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A Book Review – Tobacco Leaves by Bewlay (Second Edition – 1892)

Review by Steve Laug

I don’t remember where I picked this book up but it is an old timer with the Second Edition coming out in 1892. It is called Tobacco Leaves by Bewlay. Under that it is stamped Entd at Stationers Hall. The title on the cover of the book is stamped in gold around a pair of tobacco leaves. The book was printed and distributed by Bewlay and Company – makers of fine tobacco pipes and accessories.

From the Preface I dray the following paragraphs:

“The universal use of Tobacco in some form or other all the world over, and the interest which devotees of the weed take in everything related to it, have suggested the literary whiffs now offered from the entertainments of our numerous supporters and the public generally.

The smoker is a contemplative man, and we venture to hope that he may find food for reflection in the Tobacco Leaves which are here unrolled for his perusal.

Among smokers, a sort of Freemasonry exists; and not only does their harmless indulgence constitute a fraternal bond between them  which levels social distinctions, but it has educed a mystic symbolism that has found expression in very many effusions of which the following is an example:-

 “Of lordly men, how humbling is the type,

A fleeting shadow, a tobacco pipe!

His mind the fire, his frame the tube of clay,

His breath the smoke so idly puffed away,

His food the herb that fills the hollow bowl,

Death is the stopper, ashes end the whole.”

While in the following pages an endeavor is made to the principal sources of supply whence the best growths of tobacco are obtained, we would specially direct attention to what is said respecting the importation by us of Indian and Burmah Cheroots and Cigars. Our agents write, that “the natives take great pains in their manufacture (especially in Burmah), to turn out a well-made Cigard and Cheroot, very different in appearance to the rough-looking Lunkah formerly sent.” The excellence of these Cigars and Cheroots has resulted in a large and growing demand since we first introduced them. – Bewlay & Co. 49. Strand.

Because of the breadth of material in the small, less than 100 page book I decided to divided it by the chapters that Bewlay divided it into and make comments in each section by Chapter division.

The book begins immediately after the Preface with a chapter on smoking and whether or not is beneficial of harmful. The chapter is entitled: Chapter 1 – Pages 7-18 Is Smoking Beneficial or Pernicious? In the chapter various historical arguments are made for both sides of the argument – yea or nay. Of course it moves forward to a strong defense of the beneficial nature of the moderate use of tobacco. It is sprinkles with quotes in defense of the use of tobacco and the serious benefits to those who use it! From there the book turns to exactly what I would expect in the second chapter.

This chapter marshals famous devotees of tobacco and what they say about their use of the “weed”. Chapter 2 – Pages 19-28  is entitled:  Eminent Devotees of the Weed. It cites various proponents from all over the continent on their use of tobacco and what they have found that it does for them. There are some poems and odes to the beauty of tobacco that are also included in this chapter. These figures include political, scientific, medical and literary figures. It is a great read and pretty normal for this kind of booklet from this time period.

From there the book turns to talk about Tobacco itself instead of defending it. Chapter 3 – Pages 29-31 Tobacco as a Prophylactic covers some interesting information. I quote the opening paragraph as it captures the focus of the chapter.

Tobacco smoking has long been regarded as a warder off or prophylactic of catching disease, and is strongly believed in both by soldiers and sailors, and many other classes. Army surgeons consider smoking gives confidence to many soldiers, and this confidence they regard as a very important factor on the outbreak of an epidemic such as cholera – pg 29.

From there the chapter turns to it use in gardening for killing blight in a greenhouse and as a germicide. Its use is also noted by doctors who have seen its value in the medical and dental professions. It is a short chapter but fascinating in its old time medical information.

Chapter 4 – Pages 32-41 Some Facts About Tobacco moves to giving a general overview of the history of tobacco and the nature and use of tobaccos of various regions and countries. It also overviews the various tobaccos from the United States which are by far the greater proportion of the unmanufactured tobaccos imported into the United Kingdom – Shag, Returns, Bird’s Eye, Maryland, Canaster or K’naster. The chapter ends with a witty poem about tobaccos.

Chapter 5 – Pages 42-47 The Adulteration of Tobacco and Cigars. This chapter is not what I expected from the title. It is actually about flavoring or topping tobacco and snuff with such things as molasses, sugar, aloes, liquorice, gum, catechu, oil and lampblack, alum, tannic acitd and iron, logwood, and such leaves as rhubarb, chicory, cabbage, burdock and coltsfoot. It is an interesting read about this in all forms of tobacco products including cigarettes and cigars. It makes me wonder what they would have written about in our day!

