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Rummers - A Social History Told in Glass - Author Timothy Mills.


Paul S.:
I'd written up my own notes for this review some months back, but fully expected others, more qualified, to post their thoughts.         Now that I no longer contribute to the Board, I'd let the matter drop, but it seemed a waste not to use the scribblings I already had, and in the absence of any other contributions, here is what I hope will be seen as a fair appraisal of Tim Mills' very interesting book. 

First published 2013 by Timothy Mills 
ISBN 978-0-9926096-0-3
Binding:  Hardback
Book size:   30.50 x 21.50 x 2.00 cms.
174 pages
Edition run:  initially 200 copies, with further quantity planned for May/June, depending on demand.

Price and purchasing details:  Available from the author direct - - 29.95 (incl. p. & p.) - also available I understand from Broadfield House Museum.    At the time of writing there are a few copies remaining from the orginal print run.
(Please insert the rats tail to correct the author's email address.)
Avoiding the fashion for Prefaces and Forwards, the author's introduction is brief and more than adequate in setting out the purpose of his book - which is to provide the reader with a detailed history of the rise and fall of the British rummer from c. 1780 until its demise 'in the later decades of the C19'.           
This history is charted in two substantial sections - the first discussing and illustrating the developement and history of the rummer form  -  the second part concerning engraved glasses and their analysis - which is where we see the real meaning of the title of this book.  As the author points out, stemware has occupied authors more than other form of glass  -  understandable really since it's an area driven by collectors who concentrate on the C18, but rummers seem always to have lost out in the popularity stakes, and when included it's mostly been in passing only.          Now, with more collectors taking an interest in drinking glasses, we can at last see rummers getting the attention they deserve, and this book goes a long way to fulfiling this role.

In Part One , the author commences by outlining the general shape of wine and ale glasses during much of the C18, and provides us with a reliable definition of the origins of the British use of the word rummer - surely something that many of us have misunderstood in the past.
The book discusses the origins of the bowl shape of the earliest British rummers - unrelated incidentally to the shape of the Continental namesake - and it is suggested that in all probability this is another of those 'what the Georgians did for us' inventions - and which may well have been due to their passion for neo-classicism and the Greek urn - and thus was born the ovoid bowl.
The author reminds us of the importance of shape, and at the same time shows us how to use other distinguishing features to spot the difference between pieces that might have been made over 60 years apart.
This is important - and interesting - as it helps to determine if something was made c. 1780 or c. 1850, and naturally will affect value.
The book provides good illustrative examples of the various parts of a glass, again, using these to show the evolution of feet, bowls and stems and how these features, interpreted correctly, can unearth much useful information which should provide more reliable and accurate dating.
A considerable section of Part One is devoted to describing the many forms (C19 almost exclusively)of bowl shapes, and provides good examples of cut, gadrooned, moulded, blown and press moulded pieces, with guide dates given for all types - and showing how the press moulded pieces appear toward the end of the rummer era.     Apparently, the British pub trade is known to have imported soda glass rummers, and again it's suggested this would have been towards the end of our period - although no indication is given of a specific Continental origin - these being the only real exception to British made glasses.
The book provides a very useful section on those rummers that can be attributed with some degree of probablity to an Irish house, and this should prove of great interest to collectors who argue often about the pro's and con's of Irish glass during 'the age of exuberance'.
Part One draws to a close by illustrating some scarce coloured pieces in Bristol's well known green and blue livery (although doubtless also made at other glassmaking centres) - a truly stunning gilt/engraved ovoid bowl from Absolon's workshop - and the author provides provides a brief but useful explanation of methods of gilding during this period.       Finally, and probably even rarer, we see another ovoid bowl showing the beautiful and unique method of John Davenport's method of decoration - and you must read the book to see just how it was created:)
With justification, Tim Mills has given Part Two at least twice the pages of Part One - and I can almost hear him saying he could have added more - the thematic range of engraved rummers being almost limitless, although sadly there isn't the space here to list the great variety and range of engravings shown.
Much reliable information is provided for some of the known British engravers, and although this is a rather specialized area of research, these details will increase most readers knowledge beyond that of knowing only of William Absolon of Yarmouth.
The book does provide a good albeit brief history of the subject, reminding us that much of the best engraving prior to our period came from Dutch, and sometimes French workers, using both diamond point and stipple methods.     However, as we know, it was wheel engraving that dominated almost entirely during our rummer period, and some of the most intricate designs and motifs appear on the pages of this book, showing a delicacy and lightness of touch borne of great craftsmanship.
Land wars, naval battles, industries, masonic guilds, royalty, politics, navigation and travel, armorial crests, births, marriages and death, mottoes and sentiments, the Napoleonic war and sports and pastimes - not forgetting the inevitable worship of booze itself  -  it seems nothing escaped the engravers wheel.
As to be expected, the author confirms that the celebration of the opening of the Sunderland bridge became the most popular engraved rummer image in the C19 - they start to appear at little after 1800 and were still being proudced, apparently, in the 1850's.         With such a long life of this engraving, there is much to be learned from the book detailing what to look out for when attempting to assess age of rummers with this historic image.
It's apparent that the author has done much of his own research, regarding family history/genealogy based on those pieces with names or initials - found often on rummers - providing greater interest for the book and reader.      This is a bonus feature of engraved rummers, and tells us of the human side of life, and to hold such a glass and sense the passion and history that comes from such simple and personal clues is often what drives collectors.        History is such a powerful addiction.     
Finally, the author provides a brief but useful guide to collecting rummers, with suggestions of methods for removing bloom and some words of guidance to help with separating the good from the bad, and ways of differentiating Continental from British

