The use of tobacco in its powdered form was introduced to China by the Manchu, who invaded the country in 1644. By the 18th Century, snuff bottles were being made from a wide variety of materials.
The interest of succeeding emperors and their courtiers had turned their manufacture into an art form.
The world-famous Burghley Collection of bottles was first made by Dr. Charles Martin, a missionary doctor who spent forty years in China, returning to Wales in 1939.
He wished to sell his collection but found that the British art market had no interest.
However, an old friend, David, 6th Marquess of Exeter (1905-1982), had the vision to realise their importance and bought the entire collection as his generation’s contribution to the treasures at Burghley.
A quartz snuff bottle made from agate with natural inclusions that form the shapes of the moon and waves, circa 1860.
A red lacquer snuff bottle, 1750-1850.
An ivory carved snuff bottle, 1780-1880, in the form of a reclining lady, her left foot forming the stopper.