Chapter 6 – Pages 48-57 On Pipes gives a short overview of the history and types of pipes that have been and are available. It covers clay, meerschaum and briar pipes quite well and has some great quotable lines such as: “The best kind of pipe to use is a perfectly clean pipe, composed of an absorbing material, like briar, clay or meerschaum, with a long stem, which can suck up the oily matter before it reaches the mouth….”  The chapter ends with some great older poems about the pipe.

Chapter 7 – Pages 58-66 Remarks on Havannah, Indian, Burmah, Flor de Dindigul and Flor de Java Cigars and Cheroots covers by region cigars and cheroots that are sold by Bewlay and Company. Great historical read by region.

Chapter 8 – Pages 67-77 Cigarettes, like the previous chapter covers this method of using tobacco. There is a great quote that heads the chapter that I cite below:

“The man who smokes thinks like a sage and acts like a Samaritan.” – Bulwer Lytton

Chapter 9 – Pages 78-93 a Catalogue of Bewlay & Co. Limited. As the title suggests these large section of the book is a catalogue of products. Each product has a description and there are often etchings of the product itself – such as pipes.

This is a great little book well worth the read. It is a journey into the past with a great sense of what the world was like at this time in the history of England. If like me you enjoy Bewlay pipes in your collection it is all the more reason to keep an eye for this book.


A Review of “Rattray’s Booklet on Tobacco Blending: A Disquisition for the Connoisseur,” and the Original Text

Review by Robert M. Boughton

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“Look at almost any painting.  Three-quarters of the can vas is covered by the background.  Tradition is the background of our life.  Take away the background, and you have spoilt the painting.”
— Charles Rattray (1880-1964), quoted in “Up in Smoke,” article by Russell Kirk, Chicago Sunday Tribune, December 9, 1956A FOREWORD FOR MODERN TOBACCO CONNOISSEURS

Charles Rattray

Had I not chanced upon one of Gregory L. Pease’s always informative and entertaining essays in a browser search for better information about Charles Rattray, the late great Scottish tobacco blender, than the scads of teasing, contradictory bits and pieces that clutter the so-called Information Superhighway, I might never have learned about the “Disquisition.”  I was working on a review of Rattray’s Jocks Mixture, determined to dig up some real dirt about the blend and the methods of the man whose name was on the tall orange tin.  Just when I thought I had wasted almost an hour making frequent refinements to the search terms, up popped Mr. Pease’s listing at the top of the page, with the wholly irrelevant seeming title “Those Pesky Non-Polar Molecules.”  Doubtful but intrigued, I scanned the URL’s blurb that ended with the incomplete sentence, “In fact, Charles Rattray, in his ‘Disquisition….”  Stifling some very ugly words even though I would have been the only human to hear them, but with the presence of mind to consider the sensibilities of my cat, Tiger Lily, I jabbed the blue link.

Speed reading the piece, the gist of which was fine and dandy but all about the different ways to preserve tobacco and maybe even improve its taste, blah-blah-blah, I came across the sentence I was gasping to find.  As I read, I stopped breathing altogether.  Here are the only words in the entire essay, which I saved to my Favorites because I gathered enough to know I would enjoy the real subject more at a later date (as I did), that began my quest anew: “In fact, Charles Rattray, in his ‘Disquisition for the Pipe Smoker,’ wrote that the last bowl from his tins would be the best.”

And so, typing the given title for another search, I saw there were 1,950 entries, the top three being other links to the same article by Mr. Pease, followed by everything from pipe smoking in Middle Earth to a disquisition on the evils of using tobacco.  Well, I can tell you, I had just about had it.  But being relentless, I added “rattray” before the same title, and although the possibilities were a touch fewer at 1,139, well down the first page I felt a glimmer of hope in the description of a site called “Welcome to the Pipe Tobacco Aging, Storage, and Cellaring FAQ!”  Maybe the exclamation point stopped me enough to spy, among various sentence fragments separated by more damned ellipsis marks, one with Rattray’s in bold and another being “Disquisition for the Connoisseur.”  Clicking on this link to verify that Mr. Rattray was indeed the author of said Disquisition, I had to exercise a level of patience that is atypical to my normal threshold, and forced myself to venture 47 pages – or halfway down my scroll bar – into the bowels of the collection of documents, on the subject with the exclamatory heading noted above, before I came across yet another Mr. Pease quote, this one referring to Rattray’s “Disquisition for the Connoisseur.”  Why, in the name of all that’s holy, I beseeched myself, had I not just Googled that whole term in the first place?  At any rate, there is a purpose to all of this verbiage.

