UK Snuff Bottle Collectors

Enthusiastic snuff bottle collectors from the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe gathered on June 15 at the Lady Lever Gallery, in Port Sunlight, near Liverpool, to view the 151 snuff bottles in the collection. Lord Lever, William Hesketh Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme, was an immensely wealthy industrialist with an interest in collecting art and antiques, including those of Chinese origin. The gallery, opened in 1922 to house his extensive collection, is situated in the picturesque village that Lever built for his workforce.

Lever acquired all of the 151 snuff bottles from a sale of C. S. Holberton’s collection at Christie’s London, on June 26, 1918. The London dealer Frank Partridge alerted Lever to the sale and suggested that for the sum of £500, he could purchase the finest bottles from the collection. That he did. Thirty-two are on display in the main gallery upstairs and another twelve are in the Chinese Galleries. Gallery curator Alyson Pollard showed us the remaining bottles in fitted boxes in the Education Room. “In every box there are treasures,” Joey Silver remarked.

The first box we viewed contained two leaf-shaped porcelain bottles and a silk pouch for such shapes.

There was also a wonderful Suzhou agate, an imperial porcelain example painted with the Hundred Boys motif, and some good, green jade bottles. The collection has nice shadow agates and other interesting hardstone bottles.

We had a wonderful two hours looking at all the bottles and later discovered that they are all on the gallery website. Please visit and search “snuff bottles.”

Having had a fortifying lunch before viewing bottles, that evening we had a sumptuous Chinese banquet. The next day, a group of us visited China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors, an exhibition at the World Museum, Liverpool.

The next event is planned for November, when we will visit the British Museum to look at Porcelain snuff bottles in the collection, some of which Jessica Harrison-Hall featured in her recent lecture “Porcelain Snuff and Medicine Bottles: Stories, Symbols and Inscriptions” (Winter 2017, Journal, pp. 5-22).

All members of the ICSBS are welcome. Please contact myself or Jeremy Levine for further details: (; Jeremy Levine 

Susan Page, London