Archive for February, 2012

It’s a large world after all!

February 17th, 2012 | posted by James Gillis

This extraordinary terrestrial globe, measuring an impressive 30 inches in diameter, was crafted by the reputable firm W. & A.K. Johnston, Ltd. The beautiful, accurately detailed map is set within a lavishly carved mahogany base on four cabriole legs.

Globes of this grand scale were incredibly expensive to make. It proved to be much more cost effective to update one’s plates than to buy an entirely new globe. From Edinburgh, the Johnston firm emerged during the second half of the 19th-century as one of the foremost globe makers in all of the United Kingdom, overshadowing their rivals in London.

The Johnston brothers, William and Alexander Keith, both worked for leading Scottish globe manufacturer James Kirkwood until the Great Fire of 1824, which destroyed the firm. In 1825 William founded his own firm and was soon joined by his brother the following year.  Their combined skills as geographers, engravers and printers truly set them apart. They quickly rose to the forefront of globe manufacturing in the UK, and were awarded a royal appointment from Queen Victoria. In 1851, at the Great Exhibition in London, the brothers introduced their 30-inch globe design, the first of its kind ever produced in the British Isles.

The firm remained intact even after the deaths of Keith (1871) and William (1888), and continued to produce spectacular globes well into the 20th century.

To see our various globes for sale, please click here.


February 3rd, 2012 | posted by Bill Rau

Back in the old days, in the 1750’s, the way in which lovers expressed their true sentiments to each other and loved ones was to send a specially scribed message secretly hidden in a tiny “étui”, as it’s called in French, or a small ornamental case that women also used to carry their small utensils, a thimble and thread for sewing, or other miniature necessities during their daily activities.  When used for a romantic, or highly a private, message, a seal of wax was used to close the étui to ensure that it wasn’t opened and the confidant betrayed.

Little cylinders, no more than 4 inches long and one inch in diameter, were crafted by hand in leather and precious metals, exotic materials like shagreen (shark or stingray skin),  tortoiseshell or semi-precious stones. They are the perfect romantic gift in which you can stash a very personal love note or even a small gift of jewelry.

M.S. Rau Antiques and Fine Art has acquired an extraordinary collection of 18th century “étuis” which are decorated using different types of gold and agate. Agate was highly prized in the 18th century for its marbled look and used as an amulet or talisman to divert storms in ancient civilizations. French phrases like “Nul Plaisir Sans Vous” (“no pleasure without you”) intensify the sentiment of the gift tucked inside, as shown on the one below.

This incredibly intricate, Swiss Louis XIV-era etui (below) is only 4 inches long and is made of 18K yellow gold and features a Neoclassic design representing Music and Gardening motifs in bas-relief cartouches and laurel borders.

This exuberant, English Rococo era étui is formed of beautifully carved agate and 18K yellow gold. It is carved to resemble an enchanted landscape with trees.  Sealed with wax for security, it opens with the push of a diamond studded button. Truly, a gift to have and to cherish.