Mindful of not being the only tobacco pipe aficionado to have read the famous and extraordinary discourse by Mr. Rattray, founder of the famed House of Rattray, I am certain of the high probability that still many more like-minded pipe folks out there remain oblivious to its existence.   The sole reasons for such a detailed description of the blocks I encountered while hunting for a bona fide version of the work are to demonstrate the sometimes arduous task of locating the exact document one knows exists somewhere, even with search terms one would have every right to believe are sufficient, and to make the fruit of this personal crusade available with fewer trials to others who also seek accurate details of Mr. Rattray’s lifework, including his own published wisdom.  The Disquisition that follows my foreword is essential reading toward that end.  The clear opinions in this opening commentary are my own.

Steve Laug is, as am I, an acknowledged enthusiast of the habitual conditions called Pipe Acquisition Disorder (P.A.D.), Tobacco Acquisition Disorder (T.A.D.) and Pipe Tobacciana Acquisition Disorder (PTAD) – which I propose henceforth be referenced in combined form as Pipe, Tobacco and Tobacciana Acquisition Disorder, or PTTAD for those of us who are self-diagnosed or in denial.  As such (with an emphasis on PTAD, under which category I suppose the Disquisition falls), Steve published the same copy in 2012, calling the booklet a catalog and adding only a brief opening comment recommending it to readers.  The full name of the 30-page tract is somewhat misleading given the use of the prepositional phrase “on Tobacco Blending” followed by the subtitle “A Disquisition for the Connoisseur.”  The two parts combined suggest far more particulars of the contents of the Rattray’s mixtures, meaning the nine available when the Disquisition was written, than the blender’s seminal publication reveals.  Even so, the work remains a fascinating insight into the personality and philosophy of its author as much from its disclosures as its omissions.  Some of these show apparent deliberation while others tend perhaps toward the subconscious.  By the way, as of today, more than 40 Rattray’s blends have been released.

My frustration locating an online copy of the great work, even after the attempts already described and one more that pulled up a boggling number of references in tobacco discussions, articles and commentaries, turned out to be the result of my own failure, which I concede in advance was a bit stupid, to add the single word “online” after the second part of the Disquisition’s name.  In frustration, and with my tail between my legs, I dispatched a message to Mr. Pease, an eminent blender of fine pipe tobaccos in his own right, soliciting his aid.   His quick and thoughtful response led to the copy included here in its entirety, and by example to links of many others.  A quick but excited first reading set my mind abuzz with perceptions garnered from the primary source of this review that for the most part I did not find echoed anywhere else in my research.

Unlike some facsimiles, the PDF to which I was guided includes curious handwritten notes on the title page and one other.  Having exhausted every means of deciphering the words, which I considered might or might not be in English, and even consulting online Scottish alphabet and cursive handwriting sources, I made an unconditional surrender as to the words on the title page.  Regarding those on page 22, I ventured a guess that I thought was grasping.  In the end of this particular pursuit, I reached out for Steve’s almost encyclopedic opinion.  Two mornings ago, just in time to begin the final revisions to this review (or so I thought), I was rewarded with his agreement, in the latter of two responses via email, that the second note seems to be “write re shipping.”  But Steve’s initial response, appearing in my inbox below the other and concerning the title page, astounded me.  He interpreted it as a name, “Sh q. Jensen.”  Smiling and nodding in silence, almost laughing out loud, I revisited the title page and could only concur – with one suggested amendment: building upon Steve’s astute conclusion, the notion that Sh might be an abbreviation taken from some book owners’ proprietary need to write or in other more OCD examples stamp words to the effect of “From the library of (insert name),” I reasoned that Sh could be an abbreviation for “shelf,” as in “From the shelf of Q. Jensen.”  With a final search for words and acronyms involving the two letters in question, I confirmed the wild guess at the fifth Web link in my list of sources.

Nevertheless, the original year of the Disquisition’s distribution remains a mystery, but be assured I will not give up trying to find a definitive determination.  For now, I can report with certainty that the booklet was issued much later than I had believed, considering the extended quote on page 2, replete with the type of romantic nostalgia popular to many Scots of great and lesser renown, and most often encountered in the bawdy singing heard in pubs of that proud and sentimental country that forms roughly the northern half of Great Britain.  Attributed to a certain gentleman whose prose leaves no doubt he was a Scotsman with literary aspirations, by the name of B.A. Forbes, the essay, titled “Snuff – and the ‘Forty-Five’,” appeared in Chambers’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Arts in August 1936.  For the edification of anyone familiar with or interested in this magazine, it was published under that name in London from 1854-1956 as the continuation of its predecessor, Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal (1832-1853, published in Edinburgh).

