1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Drinking Vessels
DRINKING VESSELS.  The use of special vessels for drinking purposes may fairly be assumed to have had a natural origin and development. From a practical point of view it would soon be found desirable to provide vessels for liquids in addition to those serving to hold food. As in many other commonplace details of modern life, we must turn to the primitive races to understand how our present conditions were reached. In almost all parts of the world many of the products of nature are capable of serving such purposes, with little or no change at the hands of man; in tropical and sub-tropical climates the coco-nut and the gourd or calabash require but little change to adapt them as the most convenient of drinking utensils; the eggs of the larger birds, such as the ostrich or the emu, shells, like the nautilus and other univalves, as well as the deeper bivalves, are equally convenient. Such natural objects are in fact used by the uncivilized tribes of Africa, America and Polynesia, as well as, in some cases, by the white races who have intruded into those parts of the world, and adopted some of the native habits. In Paraguay, for example, the so-called “Paraguay tea,” an infusion of the yerba maté (Ilex paraguayensis), is drunk through a tube from a small gourd held in the hand, and often handsomely mounted in silver or even gold. In the same way, as we shall see, civilized man has adopted nearly all the natural forms that were found convenient by the savage, altering and adorning them in accordance with the taste of the time or country where they were used.
Another line of development, however, has been found to be the natural outcome of the human mind. Nothing could form a more practical drinking cup than the half of a coco-nut shell or part of a gourd. Such cups, however, in the countries where the plants producing them are common, would be easily obtained, and every one, rich or poor, could possess one or more. In order, therefore, to distinguish the chief’s possessions from those of his inferiors, his cup is often made with great labour, from some more intractable material, wood or stone, though in practically the same form as that of the natural object.
Among European races in medieval times the same lines have been followed, though for different reasons. Human ingenuity, though perhaps originally inspired by natural forms, is apt to turn aside into more artificial channels. Early drinking cups. The invention of the potter’s art (see Ceramics), where the plastic nature of the raw material renders it capable of infinite changes of form, gave rise to types of vessels having no obvious or necessary relation to the productions of nature. In Britain and in northern Europe generally, the interments of the races of the Neolithic and Bronze Ages have furnished vessels of pottery of a beaker-like form, to which the name of “drinking-cups” has been given. It must be confessed that the evidence for attributing such a use to them is slender, and mainly consists of the fact that their thin lips would render them better adapted for the purpose than the other pottery vessels found with them, some of which, on equally slight grounds, have been called food vessels. The general use and acceptance of the term by two generations of archaeologists is, however, an adequate reason for a passing mention in this place. In the later prehistoric times of Europe vessels of gold, bronze and other materials, including amber, were made, sometimes of elegant forms, and would seem to have been used as drinking vessels; still, this is again an assumption, though a fairly probable one. A small gold cup with handle was found in a barrow at Rillaton, Cornwall; one of amber of a similar form was found at Hove, and a third of shale near Honiton. All of these doubtless may be referred to the Bronze Age.
Schliemann found many drinking vessels in his exploration of the superimposed cities of Troy. A pretty form is that found in the first city. It is of clay, and closely resembles an early Victorian tea cup on a high foot. This form New forms found
by Schliemann. is of interest, as Schliemann discovered the same both at Tiryns and Mycenae, five from the latter site being of gold, while the type also occurs from Ialysus in Rhodes in association with bronze swords. This Trojan cup was found at a depth of 50 ft. below the present surface and about 18 ft. below the stratum of what Schliemann claimed to be the Homeric Troy. In his second city appears a different type of ware, somewhat fantastic in form, one vessel being in the form of a sow, while others foreshadow the crater and amphora of later and more familiar Greek wares.
