Unknown sources for information are the wrappers for tobacco and pipes. Up to the twentieth century the tobacco was cut in the shops and sold in small quantities. The paper bags and wrappers were printed with an advertisement showing emblems related to the product, including the addresses of the shop and the owner's name. Sometimes even the type or brand of tobacco was mentioned.
The majority of these wrappers were thrown away after the use of the contents. Therefore it is difficult to find them nowadays. The study of the emblems unveils the every day, popular iconography related to tobacco. This proves to be remarkably limited.
Most of the emblems were copied directly from the competitors. So we come across thousands of blackamoors, standing cockerels, shop facades, etcetera. Only the most established shop owners, often merchant themselves, initiated their own design of a particular wrapper. In these cases the wood printing block was changed for a copper plate to make a more detailed engraving.
Fashion and style of the time are not really accurately followed, also because of the long period these printing blocks were kept in use. Sometimes the names or addresses were changed, giving more information about tobacco distribution and continuity of the shop.
Illustrations on this page from the collections of Amsterdam Pipe Museum
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