For a glimpse at Rattray’s nationalistic pride and his personality in general, and tobacco blending philosophy in particular, the primary source of which I have already hinted, of course, is Rattray’s Booklet on Tobacco Blending: A Disquisition for the Connoisseur.  Again, there are frequent mentions of “Rattray’s Disquisition” or just “the Disquisition,” the latter reminiscent of rare classical music masterpieces, for example Johan Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major for strings, with its alternating melancholy and somewhat more upbeat parts, being referred to as “the Canon”; J.S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor for organ, called “the Fugue,” and Tomaso Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor for strings and organ, a work of a profound  sense of impending doom that builds into an almost harrowing conclusion, known as “the Adagio.”

The Disquisition is divided into eight parts: an informal preface; the foreword proper; a synopsis of the five elements of creating what the master blender and author called the House of Rattray’s “adherence to the true unhurried craftsmanship, the secret of our success;” six blends specifically identified as Scottish Mixtures, showing their domestic prices; “Cabinet,” or sampler pack choices with their prices; three All-Virginian Mixtures giving the same pricing; Export Prices for the pipe tobaccos, and, described last but with effusive pomp, Rattray’s Hand Made Cigarette (the Golden Leaf of Old Virginia), the reason “why we have one cigarette and one only,” again with domestic and Export Prices depending on the quantity ordered.  All prices are stated in shillings and pence.  For example, the lowest domestic price per ¼ lb. tin of Red Rapparee and Black Mallory is shown as 9/2, or nine shillings two pence.

Every pipester, as Mr. Pease sometimes calls us, whether he coined the term or not, should give the Disquisition thorough consideration.  If the reader is as inquisitive as I am, he (and I use the pronoun in the formal writing sense, not to exclude the many women among us) will find himself more and more engrossed, compelled to keep turning the pages, as it were.  In fact, I, for one, hope someday to own a genuine, ink and paper original printed edition of the prideful, almost swaggering presentation.  Moving forward from the weathered but elegant title page, take in every detail and nuance that combine to create a portrait of Charles Rattray, the man, the Scot and the tobacco blender.

Read every word of the text, as all of them were chosen by the author with the skill of a master craftsman, the cunning and wile of a politician avoiding the real answers to questions, the reluctance of the true chef to reveal too many secrets of his recipes – and, last but above all else, the fierce pride of the Scotsman who created the invaluable legacy of the now almost forgotten traditions of quality tobacco blending.

Study every image of antique statuettes and jars, each of them a special illustration of the centuries old history, traditions and values of the tobacconist’s trade, and singled out by the hands of the founder of the House of Rattray from his family’s vast, treasured collection.

Don’t miss a single quote related to the enjoyment of pipes and tobaccos, selected by Mr. Rattray with the same attention to history and tradition that is the theme of his Disquisition, which further illustrate the purpose behind his vocation and business, and when combined with the images of priceless tobacciana are especially telling of his sentiments.    Beginning with the longest from B.A. Forbes found at the end of the preface, the quotes, all derived from sources subject to the British Crown, continue in small bars heading each page of the following Foreword and the synopsis of the four fundamental preparatory acts, with the fifth being the final choices of which leafs and their quantities to choose for a given blend, and provide an enhanced understanding of the Rattray story.

That story and a large part of Mr. Rattray’s pride began with the Clan Rattray.  According to legend, the Clan dates to the early11th century, when Malcolm II, born c. 954, King of Scots from 1005 until his death in 1034,  granted one of the first men of the Rattray surname –which at the time was an ancient variation –the position of Laird of Rattray.  The royal appointment as laird, or landed proprietor, gave the early Rattray immediate authority over the occupants of Perthshire, now the County of Perth, and also made him accountable to the king for payment of certain incomes in that period’s equivalent of taxes.  It was true then as it is now: every promotion comes with a price.  For more details of the legend of Clan Rattray’s origin, based on the accounts passed down through the family for more or less a millennium, there is as always a link in my sources.

When Mr. Rattray died in 1964, his son, Charles Rattray, Jr., inherited the Scottish tobacco throne.  At some unclear point in the 1970s (or, in the alternative provided by less reliable sources, the 1960s), Robert McConnell Tobaccos of London assumed responsibility for some of the Rattray’s blends.  Which specific blends is unclear, depending on the source consulted.  Some say all of the Rattray’s English blends were assigned to McConnell; others posit the vague notion that “blends intended for export to the U.S.,” which category begs interpretation as either specific blend names made for sale in the U.S. alone, or those that were available here.  Either way, the latter idea seems, perhaps only to me, laughable considering the lack of any handy evidence supporting a theory that any product made by Rattray’s was excluded for sale in the rest of the world or not available to U.S. importers.  The tenuous claims I have mentioned are intended for the reader’s own conclusion or, I hope, to inspire debate, and in no way alter the fact that both McConnell and Kohlhase Kopp became involved in the evolution of the House of Rattray after the founder’s death, with the latter at whatever date assuming current ownership.  I always desire and appreciate input readers may have concerning these or any other statements I make in my various contributions to this forum.

