Wednesday, February 25, 2009

1890s pretty porcelain dessert

My favorite part of this work is to glimpse the life of the late 1800s through the beautiful objects which appear before us. This set of translucent porcelain bowls and little plates made it over 100 years, all the way to us. Probably designed in Germany, they are quite fine.

Brushed with pansies and flashes of gold; up on eBay today! Here you go:

Monday, February 23, 2009

1715 French military engineer Cormontaingne

Into my hands has come a book printed in the early 1800s. (If I were discovered with this book in the latter half of the 1700s, I'd have been tried for military espionage.) The author wrote extensively on the precise nature of the work need to attack and defend fortifications.
M. Louis de Cormontaingne built extensively on the works of an earlier engineer, Vauban, basically cleaning them up to match more modern techiques. His writings from as early as 1714 (when he was around 20 years old!) was a dead secret. By 1741 it was starting to leak out, and was published unofficially in bits. To correct the record, Cormontaigne published some of it himself officially in 1741, though it was not widely seen. His full notes were gathered and re-edited after his death twice, initially only distributed to officers (1776), later to the rest of us (1803 - 1809).

"His system of fortification was not marked by any great originality of thought, which indeed could not be expected of a member of the corps du génie, [essentially the corps of engineers, or the contrivers of military engineering works] the characteristics of which were a close caste spirit and an unquestioning reverence for the authority of Vauban. Forts Moselle and Bellecroix are still in existence."

Do forts work? Not very well, it appears, but if that's what you have to work with, you might as well get it right. So you follow this gentleman's diagrams, and careful metrics of all materials, manpower, and design.
Okay, here we are in the early 1700s. What you do when you prepare to attack a place, or defend it, is build big walls, collect a lot of food, blast away, and wait. (Oh, and dig tunnels!) A lot of people end up dead, or very sick. And - - the book is in French, so my rudimentary vocabulary is not keeping up with the specifics of the weaponry involved. There were three volumes in this set; we have the Vol II, "How to Attack", and Vol III, "How to Defend". Complete with tables about what is needed to supply the care of injured - how many spoons, napkins, specific medicines per person (and it is NOT one spoon for each invalid!).

I'll show you a couple of the beautiful engravings which show us all exactly how to fortify a place, with specific examples on how to aim your cannon. You need to know this.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Deezer, French music source

I adore the music of the early 1900's. My French conversation coach, MayaJoelle, recommended this site:

I have compiled playlists of some of the great chanteurs of the 1930's: Maurice Chevalier, bien sur, but also some folks who are tres connu in France, but perhaps not as well known today in this country: Jean Sablon, Leo Marjane, Charles Trenet...

A great way to get some subliminal French conversation...try listening to Leo Marjane singing "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon" in French:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Beautiful Smoke Bell

This darling thing is about 8 inches tall. If you are lighting your home with kerosene, the residue ends up on your ceilings, so Victorian light fixtures suspended creations like these over their lamp chimneys. This is a terrific example - very fine, translucent milk glass with a lovely raspberry-red rim. Some Valentine!

Here's ours:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

1860 Rhein-Panorama, Mainz bis Coln

We have listed a beautiful 1860 panorama, a section of the Rhine river, an area full of castles, between the towns of Mainz and Cologne. It is almost 100 inches long, 16 pages folded into a portfolio.

This morning I received a request from a gentleman in Cologne: Could I send him a close-up of the area across the river from Cologne? Specifically, the area between the towns of Deutz and Poll?

And MORE specifically, is there a WINDMILL there?

Now this map was printed over 150 years ago. The engraving is outstanding, and I obliged him with a closeup. (You can get there yourself by looking at my posting on this web album, which includes a terrific magnifier:

He is satisfied; the windmill is there; we LOVE this business!

Vintage Jazz, 1957 Nothing Whatever To Do

While I work, I listen to a wonderful Vintage Jazz station, on Boston

Hosted by Bryan Wright, it is the perfect background for researching antiques. So many of the pieces I see derive from a 100-year period, about 1850 to 1950.

My mother was an author, and I look for her books on eBay. I especially love seeing an autographed copy, because I know her hands touched it.

My parents were both born in the early 1900s, and died when we were in our early teens. When I touch a vintage piece, I often think of Elsie or John seeing or hearing of it during their lifetime.

A friend in Vermont just gave me three books she had found over the years - one is autographed by my father, a fairly rare specimen.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Lenox and Sterling from Mt. Sterling, Kentucky

This charming set of silver came from an estate in Mount Sterling, Kentucky.
- Six tiny demitasse cups of Lenox china, in sterling holders.
- The set was displayed in a satin case lined with deep green velvet, and was sold at the turn of the century in fine department stores like Bailey, Banks & Biddle.

It now resides with a collector in Japan. (I just visited a friend in Vermont and found a set of them in her etagere!)

Barn Swallow Antiques

Years ago, I published a weekly electronic newsletter in Rochester, Vermont, which we called "Birdie". My totem is still the barn swallow, and Barn Swallow Antiques has been a lovely entree for me into many wonderful worlds.

I must admit I spend more time than strictly necessary researching many of the items I choose to sell. I have decided that it is my chosen path of doing business - to find the "flashpoints" for the wonderful time-travelers that pass through my hands on their way to a new home.

I'll share some of my discoveries here with you - a quick look into why I love this business. Have fun!