The main object of marking plate was of course to prevent fraud, to maintain the quality or standard o' material and of workmanship. By the use of the worker's or maker's mark a guarantee of quality of material and of workmanship was secured. It will be well to point out in the first instance that there is an endless variety of marks met with on old plate, which will be realised by all when it is noticed that the principal marks have been varied from time to time, according to the rules prevailing at the different halls of assay. Then again in order that the date may be known a new letter of the alphabet is used every year, the form of the letters changing every twenty years or so. Some-times it is Roman capitals, at others small capitals, and again similar letters on different shaped shields. The letters vary in all the halls of assay, consequently to make sure of the exact date of any piece it is necessary to know the mark of identification of the assay town, the form of the letters in every cycle of alphabet and the hall mark-the combination is therefore endless, and it is only by having before us one of the booklets giving all the different series of hall-marks in use in this country that English plate can be identified by the amateur collector. London has always been an important seat of the silversmith's business, and under the control of the Gold-smiths Company there has been a very accurate system of preserving the continuity of dating, different types of alphabets having been used. In reference to the London marks, that is the various marks found on any piece of plate hall-marked in London, Mr. Octavius Morgan has a very concise list, clear in its brevity and purport. He says, on page 52 of his second paper, " On the Assay Marks on Gold and Silver Plate " (No. 35, Archccological Journal), " The marks which are found on plate made in London, are in their chronological order as follows " (1) The Leopard's Head, crowned. " (2) The worker's or maker's mark. " (3) The Annual Letter. " (4) The Lion passant. " (5) The Lion's head, erased. " (6) The Figure of Britannia. " (7) The Sovereign's Head." St. Dunstan was the patron saint of the Goldsmiths, and as Mr. Morgan reminds us, " the wardens were chosen on St. Dunstan's Day, hence it is that the date letter in London is changed on that day, May 29th." The first five marks given above have been in use so long that all the plate in the possession of " home connoisseurs " will probably bear them (that is if hall-marked .` in London). In reference to the figure of Britannia it may be explained that according to Mr. Morgan it was in 1696-7 enacted that the worker's mark should consist of the two first letters of his surname " and that the mark should be " the lion's head erased and the figure of a woman commonly called Britannia." All these simple data are known to those who have read the numerous records given by authorities like the British Museum, and which have been confirmed again and again by comparison of the different pieces, so many of which can by seen by collectors displayed for their education in the cases of the Victoria and Albert Museum. The introduction of the Sovereign's head in 1784 is common history, and easily explained in that when a duty on silver plate was imposed in that year the King's head (George III) was deemed the most appropriate mark, showing that the duty had been paid; the Sovereign's head as a duty mark was continued until 1890 when the duty was finally removed.
The table which has been specially prepared for " home connoisseurs " (see page 70) gives just those alphabets which are likely to puzzle the inexperienced, and we take it that it will enable our readers to locate the date on any old piece marked in London, for after 1716 the letters on the plate assayed at Goldsmith's Hall were of ordinary types, as described on page 71.