The complete transition of Rattray’s ownership is also subject to debate.  Kohlhasse Kopp & Co. of Germany was formed in 1979, not long before the universal dating of the House of Rattray’s closure in 1980.  The question remains, however, whether McConnell ever had complete control of Rattray’s production until 1990, when the best sources I can find assert Kohlhasse Kopp’s acquisition.  There is no doubt, at least, that Rattray’s pipe tobaccos are now manufactured in Denmark.

I will leave the final point of contention in the worldwide community of tobacco pipe smokers, relative to the overall quality of Rattray’s products after Mr. Rattray’s death, to the many members of that clan.

Antique Fairweather & Sons tobacco tin, courtesy of the Internet

If there is such a thing as predestination, Charles Rattray is the perfect example.  The man who can reasonably be credited with perfecting if not creating a style of tobacco known today as the Scottish mixture was born in Dundee – where he began learning the skills and knowledge that led to his long reign as the premier blender in Scotland – at Fairweather & Sons.  Some of his early blends while in the employ of Fairweather were deemed suitable for sale at that establishment.

House of Rattray, found on Pipedia

The details of Rattray’s ascension to the throne vary in the sources cited at the end, but my account of his rise is based on the most reliable of these.  He remained in Dundee until 1903, when, at only 23, he set out for the capitol city of Perth and worked at the Brown Tobacco Shop on High Street 158, which he purchased eight years later and renamed as the House of Rattray. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.



A Book Review – The Pipe by Georges Herment

Blog by Steve Laug

1433852Beyond its simple cover, this book has a subtitle that is very 19th century— “a serious yet diverting treatise on the history of the pipe and all its appurtenances, as well as a factual withal philosophical discussion of the pleasure art of selecting pipes, smoking, and caring for them.”

I picked this older copy of Herment’s book up in a thrift shop in the US on a trip to visit family and friends in the late 1990’s. It was one of the first pipe books that I found and started me on the hunt for other books to add to my tobacciana collection of books. This one was printed by Simon and Schuster in 1972. It was a reprint of the original print in 1954, 1955. It was originally sold for $2.95 and when I bought it used it cost me $4.95

Herment’s Introduction, originally written in 1954 gives a sense of what he wished to achieve in his writing of this book. It also gives a sense of the spirit in which it is to be read. I quote his Introduction in full:

“At the risk of disappointing the reader on the very threshold of this book, we feel it our duty to warn him that it has been written in the manner of a poem, by a flash of happy inspiration.” p.xi.

“As may well be the case with a poem, twenty years of meditation and brooding have scarcely been sufficient incubation to produce these few pages. In the light of these observations it will be easier to grasp what follows:” p.xi.

“Treated in a purely technical style, a subject such as ours could not have failed to rebuff the simple amateur. On the other hand the veteran or professional smoker would have considered it too superficial to satisfy his requirements, not full enough to fulfill his desires.” p.xi.TOC1

“Thanks to a complete and exhaustive knowledge of the subject, after year of experience and research, we have been able to conceive this work in its fullest scope and present it to the reader just as the spirit came to us – current calamo. Such has been our aim. Have we attained it? The reader, be he veteran or amateur, must be the judge. – G.H.” p.xi.

As I have done in previous reviews I have included a copy of the Table of Contents to the left. I always read that when I am beginning a book to understand the logic of the book. In this case Herment has given us a good view of the way he treats the topic of the pipe. He divides his book into 5 parts with each pipe covering a different aspect of the pipe. The book is also illustrated with line drawings throughout.

PART 1 starts where most of the pipe books that I have read start – with the history and manufacture of the pipe. The difference is that it does not begin with the discovery and bringing of tobacco back to Europe. It does not go into the growing or manufacture of pipe tobacco. It merely looks at the pipe itself. He includes 8 short chapters that cover the topic at hand.

Herment begins with a chapter on definitions and diagrams and explanations before going into the rest of the section. The diagrams and definitions set the playing field for a common discussion of the author with the readers. He points out key points that he will unpack in the rest of the book.

From there he works through the various materials used in making pipes. He discusses clay, porcelain, meerschaum, wood (rosewood, cherrywood), other materials such as bone and Moorish copper tubing with wooden bowls before finally discussing briar. He singles out briar for special attention because of it being the focus of the book he is writing. The author’s style of writing is refreshingly crisp and quick. He moves rapidly, yet thoroughly through the topics he has chosen to discuss.

