neighbour.  Unsurprisingly they were also known as decanter slides.

Some of the earliest coasters were made of mahogany and had brass stringing lines.  I found such a pair in Harrogate - and they are large enough to take magnum decanters.

Read more about these coasters by clicking here

  The Perfect Decanter?

Just recently I sold a decanter to one of the world's most highly regarded connoisseurs of fine wine.  He bought a plain 'prussian' decanter with a target stopper and did so because he considers that pattern to represent the perfect design to do everything a decanter should - be easy and safe to pour from, look good on a table or sideboard and hold sufficient for a full bottle of wine to 'breathe'. It really is an excellent design because it is as practical today as it was 200+ years ago.  I know I showed a couple of these decanters last month, but several similar examples have come my way as you can see in the illustration below, although the right hand one is a carafe - just as useful.

A year or two ago, I was at a glass factory and was given a most interesting tour during which the owner talked about a "prussian"decanter and he explained how difficult it was to make and attach the neck rings which give such a good (and just occasionally a necessary) grip when pouring.  It did not seem to trouble Georgian glass-makers as they produced them by the hundreds, if not thousands.  Of course, if you are making the neck ring, you have to start with a thin 'sausage' of semi-molten glass, which is wrapped around the neck and joined.  Sometimes the joins are easily seen, but others appear to be seamless - they are the mark of excellence.  


Butler's Antiques Newsletter August 2018 No 96

Butler's Antiques Newsletter August 2018 No 96

Tuesday 28th August 2018 at 12:25:04