But the drinking vessel to which Schliemann draws most attention is the tall cup of a trumpet form furnished with two earlike loop handles. This curious and original type occurs also in the Third (or Homeric), Fourth and Sixth Cities, with little if any change. Schliemann devotes some pages to the discussion of the form, in which he sees the δέπας ἀμφικύπελλον of Homer, which has been more usually understood to mean an hour-glass shaped cup, in which the distinguishing feature was two cups, not two handles. He applies the same term to a drinking vessel of a very different form, found with several others in the Third City. This is a sauce-boat shaped vessel of gold, made with a lip for pouring or drinking at either end, and with two loop handles. This equals those previously mentioned in originality of form; with it were found others of gold, silver and electrum (i.e. 4 parts of gold to 1 of silver). Of these three were shaped like 18th-century coffee cups but wanting handles. In the Sixth City appear forms more nearly approaching those of later times, particularly prototypes of the cantharus and scyphus.
These discoveries in the various strata of Troy may be taken as the analogues in the Mediterranean and hither Asia of the later Stone and Bronze Ages of northern Europe, with an allowance of some centuries of greater antiquity for the former.
It is not proposed in this article to deal with the ceramic and metallic drinking vessels of the Greeks and Romans, of what is generally known as the classical period (see Ceramics and Plate). It may be mentioned, however, that both on the Rhine and in various places in Britain, notably at Castor in Northamptonshire and in the New Forest, were factories where large numbers of pocula or drinking cups were made; those made on the Rhine and at Castor bearing legends to indicate their use. Many of these are to be seen in the British Museum and in the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne.
After the decline of Roman power, the Gothic and Scandinavian races who replaced the Romans in central and northern Europe brought with them their own forms and types of drinking vessels. These, from about the 4th century, replaced Gothic and Scandinavian types. the well-known Roman vessels. The northern barbarians were as great drinkers as fighters, and their literature recites with equal zest the richness of their drinking cups as the power and deadly qualities of their arms. Fortunately the practice of burying with the dead warrior all his property, or at least as much of it as he would be supposed to need, has preserved to our day the actual vessels in use by the pagan northmen who pervaded northern Europe from the 4th century onward. Saxon graves in Britain have furnished great numbers of drinking cups and horns, in many cases quite unbroken. From the remains, of which the chief series are in the British and Liverpool Museums, we can learn a great deal to amplify the references in literature. The richest single interment that has yet been found was within the present churchyard at Taplow. Here under a huge mound lay buried a Saxon chieftain surrounded by his belongings; arms defensive and offensive, his drinking cups, and even his game of draughts. The drinking vessels consisted of five cows’ horns and four glass cups. The former were of great size, 2 ft. long, richly mounted at the mouth and at the point with silver bands embossed and gilt. The glasses also were of great size and of a type familiar in Saxon interments. Each was of a trumpet shape, with a small foot, while the sides were ornamented with hollow pointed tubes bent downwards, and open on the inner side, so that the liquid would fill them. Such a plan is most unpractical, and it must have been very difficult to keep the vessels clean. Glasses of this uncommon form have not been found elsewhere than in Saxon graves, either in England or in the north of the continent. Other types are perhaps nearly as characteristic, though of simpler construction. One of these is a simple cone of glass, sometimes quite plain, at others ornamented with an applied spiral glass thread, or more rarely with festoons of white glass embedded in the body of the vessel. A third form is a plain cup or bowl widely expanded at the mouth and with a rounded base, so that it could only be set down when empty, in fact a true “tumbler.” This feature is in fact a very common one in the drinking vessels of the Saxon race. There are many other varieties, plain cylindrical goblets, generally with ornamental glass threads on the outside, and a more usual type has a rounded body somewhat of the shape of an orange with a wide plain mouth. Many of all these classes were found in the famous cemetery known as the King’s Field at Faversham in Kent (the relics from which are now in the British Museum), at Chessel Down in the Isle of Wight, and in the cemetery within the ancient camp on High Down, near Worthing. In Belgium, France and Germany the same types occur, and even as far north as Scandinavia, where they are found in association with Roman coins of the 4th century. On the continent, however, additional types are found that do not occur in Britain—one of these is a drinking glass in the form of a hunting horn with glass threads forming an ornamental design on the outside. From the wide distribution of these types, it seems certain that they sprang originally from a common centre, and the slender evidence available on the subject seems to point to that centre having been somewhere on the lower Rhine. Although glass seems to have been popular and by no means rare as a material for drinking vessels, other materials also were used. A large number of the smaller pottery vessels would serve such a purpose, and in one grave at Broomfield in Essex two small wooden cups were found which, from their small size and thinness, were no doubt used for liquid.
