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John Donald
Publication Date
01 May 2014
Available for Sale
Birlinn Limited
Colour throughout

Scottish Pewter 1600-1850

by Peter Spencer Davies - Find out more about the author

‘This is a remarkable book, only the second ever on Scottish pewter. There is a full bibliography which will aid future researchers. It will undoubtedly become the ‘bible’ for collectors of Scottish pewter but for those with an interest in Scottish history it provides a very readable account of the development and regulation of trade as exemplified by the pewterers from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries’ – Journal of the Pewter Society

‘A genuine work of love, this splendid and lavishly illustrated book is a definitive guide to Scottish pewter wares, essentially different to those of England. Elegant, simple and above all, functional, Scottish pewter has been somewhat taken for granted over the centuries. Spencer Davies, a Past-President of the Pewter Society, provides it with a historical perspective and pedigree’ – Scotland Magazine

‘Peter Spencer Davies’s scholarly history of the origins and development tells the tale. Collectors of pewter from north of the border have found their bible, but those merely interested in a peephole into the domestic life of Scots between the Reformation and the age of steam might also be beguiled. Illustrated with church plate and communion flagons, pirlie pigs for collecting fines, ranks of measuring jugs used in taverns, and the homely tappit hens use, this is a record of a very characterful sort of tableware. Showing the changing tastes of church and populace, this history also takes the reader into the workshops of the artisans and increasingly astute businessmen whose goods they bought’ – Scottish Review of Books

‘This study, aside from being beautifully produced and richly illustrated, advances our understanding of the production and consumption of this crucial material.... (It) is a delightful exploration of Scottish pewter, updating Wood's classic study, and setting a new standard for this century’ – Aaron Allen, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland

Pewter was in everyday use in most households, churches and places of commerce in Europe for hundreds of years before it fell out of favour in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as new materials and manufacturing methods became available. The pewter wares of Scotland have for a long time interested collectors, who have been attracted by their simple functionality of form, reflecting the protestant culture of the time. Despite this, very little research had been carried out, and Scottish pewter has remained one of the least understood areas of the country’s material heritage.

After a lifetime of study, Peter Spencer Davies has now produced what will be the definitive guide to the subject. Drawing upon the extensive archival material that has survived, the book traces the history of the craft of the pewterers from its origins in the early years of the sixteenth century, and shows how they came to dominate the craft guilds for much of the next three hundred years. The evolution of pewter wares and the regional differences in style across the country is described, and the influence of Scotland’s overseas trading partners explained. The book is lavishly illustrated with examples of every known type of pewter ware, together with the names, dates and marks of the pewterers in each of the burghs where pewter was made.

The book is fully referenced and has an extensive bibliography, and will be an indispensible resource for collectors, museums, antique dealers and fine art salerooms. However, the fascinating and sometimes intimate story of the pewterers and the regulation of their craft by Parliament and Council, gives the book a wide appeal to anyone interested in this somewhat neglected area of the socio- economic history and development of Scotland’s material culture.

Peter Spencer Davies, PhD, FSA Scot, had a professional life as an academic (biologist) at the University of Glasgow. Now retired, he pursues a lifelong interest in English and Scottish pewter. He is a Past-President of the Pewter Society, and has had articles published in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquities of Scotland, Journal of the Pewter Society and Connoisseur magazine. He is an expert in the conservation and restoration of old pewter.