Each short chapter in PART 1 gives not only a description of the pipe but details on how the materials are fashioned and worked to become the object that we now call a pipe. It is a concise description that gives details of construction, shaping and manufacture of pipes.

PART 2 is dedicated to the pipe and all of the necessary and tangential accessories that have been manufactured for the pipe smoker. He presents the material in seven chapters that detail the topic at hand. He looks at the briar itself and describes the different pipe shapes that have been manufactured. He includes a shape chart and names for each shape. He also looks at the drilling and shape of the bowls, the materials used for the stems and how those stems were inserted in the shank of the pipe. He gives a really well written description on the parts and function of the pipe.

The second chapter in this part is dedicated to anti-nicotine contraptions. This chapter is by far one of the most interesting as it spells out some of the creative means that were developed to minimize the nicotine from the tobacco.

The remainder of the chapters, other than the one on snuffboxes, explores the various accoutrements of pipesmoking beginning with the tobacco that is smoked in the pipe and ending with the rack to hold the pipe.

PART 3 is all about smoking and caring for a pipe. This part is composed of nine chapters that take the reader from the proper packing of a pipe, lighting it, smoking it, emptying it out, cleaning the bowl and stem (each smoke, thorough cleaning and disassembling the pipe and cleaning), seasoning the pipe and finally reaming it. Herment has some really interesting concepts in each of these sections. Some of them have long since ceased to be used but are fascinating to read about. For instance in the chapter on lighting the pipe he uses a method that I had not seen until I read it here. A piece of paper is put on top of the bowl and filled with tobacco and pressed into the bowl. The paper is twisted at the top forming a fuse and that is lit. As the paper burns the tobacco is evenly lit – or at least it is according to Herment.

Part 4 covers the issues of the Pipe and Health. In this chapter the author shows that the opinions on tobacco are evenly divided between those who see it as a health risk and those who see moderate use as inconsequential or giving stress relief. It is an interesting read to see how far our culture has departed from this kind of even presentation of the facts. He also gives anecdotal accounts of how tobacco was used for relieving constipation (enema) and to act as a vermifuge. It is a fascinating read.

Part 5 is the final part and includes some final questions and a conclusion. The final questions were not what I expected when I turned to this chapter. What the chapter covers is the longevity of the pipe – will it be with us forever. Herment says that yes. Here is the direct quote at the conclusion of his discussion:

“We have said that the pipe is eternal. Its outward shape may change, may evolve, may possibly modernize, but the principle of the bowl-mouthpiece remains forever immutable.” p.162

And another quote

“But while virgin, the pipe remains a Sleeping Beauty. It is not until the first whiff of smoke has risen from the bowl that its true life begins. So let us awaken it – and when awake may it prove to be the true Pipe of Peace, reminding us that we are all brothers.” p.162.

To me that would have been a great end to the book but the author adds a Conclusion. To me the final sentences are typical of the style that is found throughout the book. I quote it here to close this review.

“One would think less of drowning a dog than of throwing a pipe in the dustbin – but then a dead dog cannot be awakened, but there will always be found men everywhere who will awaken the pipe.” p.164.

I heartily recommend this book. I have read it many times over the years since I bought. It is amusing, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable. I learn, laugh and reflect on the turns of phrase that Herment seems to have captured. He knows the pipe and when I have read his book I feel like I know him.

Amazon.com lists copies of the book for sale as does Google books. Purchase one and I don’t think you will be disappointed.

A Book Review – The Pipe Companion: A Connoisseur’s Guide by David Wright

Blog by Steve Laug

494194Several things about this book caught my attention when I first saw it. The first of course was the magnificent photography that graces the pages. It is literally packed with more than 125 full colour plates of pipes. The age of some of the pipes made me read the fly-leaf of the cover to know more about the author. That is when the second thing caught my attention, The Pipe Companion was written by David Wright who is the Curator of the Museum of Tobacco Art & History in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. What was interesting about that was the wealth of tobacciana that was available to the author at his work place. I was already hooked before I even read any of the text.

When I did read the fly-leaf on the cover it only solidified my commitment to purchase the book. I quote from there:

“Smoking a pipe is a refined, relaxing ritual. More than a tool for reflection, a well-crafted pipe is a work of art to be admired and appreciated. Whether made of clay, briar, or meerschaum, every pipe’s personality and history is evident I the beauty of its bowl and the style of its stem.”
“Profiling more than 50 master carvers from around the world and their elegant, yet functional creations, The Pipe Companion is the essential guide to the world of pipes. Within these pages you’ll explore the exquisite artistry of pipe making and enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of carving styles and manufacturing techniques. You’ll also learn about the history of the pipe – from its North American origins to its spread throughout Europe and the Middle East to the wide variety of classical and freehand styles popular today (2000). Finally you’ll discover modern pipe-smoking customs and practices, as well as learn how to select, smoke, and care for your pipes.”