Of the later Saxon domestic utensils nothing remains, the habit of burying such objects with the dead having ceased on the gradual introduction of Christianity through the country. Manuscripts are our only resource, and they are not only of great rarity, but in the main rudely and conventionally drawn in their details. In those of the 9th to the 11th century various simple forms are seen, some resembling our modern tumbler in shape, others like a dice box. Horns as drinking vessels certainly retained their popularity at all times, surviving especially among the northern nations, and many of the vessels of this form were no doubt actual horns, though horn-shaped vessels were often made of other materials. Until we come to the 13th and 14th centuries there is an absolute dearth of the actual objects used in domestic life. And here we begin with plate used in the service of the church.
The drinking vessel possessing the most unbroken history is doubtless the chalice of the Christian Church. Like other ceremonial objects it was no doubt differentiated from the drinking cups in ordinary use by a gradual transition, Church vessels. and in the early centuries it is unlikely that it differed either in form or material from the ordinary domestic vessel of the time. Figures of such vessels, apparently with a symbolic intention, are found upon early Christian tombstones, and it has been contended that the vessel indicated the grave of a priest. While this may be the case, the similarity of the vessel represented to the ordinary non-liturgical form renders the conclusion somewhat weak. Among objects found under conditions which lend colour to their specific use as chalices are the bottoms of glass vessels found inserted in plaster in the Catacombs at Rome; but here again the Jesuit Padre Garrucci was unable to find any evidence to support such a conclusion. It is not in fact until the 6th century that the sacred vessel would appear to have assumed a definite form. From about that time date the lost golden chalices of Monza, representations of which still exist in that city; and the famous chalice of Gourdon in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris is probably of about the same time. All of these are two-handled with a vase-shaped body and supported on a high foot; and thus quite unlike the more recent medieval types. Two glass vases of exactly this two-handled form are in the Slade collection at the British Museum, and may well have been chalices. Another chalice, in the same collection, of the 6th or 7th century, was found with a silver treasure at Lampsacus on the Hellespont. It is of silver, with a cylindrical body and small expanding foot; with it were found a number of silver spoons and dishes, the former inscribed with the names of Apostles, Greek hexameters and lines from Virgil’s Eclogues. No doubt the whole was the treasure of a monastery, buried and never reclaimed. So far as evidence exists for the form of the chalice, the vase-shape with two handles seems to have been mainly succeeded by a goblet with straight sides and without handles; these latter in great part disappeared. Then came the rounded cup-shaped bowl as seen in the well-known Kremsmünster chalice. An interesting silver vessel, probably a chalice, found at Trewhiddle in Cornwall, is in the British Museum. It is of plain semi-oviform shape, and dates from the 9th century. The 13th century chalice was usually a broad somewhat shallow cup, on a conical base, and squat in its general lines as compared with those of later date. These gradually became taller, and with a bowl smaller in proportion, following the tendency of the civil vessels towards more elegant lines. Both civil and religious vessels eventually carried this tendency to an extreme point, so that in the 17th century the continental chalices and standing cups had lost all sense of true artistic proportions; the bowl of the chalice had greatly shrunk in size while the foot had become huge and highly elaborate, both in general form and in ornamental details. In Britain chalices ceased to be used in the English church in the reign of Edward VI., and were replaced by communion cups. These were much plainer in make, recalling in their outlines the goblet form of about a thousand years earlier, the sides of the bowl being concave, or nearly straight, as opposed to the convexity of the chalice, while the paten was reversed over the mouth and so arranged as to form a closely fitting cover. With the beginning of the 17th century English communion cups again followed the civil fashion in adapting the outline of the Venetian drinking glass, a shape which has survived to our own days.
