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Steppes Hill Farm Antiques Newsletter #101 - February 2020

Aide Memoires

Aide memoires (French for ‘Memory Aid’) were the early version of notepads or diaries, and were used as written reminders. In Victorian times, silver aide-memoires were considered as a luxury item reserved for the upper classes, the only people who could not only afford them but were also able to read and write to use one. The more luxurious examples had silk-lined interiors, with the pages inside made from ivory and marked with the days of the week.

Aide memoires were popular during the 1700s and 1800s, slowly dying out in the early 20th century, and their existence can be directly linked to the evolution of writing instruments during this period.

The Function of an Aide Memoire

In an age when the dip-pen ruled supreme, and the only portable writing instrument was the propelling pencil made of sterling silver, or the humble, wood-cased pencil which more often than not, was sharpened with the blade of a pocket-knife, writing notes on the move was a tricky and messy process. Paper was expensive, ink was prone to leaks, and small, pocket notepads had not yet been conceived. So how did you keep reminders of what you needed to do that week? You bought an aide memoire.

On an aide memoire, you wrote in pencil the things you needed to remember for that week. The dates of doctor’s appointments, nights at the theatre, dinner with friends, shopping that had to be done, and so on. At the end of each week, the ivory sheets were wiped clean with a damp cloth, and the details for the next week’s engagements were written down.

Like an iPad or personal organiser today, the original expenditure on an aide memoire was likely to be fairly high, but the money saved in paper was probably considered to be worth the expense.

Aide memoires varied in size and intricacy, from tiny little ones not much larger than matchboxes, to significantly larger ones  the size of a modern iPhone (which is about as big as they get).

They usually resided in a gentleman’s coat pocket, on a watch-chain, in a lady’s handbag, or else hung from a chain on her chatelaine. Aide memoires designed for chatelaines and pocketwatch chains came with a ring, swing-toggle or hook on the end so that they could be clipped on safely without fear of loss or breakage.

Aide memoires did exist in other formats; versions of them were included in higher-quality writing boxes, and these ranged from cheap waxed cardboard, to ivory, to the new wonder-material of the 1800s: Celluloid. Portable, pocket aide memoires were also made of celluloid, but ivory was always the preferred material.

A small selection currently in stock is illustrated above.

Featured Item

Silver Caddy Spoons with Organic Handles

Most collectors of antique Caddy Spoons concentrate their interest on the solid sterling silver forms, despite the fact that the Caddy Spoon or Ladle was made from a number of different materials including treen, tortoiseshell, mother of pearl, ivory, bone, horn, ceramic and glass. Some of the earliest 18th century examples were probably made from these other materials but remain shunned for the most part by collectors.

Spoons that combine two different mediums with silver bowls and stems but with handles made from organic materials also seem to be sadly neglected. I personally find them attractive and they probably would have carried a premium at the time.

A small selection currently in stock is illustrated above.


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Edwardian Silver Shooting Butt Marker Early 20th Century Silver Mounted Patent Desk Ink Blotter 'Scottie Dog' Unusual Large Victorian Irish Silver Table Vesta Case Victorian Novelty Silver Watering Can Scent Atomiser
Victorian Silver Gilt Castle-Top Vinaigrette - Martyrs' Memorial Oxford Pair Victorian Royal Commemorative Cased Silver & Mother of Pearl Folding Fruit Knife & Fork Victorian Silver Castle-Top Vinaigrette St Giles Church, Wrexham First World War British Soldiers Head Silver Vesta Case

Once again I am pleased to be able to update the site this month with over 25 new items of stock and some highlights include; an Edwardian Silver Shooting Butt Marker, an early 20th Century Silver Mounted Patent Desk Ink Blotter with applied 'Scottie Dog', an unusual large Victorian Irish Silver Table Vesta Case, a Victorian Novelty Silver Watering Can Scent Atomiser, an extremely rare Victorian Silver Gilt Castle-Top Vinaigrette depicting the Martyrs' Memorial Oxford, a fine pair of Victorian Royal Commemorative Cased Silver & Mother of Pearl Folding Fruit Knife & Fork, a rare Victorian Silver Castle-Top Vinaigrette depicting St Giles Church, Wrexham and a rare First World War British Soldiers Head Silver Vesta Case.


I do hope that you will find this Newsletter informative and helpful and will allow us send it to you on a regular basis. I would welcome any feedback you may have, both positive and negative.

David W.A. Buck.
Steppes Hill Farm Antiques


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Steppes Hill Farm Antiques Ltd · PO Box 608 · Sittingbourne, Kent ME10 9GT · United Kingdom

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