Lawnmarket Club Snuff Mull To Sell at Bonhams in Edinburgh

An extraordinary table ‘snuff mull’ in the form of a scrolling horn that was formerly at Edinburgh’s famous Lawnmarket Club is one of the highlights at Bonhams’ annual Scottish Sale, which will take place between 22 – 24 August 2007.

The use of snuff had, by the mid-19th century, become fashionable and widespread, and such was the demand for it that large containers or ‘snuff mulls’, such as that to be sold at Bonhams, were invented to stand on the table or sideboard to serve all. The word ‘mull’ was derived from the Scots dialect word for ‘mill;’ the snuff having been ground in a mill to a powder much as pepper is today. The snuff mulls being sold at Bonhams is a ram’s horns mounted in silver with the various accoutrements – gavel, spike, rake, spoon and paw and so on – attached by chains.

The Lawnmarket is one of Edinburgh’s most famous streets, continuing the Royal Mile from West Bow to St Giles’s Cathedral. It derived its name from the “land market” and “lawn merchants” that took over the street, where a busy concentration of traders would sell their produce. As a mark of the street’s importance, the community formed a thriving association in 1468, which became known as the Lawnmarket Club.

The Victorian table snuff mull to be sold at Bonhams features the inscription: “This horn was presented to the club by Thomas Sawers Jnr. Esq Lord Provost, June 1851.” As Lord Provost, Sawers would have also held the title of Lord Lieutenant of the City of Edinburgh, and would have been one of the most prominent public figures of his day.