The materials of which chalices were made in the early centuries seem to have been as various as those of ordinary vessels. Glass was undoubtedly a favourite substance, perhaps from its lending itself readily to scrupulous cleanliness; but wood, horn, ivory and similar materials were undoubtedly in use, and were from time to time condemned as improper by the Fathers of the Church. Pewter was in common use, and it was not an unusual practice in the 12th and 13th centuries to place sacramental vessels, of this or more precious metal, in the grave of an ecclesiastic. Bronze was also used, and the Kremsmünster chalice is of that metal, which was a favourite one in the Celtic church. But gold or silver chalices were no doubt always preferred when they could be obtained.
It may be mentioned here that it was a common practice in the 16th century and later in England for laymen to make gifts to the church of vessels of an entirely domestic character for use in the service. Many of these from their associations, and in the character of the designs upon them, were entirely unsuited for such purposes, and in our own time, when a healthy desire has sprung up for the proper investigation of such matters, many such unsuitable vessels have been withdrawn from use. Domestic plate, however, being much more highly appreciated by collectors, there has been a regrettable tendency on the part of the holders of such pieces to sell them to the highest bidders; the tendency is to be deplored, for while they remain the property of the church, they are a national asset; if sold by auction, there is a great probability of their going abroad.
It would seem fairly certain that the ordinary drinking vessel of medieval times was, like the trenchers of wood, turned on the lathe. Of these the commoner varieties have entirely disappeared, having become useless from distortion Medieval vessels for common uses. or other damage. Such as have come down to our own time owe their preservation to the added refinement of a silver mount. Vessels of this kind are known as mazer bowls, a word of uncertain origin, but undoubtedly, in the medieval sense, indicating wood of some more Mazers. or less valuable kind, and not improbably, in the 16th century, maple or a wood of that appearance. Spenser in the “Shepherd’s Kalendar” speaks of “a mazer ywrought of the maple warre.” Although such vessels are mentioned in the inventories and other contemporary records as far back as the 12th century, no example is known to exist of an earlier date than the 14th century, of which date there are two in the possession of Harbledown hospital. This type of drinking vessel was in common use in well-to-do households until the 16th century, when a change of fashion and the greater luxury and refinement dictated the adoption of more elegant and complex forms. The ordinary mazer was a shallow bowl (see Plate, Plate II.) about 6 in. in diameter, with a broad expanding rim of silver gilt often engraved with a motto in black letter or Lombardic capitals, at times referring to the function of the cup, such as:—
“In the name of the Trinity
Fille the Kup and drinke to me.”
“Potum et nos benedicat Agios.”
Within the bowl, in the centre is often found a circular medallion called a “print” with some device upon it, engraved and filled with enamel. The reason of this addition may conceivably be found in the fact that such bowls were sometimes made from the lower half of a gourd or calabash, in the centre of which would be a rough projection whence the fibres of the fruit had diverged. A rarer form of mazer has the characters just mentioned and in addition is mounted upon a high foot, bringing it nearer to the category of standing cups or “hanaps.” The famous Scrope mazer belonging to York Minster (early 15th century) stands upon three small feet. Of the hanap type examples are in the possession of Pembroke College, Cambridge (the Foundress’ Cup), and All Souls’ College, Oxford, the former an exceedingly fine specimen, of the third quarter of the 15th century. The form dictated originally by the simple wooden cup was at times carried out entirely in silver, or even in stone, mazer-like cups being found either entirely in metal or with the main portion made of serpentine or some other ornamental stone. An example of the former from the Hamilton Palace collection, as well as several ordinary mazers, are to be seen in the British Museum. The types above described are of English origin, with the exception of that made entirely of silver, which is thought to be French. Most of the continental forms differed from the English, and were more elaborately finished. One of the finest is that which belonged to Louis de Male, last count of Flanders. It is an exceedingly thin, shallow bowl of fine-grained wood, with a cover of the same make. The latter is surmounted by a silver figure of a falcon holding a shield in its mouth with the arms of the count. The foot is of silver with lozenge-shaped panels inserted, bearing in enamel the arms of the count. A German form of the 16th century consisted of a depressed sphere of wood for the bowl, with a silver rim, and a cover formed of a similarly shaped sphere, called in France a “creusequin.” Such mazers were furnished in addition with a short metal handle turned up at the end, a feature unknown in the English types. All of these again are to be seen in the British Museum series.