“Perfect for both pipe enthusiasts and anyone with a penchant for the occasional puff, The Pipe Companion provides practical advice along with a wealth of information. So lean back, fire up your pipe, and enjoy.”

As with previous reviews I have written I include the table of contents to give an idea of how the author proceeds to do what is promised in the quotations from the preface or in this case the fly-leaf of the book’s cover. It is arranged in three parts with subsections underneath each part. It concludes with a glossary, a suggested reading list, pipe makers contact information and then ends with notes.TOC PART 1: A Brief History of the Pipe – this first section of the book uniquely presents the standard pipe history that has been repeated in a variety of descriptive ways since Alfred Dunhill’s Pipe Book. However, what makes this presentation unique among the others is the beautiful photographs of the pipes from the early periods of history. He looks at the origins of the pipe from Native American pipes to those developed later in Europe when tobacco was brought there.

After giving a very brief description of the origins with photos the author turns to the different types of material that have been used for making pipes. Again this section is graced with beautiful photographs illustrating the pipes made of each material. There are paragraphs on Clay Pipes, Wood Pipes, Porcelain Pipes, Meerschaum Pipes, and Briar Pipes. This section ends with an inserted article on Pipe Production. The interest in artisans who made these pipes sets the stage for the later PART THREE which looks at Pipe Makers.

The author’s style is engaging and enjoyable to read. You are carried forward through the chapter as he unfolds the history, interjecting stories and incidents among the photos of the pipes that illustrate his points. It is well written and flowing in style.

PART 2: The Art of Pipe Making – the second section covers pipe making from the perspective of one person shops to medium-sized factories. Again this PART 2 sets the stage for PART 3 on Pipe Makers. It does this with reference to the fact that before looking at the variety of pipe makers that it is important to understand how block meerschaum and briar are carved from their natural state into functional and artistic pipes.

The first chapter is on the materials that pipes are made from. The first section in this chapter is on meerschaum. It looks at the history of meerschaum and how it is mined and then refined and carved into pipes. There are pictures in the section that show raw meerschaum and ornate figural and design pipes carved from meer.

This is followed by a section on briar. There again the author looks at the agriculture of briar and where it grows and how it is harvested. Then the section looks at the seasoning/curing of the briar and finally how the blocks are cut and then carved into pipes.

The next section covers carving in all of its aspects. There are beautiful photos of figural pipes, carving and then finally of bending the stems that were used. Even machine-made pipes are discussed. It is interesting to note that the author says that even machine-made pipes involve a lot of hand work – sanding, shaping, finishing etc. are all done by hand.

The second chapter describes how to select a pipe. The author likens buying a pipe to buying a car. He discusses the materials that go into making a pipe, the finish and compares machine-made to handmade pipes and closes the chapter by discussing the features of a pipe. He states that the most important feature is free air passage from the bowl to your mouth – mechanics.

The third chapter discusses the how to of smoking a pipe. Truly this section should be called breaking in a new pipe and interestingly the author gives a sub-title part way through the text where he gives it that title. He discusses bowl coatings, various methods of loading a pipe including the Frank method with a brief segue into choice of tobacco. Then he moves to talking about lighting the pipe, tamping the tobacco and concludes with after smoking care and cleaning of the pipe.

PART 2 is a well written concise exposition of the pipe – materials, selection and smoking. It is written in an engaging way but always with the awareness of what is ahead in PART 3 of the book. There is a building excitement in the chapters about the various pipe makers that will be discussed ahead.

PART 3: The Pipe Makers Directory – The remainder, and by far the largest part of the book is the present one. The author has arranged his list of hand-picked pipe makers by country for ease of reference. Quoting from Wright’s introduction to this part of the book:

“As you examine the different carvers around the world and their unique interpretations, you’ll notice similarities and schools of art. The oldest briar school, for example, is centered in Saint-Claude, France. Italy has two distinct schools of carving, while the other Scandinavian countries have a look all their own. Then, there are the United States and Japan. The variety of styles and techniques in the United States reflect America as the proverbial melting pot. In Japan, styling can by very Japanese or exhibit a combination of Japanese and Danish features.” Page 57

“Modern briar and meerschaum pipe styles can be divided into two broad categories: classic and freehand. The classic style has its origins in early French and English pipes. The proportions of the bowl and the stem: length, height, and diameter are standardized in these pipes. Many of the names of classic pipe shapes and styles were chosen many generations ago and reflect the shape or appearance of the pipe… Freehand was a term coined for the “wild” or “organic” designs of Danish pipes that first appeared in the late 1950s. Freehand implies that the pipe carved at the whim of the carver. A truer definition is that the pipe design is governed by the grain of the wood. No two freehand pipes are carved alike, nor do they conform to any one style.” Page 58

Following the short introduction, from which the two quotes above are taken, the author proceeds to move through the various countries he has chosen. In each country he has chosen pipe makers to highlight and includes photographs of their work. This catalogue of pipe makers is the highlight of the book to me and a section I turn to repeatedly. I will list each country as the author has organized them and then give a list of the pipe makers he covers in each one. I don’t know what your thoughts will be but I was surprised by the listings and found there were several I had not heard of previously.

