Glass articles - Scottish Glass General

Jacobite glasses – Fascinating and controversial

By Geoffrey Seddon

Jacobite drinking glasses have a unique appeal but the reason for this is not immediately obvious. The engraving is rarely of outstanding quality and they are more numerous than any other group of commemorative glasses; yet, they can command the very highest prices.

What induced a sale price of £66,000 for the Spottiswoode "Amen" glass in 1991? It was an unremarkable multi-spiral, air-twist drawn trumpet glass with a plain conical foot and diamond point engraving. It was not artistic merit because the engraving, although good, is not exceptional. Nor was it extreme rarity, since we know of some 36 other glasses by the same engraver.

The reason is two-fold. First and foremost is their history. The Jacobite Movement occurred during a pivotal period of political development, as the divine rights of kings gave way to the will of their subjects.

The Glorious Revolution of 1688, which gave rise to the constitutional monarchy we have today, is hailed as a cornerstone of British parliamentary democracy. Yet, to this day, there are those who believe that the removal of James II, and the subsequent demise of the Stuart dynasty in favour of an obscure German prince, constitutes a crime against the State.

The chaotic collapse of the 1745 Rebellion, which came so close to succeeding, the subsequent mutilation of the Scottish Highlands and the exploits of Charles Edward Stuart, a charismatic but flawed character, all contribute to continuing interest in this period of history.

The second reason is the many unanswered questions about the history and about the glasses themselves. Who were the Jacobites and where were the English Jacobites in 1745? Who used the glasses? Who engraved them and what were the dangers? Many of the engraved motifs, such as the rose, the buds, the portraits and some of the Latin mottoes, are still the subject of controversy. Jacobite glasses will always provide fascination for the collector with an inquiring mind.

©2008 G Seddon

Geoffrey Seddon

Geoffrey Seddon has studied the subject of Jacobite glass for over 25 years. After retiring from medical practice, he devoted much of his time to writing his book The Jacobites and Their Drinking Glasses.

He has gained much attention for this work, which not only explores the history of the subject and the iconography of the engraving but, importantly for collectors, also the styles and traits that reveal the individuality of the engravers themselves. Geoffrey has developed a photographic lighting technique for engraved glass and accumulated a detailed photographic record of the largest series of Jacobite glasses ever studied. These were gathered from public and private collections all over the UK.


Bonham's - Edinburgh

This year there is the opportunity to purchase a glass from his private collection at the Scottish Sale at Bonhams, Edinburgh. The sale on the 27-29 August 2008 will also include Monart glass. Entries close in early July.

For further information, please contact

Ian Glennie
European Ceramics and Glass and Asian Art
21 Queen Street
Edinburgh EH2 1JX

+44 131 240 2299 Web:


Edited by C. Hudson for Scotland's Glass.