Although the use of wooden vessels more or less elaborately mounted was continued well into the 16th century as a fashion, many other materials of far greater value were in use among the wealthy long before that time. Crystal, Hanaps. agate and other hard stones, ivory, Chinese porcelain, as well as more ordinary wares, were all in use, as well as the precious metals. The inventories of the 14th and 15th centuries are full of entries showing that such precious cups were fairly common. Of gold cups of any antiquity naturally but few remain; the intrinsic value of the metal probably is a sufficient explanation. One of the most important in existence is however preserved in the British Museum, viz. the royal gold cup of the kings of England and France. It is of nearly pure gold with a broad bowl and a high foot, the cover pyramidal. The whole is ornamented with translucent enamels of the most perfect quality, and with a little damage in one part, absolutely well preserved. The subjects represented on it are scenes from the life of St Agnes, in two rows, one on the cover and one outside the bowl; on the foot are the symbols of the four Evangelists, and around the base a coronal of leaves alternating with pearls; the cover originally had a similar adjunct, but it has unfortunately been cut away. This is the only piece of royal plate of the treasures of the kings of England and France that now remains, and its history has been traced from the time it was made, about the year 1380, to the present time. It was made by one of the goldsmiths of the luxurious Duc de Berri, the brother of Charles V. of France, no doubt to offer as a gift to the king, whose birthday was St Agnes’ day. It was, however, never presented, probably owing to the death of Charles V. in 1380. The duc de Berri was not on friendly terms with his nephew Charles VI., but on their being reconciled he presented the young king with this cup. The troubles of his reign led to the invasion of France by Henry V. of England, and the ultimate appointment of his brother, John, duke of Bedford, as regent. The necessities of the half-insane Charles doubtless caused this cup and other valuables to pass into the possession of the regent in exchange for ready money, for it appears in the duke of Bedford’s will, under which it passed into the treasury of Henry VI. There it remained and appears in all subsequent royal inventories up to the time of James I. This monarch, whose motto was “Beati pacifici,” received with joy the embassy sent from Spain in the year 1610 to conclude the first treaty of peace with England since the Armada, and showered upon the envoy, Don Juan de Velasco, constable of Castile, the most lavish and extravagant gifts. The constable, in fact, was so impressed by the warmth of his reception that he printed an account of his embassy, and from this work the main story of the cup has eventually been traced. On his return to Spain the constable, a piously disposed man, presented this cup, with many other valuable gifts, to the convent of Santa Clara Medina de Pomar at Burgos, of which his sister was Superior. Although it was a domestic vessel, a “hanap” in fact, the constable elected that it should be consecrated and made use of as a chalice at great festivals. And so it continued to be used from the early years of the 17th century until about the year 1882, when the convent having fallen upon evil times, it was decided to sell this precious relic. A priest from the Argentine being at the time in Burgos, it was confided to him to sell in Paris, and he deposited the sum of £100 by way of security. This was all that the unfortunate nuns at Burgos ever received in return for their chalice, for they never saw the priest again. He took the cup to Paris, arriving in the month of September, when the majority of the well-to-do are away from town. After many failures to dispose of it, he ultimately succeeded in selling it to Baron Jerome Pichon for the sum of about £400, practically its weight in gold. The baron, after vainly trying to resell it at various sums from £20,000 downwards, eventually parted with it to Messrs Wertheimer of Bond Street for £8000, and that firm very liberally ceded it to Sir Wollaston Franks for the same sum, and it was finally secured by a subscription for the British Museum.
