ONE more volume is now added to the " Home Connoisseur Series "-Silver : Pewter : Sheffield Plate. Much has been written about the domestic wares which have been wrought and engraved in those metals. There have been writers too, who have devoted many years to the study of special branches of the craft such as church plate, the silver and silver-gilt that adds such lustre to civic functions, and to research among old parchments and other records, in which mention is made of regal insignia and emblems of officialdom. The building up of records of historic stories of the use of silver in past ages, and of its gradual acceptance among the middle classes as they grew rich is cumulative, and all writers on the subject are indebted to those who have gone before, just as architects to-day build upon the foundations laid by master masons in days of old.
This volume is not a book for the advanced expert so much as for the amateur and those who as " home connoisseurs " desire to know something about their own treasures and the relics connecting them with good old families who were prosperous in the eighteenth century, or, perhaps, earlier. In such a work domestic silver is the chief object of review. But to awaken the proper interest in the subject there must be a review of earlier examples, and those historic records of past peoples and ages almost forgotten.. in which the beginnings of craftsmanship and commerce are to be found. Special prominence is given to silver, for this is the metal chiefly desired by the amateur collector, although having equal prominence in the title in that they are quite distinct from silver, pewter and Sheffield plate are quite secondary, and merely introduced into this work to provide the collector of silver with handy chapters of reference so that he may trace the connection, and to some extent the overlapping of domestic metal work of other materials and composite metals. There is no real sequence in the crafts which have been chiefly responsible for the domestic metal work of the household. Copper, brass or bronze, laten, and pewter have followed one another, but silver has been used in its purity rather than as an amalgam throughout the ages, and has remained popular when the public interest in pewter and other metals has waned.
Pewter was at one time the favourite metal for common domestic vessels, but its study and collection involves research into the work of many makers, and requires familiarity with marks and emblems which can only be treated upon lightly in this volume on silver, for these other metals are subsidiary. Sheffield plate had but a brief career, and although it provides the collector with many very beautiful examples of that clever craftsmanship by which it was fashioned, it is rarely found in great variety or in large quantities in the possession of the non-specialistic " home connoisseur." To-day, silver is used concurrently with electroplated wares which are too modern to possess any curio interest however beautiful they may be. I would gratefully thank all those friends who have so courteously shown me their precious treasures, among which are curious things one rarely meets with. The public museums are the best places to find really representative collections, and in such exhibits as those at the Victoria and Albert Museum at South Kensington, are to be found not only examples of domestic plate, typical of that commonly used in well ordered houses in Georgian days, and during the reign of Queen Anne and her immediate predecessors, but there are also many rare examples of much earlier periods, and of the beautiful silver goods made in foreign countries, and by the master silversmiths of ancient guilds.
I would tender my thanks to the Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, for permission to reproduce some of the rare and beautiful examples in the possession of the Museum Authorities, also for descriptions of these and other pieces. Such facilities for publicity help to stir up the interest of the public in national possessions, the very existence of which many are ignorant. Education in the higher branches of craftsmanship elevates a nation, and not only tends to add to the number of collectors, but does much towards improving modern workmanship, and raising it beyond the level of sordid commerce. The old masters loved their art, and worked at the bench, and their example may well be followed by those who aspire to the highest branches of the art. The collection of the antiques and the admiration of those things beyond the reach of the ordinary " home connoisseur " inspirit the artist to greater things. To Mr. Dudley Westroff and Mr. H. H. Cotterell my thanks are due for their kind permission to make use of the notes on Irish silver and pewter so ably written by them in the Guides to the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin. The authorities of the Museum Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction in Ireland, courteously give permission to reproduce some photographs of exhibits in the Museum. Dr. Hoyle, the Director of the Cardiff Museum, with his usual courtesy sends photographs of the Dolgelly chalice and paten for reproduction. The Town Clerk of Cardiff has been good enough to furnish illustrations and descriptive matter of the plate and municipalia of the Cardiff Corporation, which beautiful pieces are indeed typical of some of the best plate of our provincial cities. There are many fine collections of silver plate in the hands of London experts ; through the courtesy of the Goldsmiths' and Silversmiths' Company, of Regent Street, I am enabled to illustrate and describe some of the beautiful pieces of old plate they have had in their possession. Such stores of antiques are well worth examining, and the collector finds much to instruct him in his hobby when exploring the displays of antique plate met with in some of the London art galleries. It is always interesting to trace back the commercial history of old firms who have worked continuously from the days when what we now collect as antiques were being made. The name of Sissons was closely associated with the manufacture of old Sheffield plate during the last decade of the eighteenth century. Mr. W. Sissons tells me that his firm have still in their possession the old plate dies from which so many of the rare pieces of old Sheffield plate were originally fashioned. He kindly sends me photographs of several pieces of genuine old specimens still in his possession. Every volume added to the " Home Connoisseur " Series should extend its usefulness ; for there is no limit to the variety of antiques found in odd corners in every old home. And the term " old home " is far reaching, covering the relics of families who have settled in other parts of the World-in our Colonies and in the United States of America. The research into the curios of the household is by no means exhausted, and in future volumes it is hoped new interests may be awakened, and other things besides " furniture," " pottery," and " gold and silver jewellery wares " and " domestic silver " will be found among the things that count in domestic economy.