These small boxes give a fascinating insight into the passion of Brownlow, 9th Earl of Exeter (1725-1793), for hardstones and specimen marbles – as well as his meticulous record-keeping.
Thus, one holds fragments of lava from the slopes of Vesuvius, another bears a label in the earl’s hand inscribed: ‘Brought from Naples 1763’, and also contains a note in the same hand: ‘stones from Sorrento in Italy’; there are four small, blue semi-precious stones wrapped within it.
One box contains an example of fossilised wood.
The most amusing, however, is certainly the box bearing a small label inscribed: ‘This snuff box is made of Lava from the Island of Iskia near Naples’, containing three ‘Pieces of Pompey’s Pillar – A present from Capt. Bell of Lincolnshire, January 20th 1767 – He received them from Major Budgard, who had them from the Captain of the ship, who received them from the Sailors who drank a bowl of punch on the top of the Pillar.’
The boxes are grouped here as they appeared in the Travelling Earls Treasury Exhibitions of 2009 and 2018.
Individually, their inventory references are: VER12001, VER12002, VER12007, VER12008, VER12013 and VER12023.