Life in Newburgh on Ythan

By Talpa

A memory of Old Istanbul

Were I to find myself suddenly, unexpectedly and fabulously rich then I would learn to fly and buy myself a Spitfire. Then I would become a serious collector of Chinese snuff bottles. Chance would be a fine thing!

Snuff bottles were used by the Chinese during the Qing Dynasty, 1644 to 1912 AD. During that time the smoking of tobacco was illegal, but snuff (powdered tobacco) could be used as a remedy for common illnesses such as colds, headaches and stomach disorders. Consequently, snuff was carried in a small bottle like other medicines.

Snuff bottles were made out of many different materials including glass, porcelain, jade, ivory, wood, tortoiseshell, metal and ceramic. Chinese snuff bottles were typically decorated with paintings or carvings and the stopper usually has a very small spoon attached for extracting the snuff. This one has been hand carved from translucent quartz. 

I bought the bottle some 30 years ago in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, one of the largest covered markets in the world with 60 streets and 5,000 shops. I remember spending a happy half hour haggling over the price until Mrs Talpa lost patience, pointing out that the shopkeeper and I were arguing over 25p - it seemed infinitely more in Turkish Lira!

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