The quality of the photography is excellent - with much credit due to the digital age - some of the full page pix are breathtaking  -  and of the smaller images I liked especially the engraving for the 'The Cat and Bagpipes Society':).

 My criticisms of the book are in the main pedantic, and detract not a jot from the enjoyment I had both in reading and learing from Tim Mills volume, and if you have the slightest interest in late C18 and C19 drinking glasses - and don't yet have this book - you have missed something rather special  -a book that is truly readable.
An index is important, though not provided here - and can assume only that publisher and author were keeping costs down. 

Proof reading looks generally good, but there do appear to be some lapses in concentration  .........   I did notice duel for dual - Bachus for Bacchus  - and the caption for Fig. 107 refers to 'two left hand glasses', rather than a left and right.

The slave Mr. James Somerset(who we learn was eventually freed) has his name spelled differently on the same page, although since he died in the last quarter of the C18, I doubt that he'll be taking this as a personal insult:)  -  and the word Forester gets a similar spelling treatment twice on one line.   

In the Bibliography, the late Barbara Morris is given the wrong initial of M for her forename................ although insignificant, I would have preferred to see the traditonal abbreviation for circa.

A little more importantly I'd suggest is a correction to the reference to the Irish Trade, and the British Government's Tax on the glass industry.     The author comments that "Until 1780, this tax was levied in Ireland as well as England, but in this year it was lifted in Ireland whilst remaining elsewhere." - I believe this is wrong.
Whilst the 1745 Excise Act of nine and fourpence per cwt. shafted the Brits. and Scots., Ireland was spared this penalty, although other equally oppresive trade restrictions were applied to Ireland. 
It took the Free Trade Act of 1780 plus the fact that Britain and Scotland had to endure the Tax that gave Ireland the ability to prosper (without any Tax) during the late C18 and early C19 centuries  -  hence 'The Age of Freedom' - although all of this went down the tubes around 1825 with the end of Free Trade in Ireland.

I've commented elsewhere about the mis-understanding regarding the marks left by the gadget, which more qualified GMB members have pointed out will be found on the top side of the foot, not the underside.

My congratulations to the author on producing a much needed book, which without doubt is extremely good value for money, and if there is only one glass volume that you buy this year, make it Tim Mills' book on Rummers - I promise you won't be disappointed.



 Hi ,
             EXCELLENT review.

   Cheers ,

flying free:
See I don't even know what a rummer is, but now I want to go and buy the book.
Thanks Paul :)


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