Canada: J. Calich (p.59-61), Julius Vesz (p.62-63).

Corsica: L.J. Georges (p.64-66).

Denmark: Bang’s Pibemageri (p.68-69), Jess Chonowitsch (p.70-72), Lars Ivarsson (p.72-74), Jorn (p.74-75), Anne Julie (p.75-77), W.O. Larsen (p.77-79), Nording (p.79-80), Stanwell (p.81).

France: Butz-Choquin (p.82-83).

Germany: Holger Frickert (p.84-86), Karl-Heinz Joura (p.86-88), Manuel Shaabi (p.88-90).

Great Britain: Ashton (p.91-94), Castleford (p.94-95), Dunhill (p.95-98), Ferndown (p. 98-99).

Ireland: Peterson (p.100-101).

Italy: Ardor (p.103-104), Paolo Becker and Becker & Musico (p.104-106), Brebbia (p.106-108), Castello (p.108-110), Il Ceppo (p.110-111), Mastro de Paja (p.111-113), Radice (p.113-115), Savinelli (p.115-118), Ser Jacopo (p.118-119).

Japan: Shizuo Arita (p. 120-121), Jun’ichiro Higuchi (p.121-122), Tsuge Pipe Company (p.123-124).

Spain: Joan Saladich y Garriga (p.123-127).

Sweden: Bo Nordh (p.128-130).

Turkey: Ismet Bekler (p.132), Yunas Ege (p.133), Sevket Gezer (p.134), Huseyin and Mustafa Sekircioglu (p.133-134), Salim Sener (p.134), Sadik Yanik (p.135).

United States: E. Andrew, Briars (p.136-138), Alfred Baier (p.138-140), Boswell’s Pipe & Tobacco (p.140-142), J.T. & D. Cooke (p.142-144), Cristom (p.144-147), Jody Davis Princeton Pipes (p.147-149), Dr. Grabow (p.149-151), Fairchild Pipes (p.151-153), David Jones Briar Pipes (p.153-155), Kaywoodie (p.155-157), Kirsten Pipe Company, Inc. (p.157-159), Sam Learned (p.159-161), Lucille Ledone (p.161-162), Andrew Marks (p.163-165), Mr. Groum Pipes (p.165-167), Clarence Mickles (p.167-168), Elliott Nachwalter Pipestudio (p.168-170), Denny Souers (p.170-172), Trever Talbert (p.173-174), Mark Tinsky American Smoking Pipe Company (p.175-176) Von Erck’s Pipes & Repairs (p.176-178), Roy Roger Webb (p.178-180), Steve Weiner (p.181-182), Tim West (p.182-186), Randy Wiley (p.186-187)

From the above information it is obvious that the largest portion of the pipe makers included is from the United States. I am assuming that this is because of the author’s location. However, within each section there is a concise biographical note on the pipe maker and a description of the style and where they fit within the classic/freehand division that introduced PART 3. The photos in this section are absolutely stunning and give a good idea of the style, quality and craftsmanship of the makers. I will continue to use this book as a reference to the works of the makers covered and as a wish book of pipes I want to add to the collection.

The book ends with some sections that could easily be skipped to the detriment of the reader. The Glossary gives excellent definitions of the terminology of pipe making. These definitions are concise and helpful. The Suggested Reading bibliography is a great resource and one that I use as a checklist of published materials on pipes and tobaccos – both books and periodicals. The Pipe Makers Contact Information is worth a look as well if you want to contact any of the above makers for a commission or just write them a thank you note for a great pipe you are smoking. The book ends with Notes that really are endnotes for the chapters in the book giving bibliographical notes for information used from other references.

I can heartily recommend The Pipe Companion – a Connoisseur’s Guide by David Wright to every pipe collector and collector of books and information on pipes. It is a resource that is well written, well illustrated and unusually thorough in the kind of information that is resourced in the book. It is an ongoing pleasure to read repeatedly or to just thumb through and enjoy the pipe photography that graces the pages from the beginning to the end. If you have not picked this one up you really owe it to yourself to get a copy before it too goes out of print.