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The Ruud Bolmeijer Collection of Early Leather Vessels (lots 191 – 223) There are few literary references to these splendid leather vessels unless one goes back to the 1921 privately printed book by Oliver Baker. It is interesting that most of the jacks recorded by Baker, originated from Noble English families, or institutions such as schools, monasteries and hospitals. His survey reads like a roll-call of the English nobility and their stately homes. The reason goes back to the feudal society of Medieval times when beer would have been brewed on site and taken from the buttery into the Great hall in these durable leather vessels to then be poured into treen or horn beakers. Blackjacks made of thick tanned ox-hide are considered to be unique to England. A written source by Heywood in 1635 refers to 'great Blackjacks and bombards at the Court’ and indicates the surprise of French visitors '.. which when the French-men first saw, they reported at their returne into their Countrey, that the Englishmen used to drink out of their Bootes’ . The term Jack probably originated from a jerkin worn by retainers and soldiers called a jack and hence 'black-jack’ came to differentiate the tarred drinking jacks from the clothing. The name given to the largest jacks are bombards, 'The King of drinking vessels’ according to Baker, probably named after the squat broad cannon called a bombard, and Baker records one which holds over seven gallons. From the 17th century onwards black jacks were mainly used in institutions such as colleges, schools and hospitals like the Greenwich Naval hospital and Chelsea Royal Hospital. At Winchester college, there exist late 19th century accounts of the use of jacks to bring beer to the Dining room, and jacks have also been recorded at Eton, Repton, Westminster and Christ’s Hospital. Colleges in Oxford and Cambridge had butteries with hatches where tradesmen and horse grooms could purchase ale. A Medieval oak buttery hatch at New College is carved with jacks in the oak spandrels. Leather bottles of the sort illustrated in lots xxx , were made from the Medieval days to the eighteenth century and being smaller could transport beer or cider into the fields by harvesters and seem to be found in all levels of society and not just the grand houses where larger jacks and bombards are found. Baker records sixteenth Century examples in the London museum and the British museum, but since his book, the best find with a certain provenance to prove a date of 1545 or earlier is a bottle found on the Mary Rose.


Of cylindrical form with possibly later painted coat of arms and an inscription 'G.L Burgh-St.Peter-Norfolk 1779' with initials 'G.L' and date '1779' to opposing ends
6 ¼ in. (16 cm.) high
Acquired from Phillips North West, 13th April 1995, lot 1451 (£650)

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