An Update on the William Bragge Album

William Bragge (31 May 1823 - June 1884) was an extremely successful businessman, well travelled, cultured, and a collector on a grand scale. Among his enormous collection of objects related to tobacco was a group of snuff bottles, the published descriptions of which (in Bibliotheca Nicotiana ) list several bottles which can be convincingly matched up with individual bottles in the volume of illustrations, removing any lingering doubt as to the patron of this delightful little volume. His collection was sold at Sotheby’s, in London, beginning 13 June 1876 in a four day sale. Some of his bottles ended up in the British Museum as we are informed by Marcus B. Huish ('A Little Appreciated Side of Art, Chinese Snuff Bottles,' in The Studio magazine, June 1896). He mentions Bragge’s formidable collecting habit, mentions his ‘many hundreds’ of snuff bottles, and recalls that ‘at his sale many of them were acquired for the British Museum.’ I have since had a chance to check the album against the holdings in the British Museum and have, indeed, indentified a number of bottles illustrated in the album given by Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks in either 1876 or 1896. Several more are in the Salting Bequest to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, given in 1910. Clearly both these museum benefactors bought substantial numbers of bottles from the Bragge auction in 1876. I have added those I have identified in either collection in the captions to the illustrations. At one time it was suggested, for no compelling reason, that this volume of illustrations may have been in the British Museum Collection along with copies of Bibliotecha Nicotiana . Its ownership after the death of Bragge is now established, however and the British Museum provenance proves a red herring. In his article, Huish records that the editor of The Studio magazine is ‘the fortunate possessor of a volume of facsimiles in colour executed for Mr. Bragge of a large number of his bottles.’ Given that we can match up some of the illustrations to specific snuff