It’s been an absolute age since I read a silver book and felt inspired to recommend it, but English Silver in the Kremlin by Charles Oman is well worth a read.
The book is a study of the incredible collection of early (Elizabethan and Stuart) English silver owned by the Kremlin. Over the course of approximately 100 years, various English embassies brought gifts of silver to the Tsars. Eventually this staggering collection was the result.
This turned out to be hugely important because relatively few examples of English silver from this era have survived to the modern day (a topic I will be exploring in more depth in a future post). And the pieces— candlesticks, platters, beakers, cups and jugs — shown in glorious black and white plates in the book are incredible.
English Silver in the Kremlin
Oman’s book was not the first study of the Kremlin silver. Two prior expeditions examined and catalogued the silver. Wilfred Cripps in 1880 and Alfred E. Jones in 1909 wrote about it with varying degrees of detail. Then in 1917, the Bolshevik revolution overthrew the Tsar and for many years the silver was again unavailable to outside scholars. During this long period of inaccessibility a number of archival references were found in England pertaining to the silver in Russia.
In 1958, Charles Oman was granted permission to study the silver once again. English Silver in the Kremlin is the result of his first-hand examination of the silver in Russia and his archival research. The book was published in 1961. To my knowledge, no one has written about these pieces since. I wonder if they are still owned by the Kremlin?
Despite the dreary 1960s cover, English Silver in the Kremlin is an excellent read. It details the fascinating history of early formal relations between Britain and Russia and then delves into all that silver.
It seems quite incredible that this book happened at all. The Cold War was raging, and in particular the late 50s and early 60s were a period of great strain between Britain and Russia…think of the whole Burgess-Philby-Maclean spy ring scandal defections and counter-defections!
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