The practice of sniffing powdered tobacco dates back to prehistoric times. Tobacco was already sniffed in pre-Columbian cultures. This was done through a hollow bone from a snuff tablet, a kind of tray with a raised edge often decorated with an artistic element. Terracotta snuff pipes were also in use, sometimes very appropriately with two stems to serve both nostrils at the same time.
Snuff also spread to other continents. In Africa, the tobacco powder is carried in a bronze bottle or wooden container, often worn on a string on the belt. A very special object is the snuff ring from Nigeria, the high tray intended to present a sniff. Mortars to grind the tobacco also exist in various Asian cultures. Usually it is a tall cup in which a stick or pestle rotates to powder the tobacco.
In China there is a great culture of snuff bottles made of all sorts of glass, quartz and porcelain to hold the precious powder. At the stop of the bottle is a bone spoon to scoop the snuff out of the bottle. The ban on tobacco smoking has stimulated the culture of tobacco sniffing enormously.
In Europe, the habit of sniffing is elitist. We see this in the beautiful and expensive snuff boxes, but especially in the most specific article, the snuff grater or rasp to make fresh snuff at home. This consists of an iron raps set in a reinforced back. Materials used for graters are ivory, boxwood or other fine woods.
Carving of ivory graters has developed to the highest level in the French town of Dieppe. Nancy, on the other hand, is known for the finest carved wooden rasps. The top of the grater is always best decorated, often with beautiful carving. This side lends itself to a family crest or other personal mark. Other images are mythological, moralistic or just playful.