Such is the story of one of the most remarkable “hanaps” in existence. The word “hanap” is translated by Cotgrave in his French dictionary of 1660 as “a drinking cup or goblet,” and probably was intended to mean what would be called a standing cup, that is, raised on a foot, to distinguish it from a bowl of the mazer class. Such vessels were chiefly used to ornament the dinner table or sideboard, in the way that loving-cups are now used at civic banquets, where, almost alone in fact, the ancient ceremonial of the table is still observed to some extent; and the loving-cup is the direct descendant of the hanap of the middle ages.
Of all the ornaments of the table in medieval times the most conspicuous was probably the “nef.” This was in the form of a ship (navis), as its name implies, and originally was designed to hold the table utensils of the host—knives, napkins, Nefs. and at times even the wine. Some of the later examples which alone survive are carried out with the greatest elaboration, the sails and rigging being carefully finished and with a number of figures on the deck. The reason for the existence of such an article of table furniture was doubtless the fear of poison. As in course of time this became less, the nef changed its character, and became either a mere ornament, or sometimes was capable of being used as a drinking vessel. The former, however, was much more common, and the number of nefs that can be practically used as drinking cups is small.
In the 15th and 16th centuries the shapes, decoration and materials of drinking vessels were almost endless. A favourite object to be so adapted was an ostrich egg, and many can be seen in museums in elaborate silver mounts; coco-nuts were also used in the same way, and Chinese and other Oriental wares then of great variety, were often turned into cups and vases by 16th-century types. ingeniously devised silver mounting. The use of drinking vessels either formed of actual horns or of other materials was common in the 15th and 16th centuries, especially in the north. They were usually provided with feet so as to serve as standing cups, and some of them were mounted with great richness. An excellent example is the famous drinking-horn in the possession of Queen’s College, Oxford, dating from the 14th century. The medieval beliefs about “griffins’ claws” still survived to this late date, and a horn cup in the British Museum bears the inscription “Ein Greifen Klau bin ich genannt, In Asia, Africa wohl bekannt.” Another horn, probably that of an ibex, is in the same institution, and has a silver mount inscribed “Gryphi unguis divo Cuthberto dunelmensi sacer.” The elegant natural curve of the horn adds greatly to the charm of the vessel. In Germany the ingenuity of the silversmith was turned in the direction of making vessels in the forms of animals, at times in allusion to the coat of arms of the patron. Stags, lions, bears and various birds are often found; the head generally removable so as to form a small cup Switzerland and south Germany had a special type, in the form of the figure of a peasant, generally in wood, carrying on his back a large basket, which edged with silver formed the drinking cup. This type is only found in wine-growing districts, the basket being used for carrying grapes. In Germany such cups are called “Buttenmann,” in Switzerland “Tanzenmann.” The royal and princely museums of Germany contain great numbers of such vessels, the Green Vault in Dresden in particular, while a good number are to be seen in our own great museums. A curious fancy, combining instruction with conviviality, was to make cups in the form of a globe, terrestrial or celestial, which are still useful as showing the state of geographical or astronomical knowledge at the time. Several of those made in the 16th century are still in existence, one in the British Museum, a second at Nancy, and others are in Copenhagen and Zurich and in private collections. The upper half of the globe is removable, leaving the lower as the drinking cup. Ivory both from the beauty of its colour and the evenness of its structure has been a favourite material for drinking vessels at all times, and would seem to have been continuously used from the earliest period, whether derived from Asia or Africa, while the semi-fossil mammoth ivory of Siberia has not been neglected. In general, however, the vessels made from this material presented no essential differences of form from those in wood, until the art of lathe-turning attained great perfection, when a wide field was opened for ingenuity and even extravagance of form. The most remarkable examples of the possibilities of this kind of mechanical skill are seen in the productions of the Nuremberg turners of the 17th century, whose elaborate and entirely useless tours de force comprise among many other things standing cups of ivory sometimes 2 ft. high, exemplifying every eccentricity of which the lathe is capable. Peter Zick (d. 1632) and his three sons were celebrated for such work. Several pieces, doubtless from their hands, are in the British Museum.
