A collection of Scottish snuff mulls from a collector couple.

Of the many antique and other intriguing items that can be collected, the Scottish ‘snuff mull’ is a special example.

By the 17th century, the use of snuff was becoming increasingly popular in Western Europe and even became very popular among the nobility and wealthy. To store the tobacco, a storage place was needed and the tobacco box was created.

There were two types of tobacco boxes, large jars in which the tobacco could be kept indoors and small ones that the user could take out and indulge in sniffing outside the home. The small tobacco boxes were not inferior to the larger ones and were often just as richly decorated with engravings, marquetry and other forms of decoration.

In Scotland, a completely unique type of snuff box was developed. The term ‘snuff mull’ comes from a dialect word for mill and probably refers to the hand mills used to grind the snuff. The Scottish mulls are made of horn and have a metal lid, often silver. They came in all sorts of varieties, most common in their original form of the ram’s horn. The silver fittings were often decorated and engraved with various scenes or set with quartz stones from the Cairngorm region.

The collection snuff mulls (lot nos. 2300 – 2317) come from the collection of a Dutch couple. For years they lived in Scotland and came across their first copy in an antique shop. Fascinated by the design and story, they started a collection and snuff mulls were acquired all over Scotland.