From the Back Cover
One of the fascinating aspects of the metal detecting hobby is that all sorts of interesting relics are regularly being unearthed of which little is known. So when David's friend, Simon, unearthed an old base metal spoon and couldn't find a reference work to identify it, David thoroughly researched the history and development of the domestic spoon in both precious and base metals, which has resulted in this profusely illustrated work and David's sixth book to date.
This guide to spoons for finders, collectors, family historians and anyone interested in spoons from earliest times to the nineteenth century is basically divided into three sections: the first covers the development of spoons, particularly silver, from earliest times; the second covers old base metal spoons and the third, some continental spoons, many of which have been found in Britain. Whatever old spoon you may come across or want information on, you should find it in this book.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Undoubtedly the spoon, which is now indispensable in our everyday life, has descended from very ancient times. Certainly as soon as the habit of eating pottage had been acquired, in a manner we would call civilised, there must have been spoons of some kind in use.
The earliest spoons were probably natural objects, the shells of aquatic animals such as the mussel, scallop, oyster and limpet, being the most readily obtainable natural spoons. The horns of various animals were doubtless also made into spoons as well as drinking vessels in the mists of time and when edge-tools came into use spoons, in all probability, were carved out of wood, bone and ivory.
Spoons of gold are specifically mentioned in the Bible and presumably, despite the lack of direct evidence, metals less precious than gold were also used for making spoons at least as early as the time of Moses.
The form and material of the spoons of the ancient Egyptians appear to have differed very considerably. There are examples in the British Museum of Egyptian spoons of flint, of wood and of ivory. The styles of many of these show the symbolism, which prevailed among those ancient peoples. There is one of slate (fig. 1) and two others of carved wood (figs. 2, 8) made in the form of the ankh or crux ansata (cross with handle), the symbol of Isis and life. The bowl of fig. 8 is very similar in form to that of several early Christian spoons and is not unlike the bowl of British spoons from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century.
A very peculiar spoon of carved ivory (fig. 3) has a shallow circular bowl and a very short handle shaped as the head of Athor or Isis, in her universal mother character typified by the cow, the ears of a cow being attached to the head of a woman. On each side of the head is carved an inflated asp.
The purer form of symbolism appears illustrated in a wooden spoon from Thebes, carved in the shape of a lotus bud (fig. 4) symbolic of the productive power of the waters. In another wooden spoon, carved in the shape of a fish (fig. 5) the same productive power is symbolised. In this spoon the bowl is circular, the fish, which is carved on the face of the handle, being moveable and disclosing, when slipped on one side, a box or cavity sunk in the lower part of the handle. Another spoon (fig. 7) has two fishes head to head engraved in the bowl; the handle being carved in the form of a ram, symbolic of fertility and sexual freedom.
The spoons of the ancient Greeks and Romans were generally made either of bronze or silver. Forms vary considerably; some having very long pointed stems, while the stems of others are quite short and made into a variety of designs.
Some of the Greek bronze spoons are formed merely of hollowed circular discs with spikes attached to the back for handles; Roman bone spoons of this form are also very common. Others, with spiked stems, have bowls shaped like mussel shells, while many have bowls shaped like mandolins, with stems of various shapes. One of the latter (fig. 9) has a dolphin twisted round the lower part of the stem.
In the greater number of Greek and Roman spoons, as well as in the Early Christian spoons the predominate feature appears to be the union of the stem with the bowl. Beneath the bowl and supporting it for about half its length is a rectangular keel, which tapers away to nothing under the centre of the bowl, but increases in depth towards the stem, under which it curls up into a disc of about half an inch (1.3cm) in diameter. On the edge of this disc the stem is set, so that when the spoon is held in a horizontal position the bowl is about half an inch (1.3cm) below the stem. There are many modifications of this "keel and disc" form. In some, the keel is perforated, while in others the disc is curled like a spiral under the stem (see figs. 14, 15, 16, 18). The stems of these spoons are mainly plain spikes of various lengths. These spikes were used for opening shell-fish and extracting the edible part. They appear also to have been used in the eating of eggs, for Pliny states that the shells were broken or perforated with the spoons when eggs were eaten, to avoid evil consequences.
An Etruscan spoon of carved bone, found in the Isis tomb at Vulci (fig. 19), interestingly resembles some Dutch spoons of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Figs. 20 and 21 represent two Early Roman spoons. One is of iron, the other of silver. Near the bowl the stems are notched, probably for the purpose of resting them on the edge of a dish. The bowls of both are alike and one has been engraved inside with the figure of Mercury holding a purse in one hand, the caduceus in the other and his winged head-gear lying near his feet. At the end of the bowl are the figures of a cock and a goat and in the space, between Mercury's head and the cock, is a tortoise. Fig. 23 shows a similar Roman silver spoon found in Watling Street, near Rose Lane, Canterbury, Kent.