The use of glass cups was not common in England until the 16th century, Venice having practically the monopoly of the supply. A silver-mounted glass goblet which belonged to the great Lord Burghley is, however, in the British Glass cups. Museum, where there is also a very large series of Venetian drinking glasses of various kinds, clear and lace glass as well as some of the 15th-century goblets with enamelled designs, now of the greatest rarity. The relations of Venice with the East were of so intimate a character that the earlier forms of Venetian glasses were nearly identical with those of the Mahommedan East.
A common type of Arab drinking glass resembled our modern tumbler (a beaker), but gradually expanding in a curve towards the mouth, and often enamelled. The enamelled designs were at times related to the purpose of the vessel, figures drinking and the like, but more commonly bore either a mark of ownership, such as the armorial device of an emir, or some simple decorative design. This simple form probably has its origin in the horn cup made from the base of a cow’s horn and closed at the smaller end. The later forms in the late 15th century and after, followed the fashion in other materials, and were raised on a tall foot, so that from the 16th century onwards the type of wine glass has hardly changed, except in details. An interesting variety in one detail is seen in the German fashion of providing an elaborate silver stand into which the foot of such an ordinary-shaped glass was made to fit. Frequently, as might be expected, such stands are found without glasses, and their use then seems difficult to explain.
Another characteristic German type is the “wiederkom,” a vessel more conspicuous for capacity than for its artistic qualities. It is usually a cylindrical vessel of green glass often holding as much as a quart, elaborately enamelled with coats of arms and views of well-known places; and at times when the cup was a wedding gift the figures of the bride and bridegroom are seen upon it.
A very fanciful kind of cup was known in England as a “yard of ale,” a long tube of glass generally shaped like a coach horn, but ending sometimes in three prongs as a trident, the opening in the latter being at the end of the handle, which was about a yard in length.
Small silver cups were often made in dozens with various devices, differing in each, such as the signs of the zodiac, the occupations of the months, or figures of the classical gods and goddesses, engraved upon them.
The tankard came into fashion in the 16th century, a practical, but seldom graceful object. At first some attempt was made, by shaping the sides, to attain to some artistic quality, but usually the tankard from the late 16th century to the present time is found with straight sides, either vertical or contracting towards the top, which is of course always furnished with a hinged lid.
A material that has one obvious merit, that of being practically unbreakable, is leather, and drinking cups were often made of it. The flagon called a “black jack” is the best-known, and examples are very common, mostly of the 17th 17th and 18th century types. and 18th centuries. A quaint fashion was to have a leather cup made in the form of a lady’s shoe; this, however, was confined to Germany and might be thought in somewhat questionable taste.
In the 17th and 18th centuries a great impetus was given to the production of curious drinking vessels in pottery. In England at various potting centres a great number of cups called “tygs” were made: capacious mugs with several handles, three or four, round the sides, so that the cup could be readily passed from one to the other. Many of these have quaint devices and inscriptions upon them. Another favourite plan is to make a jug with open-work round the neck and a variety of spouts, one only communicating with the liquid. These “puzzle jugs” no doubt caused a good deal of amusement when attempted by a novice, who would inevitably spill some of the contents.
