This recommendation comes with the caveat that the book is unavailable if you wished to buy it on the mainstream outlets. Maybe it is available through specialist suppliers. I just wanted to say how engaged I was by this elegant book with its wonderful pictures.
Gin Legacy of The Doomed is a brilliant title but the subtitle, Collecting Stoneware Spirit Flasks – A Perspective, did make me pause as did the glowering stoneware figures on the front cover. However, I decided to read a bit more and I am so glad I did. My perspective on gin, on collecting stoneware spirit flasks and on the multi-faceted nature of historical documentation has been enriched by reading this beautiful book with its lush photographs and detailed explanations.
I knew about the gin palaces and the degradation of gin drinkers; I had seen William Hogarth’s engraving of Gin Lane many years ago, but in this book there are other engrossing, many in colour, sketches and etchings. Also the authors use extracts from poets and observers to depict the gin blight. Hume and Mytton carefully and clearly explain the links between government acts of 1680 and several thereafter which actively encouraged the grain producers of the nation to make spirits from surplus grain. The sale of spirits within the nation soared and were further increased by the imposition of restrictions on wine and spirits from Europe.
The spirit dispensed was strong and often adulterated; both factors increased the addiction and the desperate poverty and dreariness of the addicts. The Parliament ‘pressured by the worthy and righteous’ began in the mid 1700s to try to retrieve the situation though in 1815 Thomas Rowlandson put the following caption at the base of his illustration, ‘ Some find their Death by Sword and Bullet, And some by Fluids down their Gullet’ and in 1848 George Cruikshank illustrated a cautionary series called ‘The Drunkard’s Children’ who ‘drink at that fountain which nourishes every species of crime.’
The gin was delivered to the drinkers in their stoneware flasks. sometimes as gin-to-go, the majority of which held about twelve ounces. These flasks tell of the makers and the moulds and techniques used; the design and character of the flasks reflect social interests and preoccupations; some are marked with the names of the inns or the publicans and some are commemorative. They are the survivors of the two centuries of gin drinking.
Gin also told me about how a passion for collecting engages a person, brings them into contact with likeminded people and who then build a whole society wherein information and stoneware are exchanged. Just type in Stoneware flasks into the search engine! I do wish more of the museums displaying ceramics and bottles could link the objects so well to the history of their use and making as well as this book has done. The bibliography is wonderful.
It has certainly given me a new perspective on the gin cafes and gin boutiques which seem to adorn many of the streets in centre of Liverpool; I wonder how many of their gin containers will survive two centuries.