LOSSES TO COLLECTORS

It is not possible to estimate the world's losses, or the extent to which collectors could have revelled in choice and rare pieces which have been destroyed. The production of works of art by machinery and by the aid of machine tools does not contribute much towards the stores of silver and gold which show the handiwork of the craftsmen, or help to instruct the future generation in the progress made in the present day. It is satisfactory, however, to know that the methods taken now to preserve and suitably house the nation's treasures will ensure the future from a large percentage of those losses which might have occurred in the metallic treasures which in former times of stress would have perished. The new War Museum in London, and other museums, supplemented by collections of curiosities and other things illustrating the recent War are examples of how the future generations will benefit by such efforts. History has much to tell about the art objects which were wilfully melted down on account of their metallic wealth, their intrinsic value as art treasures being ignored and unappreciated. An early incident of Jewish history will be remembered. The Jews spoiled the Egyptians, but those wonderful Egyptian jewels and large accumulations of golden ornament were little valued by the Jews who on the most trifling provocation melted them down in one solid mass, without any regard to their art beauty, to make a " calf," before which they cast themselves in idolatrous worship. It was a bare-faced sin and want of faith in their God and the leader He had given them, and an act of barbarous disregard for the jewels they had been so anxious to secure. The losses to antiquarians have by no means been con-fined to acts of fanatical worship or to the irresponsible doing of early peoples. Some of the losses in Great Britain in Medioeval days were also unexplainable, and due to mistaken friendships or adherence to unpopular causes. When Perkin Warbeck raised his ill-fated rebellion he needed money and secured the support of James of Scot-land who apparently had no money to give, but he sold without compunction the royal plate in order that he might send his rebellious friends supplies. In England, when Charles I disastrously opposed the will of the people he needed money for the royalist cause, and many of his supporters gave their family plate to be melted down for the minting of gold and silver coin. In this way vast stores of college plate and other historic and civic treasures found their way into the melting pot. It has often been questioned why so much valuable and rare old silver was melted rather than using up new metal. The stores of new silver in this country at that time were very small, and whenever silver money was required for the payment of the troops in time of war, and for expenses in connection with warlike enterprises, the only way was to fall back upon the domestic plate then in use in large quantities in the houses of old families. At Beeston and in other beseiged castles they did not wait for diesinker and mintmaster, but simply cut up spoons and dishes into little pieces of approved size and weight, and stamped them with a mark of denomination and with some sign such as the castle gateway and a very crude inscription. Some very fine examples of the work of old silversmiths who worked in Tudor and earlier times are still extant-although few, it is true. From these it is evident that enormous stores must have been lost during the Civil War, when so much was given to the Royalist cause, sometimes requisitioned, and often seized. It is a matter of speculation how far the pieces still preserved represent the articles then in use. It is probable that some vessels of even fairly common forms are almost unrepresented in collections, and perhaps some of the examples now known may have been but scarce rarities and the work of some local silver-smith and not at all indicative of the common things of the period. The losses of the Civil War were followed by the zeal of the Puritans and of the Commonwealth during which much fine civic and royal plate was destroyed or turned to other uses ; not because it was needed but because the mistaken ideas of the puritan demanded a change, and as usual when such sweeping reforms are being carried out extremes were insisted upon rather than a policy of gradual reform, the result of conviction and changing times. The displays of wealth in the days of Henry VIII have been mentioned, but these were continued in another form during the reign of Elizabeth who loved grandeur and display, and it is suggested was not averse to receive costly tribute from her courtiers and those who sought to win her favour by such means. The tours of Elizabeth were notorious, and those she visited sought to impress her with their wealth by the grandeur of the plate and the jewels shown and worn. It was much of this family plate and the jewels given to the Virgin Queen that found its way into the melting pot in the following century, and thus robbed museums and art galleries of the present day of so much of that which would have given a true insight into the domestic life of the sixteenth century.