The horn of the rhinoceros is much favoured by the Chinese as a material for drinking cups often of a somewhat archaic form. The dense structure of the horn is well adapted for the purpose, and its beautiful amber hue makes the vessel a very agreeable object to the eye. The usual form is of a boat shape on a square foot, and the carved decoration is often copied from that of the bronze vessels of the earlier dynasties. Others are treated in a freer and more naturalistic manner, the bowl being formed as the flower of the magnolia, and the entire horn, at times more than 2 ft. in length, is utilized in carrying out the design. One of this kind is in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Cups of the former type are commonly found imitated in ivory-white porcelain, and are known as “libation cups.” Rhinoceros horn is held by the Chinese to be an antidote against poison, a belief shared by other nations.
There is but little to be said about the vessels used in the drinking of tea and coffee. In Europe the type has practically remained unchanged since the introduction of tea and coffee drinking, except that in the 18th century the tea-cups imported from China had no handles, and were generally thinner than the Tea and coffee cups. coffee cups. In Japan there is a ceremonious way of drinking tea, known as Cha no yu. Here powdered green tea is used; the party assembles in a small pavilion in a garden, and the tea is made in accordance with a rigid etiquette. The infusion is stirred with a whisk in a rudely fashioned bowl, holding about a pint, and passed from one guest to another. The bowls are of very thick pottery, never of porcelain, and the most valued kind is that made in Korea. In the drinking of rice spirit (saké) in Japan small wide shallow cups are used, made generally of porcelain, but sometimes of finely lacquered wood. Both kinds are usually ornamented with elaborate and sometimes allusive designs.
Among savage races the most peculiar drinking ceremony is that of kava drinking in Polynesia, principally in the Fijian, Tongan and Samoan groups. The best description of the process is given in Mariner’s Tonga. The Savage utensils. principal vessel is usually a large bowl, sometimes measuring 2 or 3 ft. in diameter, cut from a solid block of wood. It has four short legs and an ear at one side to which a rope of coco-nut fibre is generally attached. The liquid is prepared in this bowl and ladled out in small cups often made of coco-nut shells, and these are handed round with great ceremony. Both the bowl and the cups become coated in the inside with a highly polished layer, pale blue in colour; but this beautiful tint fades when the vessel is out of use, and it is therefore very rarely seen in specimens in Europe. The kava itself is prepared from the root of a tree of the pepper family (Piper methysticum); the root is cut into pieces of a convenient size, and these are given to young men and women of the company, who masticate them, and the lumps thus shredded are placed in the large bowl, water is poured over them, and the mass is strained with great care by wringing it in strips of the inner bark of the hibiscus. The liquor is slightly intoxicating.
If the Polynesian method of preparing kava as a drink is distasteful to our ideas, the favourite drinking bowl of the old Tibetans is even more so. Friar Odoric (14th century), quoted by Yule, describes how the Tibetan youth “takes his father’s head and straightway cooks and eats it, and of the skull he makes a goblet from which he and all his family always drink devoutly to the memory of the deceased father.” This recalls Livy’s account of the Boii in Upper Italy, who made a drinking vessel of the head of the Roman consul Postumus. Among the Tibetans skulls are still used, but generally for libations only; for this purpose great care is exercised in the selection of the skull, and the “points” of a good skull are well understood by the Lamas. (C. H. Rd.)
|Fig. 1.—ROMAN GLASS CUP. With representation of a chariot race. Found at Colchester.||Fig. 2.—TEUTONIC GLASS CUP. From a grave at Selzen, Rhenish Hesse.||Fig. 3.—SAXON GLASS “TUMBLER.”|
|Fig. 4.—FRANKISH GLASS DRINKING HORN. Bingerbrück.||Fig. 5.—SAXON COW’S HORN. Mounted in silver. Taplow.|
|Fig. 6.—SAXON TRUMPET-SHAPED DRINKING VESSEL. With hollow tubular ornamentation.||Fig. 7.—THE ROYAL GOLD ENAMELLED HANAP. Made about 1380.||Fig. 8.—SARACENIC ENAMELLED GOBLET. With French silver mountings. Fourteenth century.|