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AS my esteemed colleague, David Moss enthused in a recent Dealers’ Diary piece in Antiques Trade gazette, the Stones, whose core antique box business is tea caddies, loved Noel Riley’s book, Antique Guide to Tea Caddies, so much that when it went out of print, they bought the copyright to this well-written and researched book, which the author has expanded here using extra colour pictures from the Stones’ extensive library.

Tea caddies are on a collecting roll at the moment, particularly those of the 18th and 19th centuries and, as Mr Riley says in his introduction, they demonstrate the best craftsmanship in practically every material and technique of the age. That, and the endless variety makes them very attractive to collectors.

Also in his entertaining introduction, the author mentions that in 1776, and during the “tea phrensy” when the consumption of tea rose rapidly and when tea had worked its way down the social scale, it was often a consideration in servants’ wages; Parson Woodforde, taking on a maid for five guineas a year “and tea twice daily”, and that “every Seamer, Sizer and Winder will enjoy herself over it in a Morning”.

The contents include chapters on tea chests and wood caddies, the very popular fruit form, usually made of various fruitwoods and often in the shape of pears, the sumptuosity of tortoiseshell, ivory and mother-of-pearl, with a page on miscellaneous materials – leather, straw-work, soapstone and the extremely rare and beautiful, cut steel. This was used in Russia from the mid-18th to the early years of the 19th century, where hundreds of faceted beads shimmering like diamonds would be riveted to plain steel surfaces, known as tula work, which used to make Catherine the Great near dribble with delight, and thence to Matthew Boulton’s factory in Birmingham where a similar style was developed. Good reference.

Next time this book is printed I should like to see a flyleaf note description about Mr Riley.