Boxes for pipe tobacco
A German once wrote that the Dutch were Dosentrager. They were known to always carry a brass tobacco box containing their supply of tobacco for the day. In any case, the brass tobacco box is a typical Dutch article. They were made in many thousands and worn out in equally great numbers. Boxes in fine condition are rare.
Size and shape of the Dutch tobacco box changed with the tobacco consumption, the prosperity of the user and of course fashion. The oldest specimen fit in the palm of the hand and need a small stopper on the hinge, inside, to press the tobacco into the small pipe bowls. The pinnacle of luxury was a box of tortoise. From 1700 the box is oval or with chamfered corners. They are particularly interesting because of the iconographic message that the lid and bottom show, as a mirror of Dutch culture. Religious, with reference to biblical texts, but also with the depiction of city panoramas or special events, such as the cattle plague that once ravaged the Seven Provinces. In keeping with the religious feeling, the tobacco box is in the shape of a church book, engraved on the covers with a pious message.
And then of course there is love, preferably erotic, whether or not behind a cover, but always with a moralistic undertone. Abandonment is another popular theme. It is unclear whether this was a warning for the loyal houseman or a warning for the bachelor who always will be left alone.
In addition to the traditional brass boxes, there are luxury copies of other materials: printed buffalo horn or whale baleen. In East-Asia, boxes are made of blackened metal with gold, the so-called Sawasa, but in a purely Dutch shape. Later we see white metal that should imitate the more luxurious silver. Painted tin-plate tobacco boxes became popular in the nineteenth century. Wood has also been used for boxes for pipe tobacco. A curious example is decorated with inset mirrors.