[JHRB News] New Just Catalogued Books & Silver Vandalism???

Joslin Hall Rare Books, ABAA office at joslinhall.com
Wed Feb 4 10:46:16 EST 2004

Well, the elves in the Cataloging Cave are all a-twitter that our very own
New England Patriots have won the Super Bowl.  Walking into the work area
Monday morning found confetti, books, stale nachos and snoring elves
strewn everywhere; I'm not sure we'll ever get those root beer stains out
of the sofa...

However, before they began their festivities, they created yet another set
of "Just Catalogued" pages, including a nice selection of antique and art
reference books- <http://www.joslinhall.com/justcat.htm>

We also found the following clipping inserted into a book which we thought
might be of interest to some of our readers.  Francis Hill Bigelow was a
leading collector and scholar of American Colonial furniture and silver in
the early years of the 20th century.  His book "Historic Silver of the
Colonies and Its Makers", first published in 1917, is still considered a
cornerstone work in the bibliography of American silver, and he was also
instrumental in helping organize some of the important early exhibitions
of American colonial silver.

Which is why we were tickled a fine silvery-pink to find the following
long-forgotten letter to the editor, cut from a Boston(?) newspaper and
found affixed to the endpaper of a copy of the 1903 edition of Buck's "Old
Plate" from the reference library of Shreve, Crump & Low-


Vandalism of Modern Jeweller - Abuse of the "Buffing" Process - Makers'
Marks Obliterated


To the Editor of the Transcript:

The ruination by the modern jeweller of so much of the beautiful early
silver made by the Colonial craftsmen in the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries is simply vandalism. For more than ten years I have devoted my
time and attention to the subject, trying to identify the makers names
from the marks which appear on the vessels, and which is so important from
the historical point of view.  I have been privileged to examine not only
the church silver, but a very large number of domestic pieces in private
hands which are priceless relics of the past.  The beautiful blue color
which alone comes from age and hand cleaning is being ruthlessly destroyed
by the modern jeweller, whose one ambition is to make the vessels look
like tin!  The "buffing" process removes the surface, and the makers'
marks, of such great value to the investigator, are so rubbed off as to be
indistinguishable.  The commercial value is destroyed by at least
one-half, and the sentimental value also suffers when the initials of the
original owners are obliterated.

Such a flagrant case perpetrated by these malefactors -for such they are-
has recently come to my attention, that I must make special mention of it.
 One of the choicest lots of old family silver which I have ever seen I
examined a few years ago in its original condition.  This most
unfortunately was left in a jeweller's hands to clean.  The result is most
disheartening, and it would never be recognized as the same lot.  It is
the perfection of "shine," in which the jeweller revels, but alas! the
makers' marks of the seventeenth century are all but obliterated.  Will
the modern jeweller ever learn what art is?

If the jewellers ever hold a convention in Boston, it is to be hoped that
they will go en masse to the Museum of Fine Arts and see the beautiful old
silver which has been gathered there.  A special case containing the
pieces upon which they have wrought their havoc should be especially
prepared for them to gaze upon also.

To send your family portraits to a house painter for restoration would be
no greater outrage than to send old silver to the modern jeweller without
instructions not to "buff" it.  If silver is badly tarnished, one or two
applications of a harsher metal polish used for brass or copper will, with
a little patience remove the worst of the tarnish, when silver polish
should be used.  Camphor placed with silver when packed will prevent

Francis Hill Bigelow
Channing st, Cambridge,Mass., June 2, 1916.


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