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Snuff rasp

Snuff rasp

  • Place of origin:


  • Date:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved boxwood

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Although tobacco was introduced to Europe in the sixteenth century, the way in which it was used differed greatly from modern habits. A fine tobacco powder known as snuff was inhaled from the back of the hand or the fingertips. Dried tobacco leaves were generally sold in tightly bound bundles, and, although commercially produced snuff was available, many snuffers preferred to make their own. Snuff rasps like this one were developed to be conveniently carried in a pocket so that a portion of snuff could be prepared at any time by grinding a bundle of dried tobacco leaves on the metal grater or rasp. Many snuff rasps incorporate a snuff-box to hold any excess produced, although this example does not.

Snuff-taking was an expensive habit and could only be afforded by the well-to-do, with the result that snuff-related objects, like rasps and boxes are often made from precious materials like ivory, and are beautifully decorated with carving or inlay. This eighteenth- century French example is carved from boxwood and unusually features a pivoting cover to the metal rasp. Both the cover and the reverse of the object are carved with vignettes depicting billing doves and a hunter playing a horn. There are also short proverbial inscriptions on each side.

Physical description

Carved boxwood snuff rasp in two parts joined by a pin. The sections twist apart to reveal the metal rasp. The carving to the outer faces depicts a pair of doves on one side (with the carved inscription 'UNIS JUSQUA LA MORT') and a seated man playing a horn on the other (with the carved inscription 'LA FIDELITE EST PERDUE')..

Place of Origin




Materials and Techniques

Carved boxwood

Marks and inscriptions

Together until death
Carved with the carvings of the doves

Fidelity is lost
Carved with the figure of the man with the horn.


Length: 7.25 in, Width: 2.25 in

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Zech, Heike. Gold Boxes. Masterpieces from the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection. London: V&A Publishing, 2015, p. 11, fig. 3. ISBN 987-1-85177-840-9

Subjects depicted

Man; Hunting horns; Doves


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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