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A games box with history!




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One of the pleasures of handling antiques is to find items that surprise you with the way they keep on adding layers of interest. Such is this games box. Preserved in superb condition for over 200 years, it is made of lacquer and the documentation suggests that it was made in India I am not totally convinced about that! The lid has the monogram SM. Open up and you see at once the sets of trays in two styles - one the two deep trays for holding counters and the other the set of trays for Pope Joan, beautifully dceorated; these are not in the usual configuration with all diamond cards but with the less common use of the club suit for some. Then open up the four smaller boxes: they conmtain a FULL set of 140 original counters with the monogram SM. Made in Canton, China circa 1780, they are of super quality  with bright m-o-p. How rare it is to find a full set of 140 original matching counters. Most have lost at least a few over the years - but not this one. Then open up the larger interior box for another surprise: it is full of games. A super wooden bilboquet - the game with a ball on a string that you have to catch on the stick. A small  ivory tangram set in a square wooden box with sliding lid. You have endless hours of fun arranging the seven pieces into given shapes and designs. The cloth bag contains some spillikins and carved bone sand chess pieces ( I think!). There is a wooden game that looks like a whistle - but in fact must be another puzzle as it contains a ball with no way of getting it out. What is this? and finally a small carboard box containing toy money, all bearing  Victoria's head. I mentioned the documentation: luckily there is a card with the detail that the counters and box originally belonged to Dr. Stephen Mathews, who was surgeon with the East India Company. He actually produced a treatise on 'Hepatic diseases incidental to Europeans in the East Indies'  and it records that he was surgeon on the Duke of Portland (this ship was recorded in Canton in 1781 - exactly matching the date of the counters-  under Captain John Sutton - ref CAP I, D.S.Howard page 897).  What a treasury of historical interest. And beauty!


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