Introducing My YouTube Channel

Hello everyone.

This post is here to introduce my new YouTube channel. I’m busy transferring all my old content to the new channel, and hope to upload new and better videos soon. To find this link in future, either add it to your bookmarks now, or check the EXTERNAL LINKS page on this blog!

My Channel 

 

 

 

Victorian Aide Memoires

Used most commonly in the Victorian era, the Aide Memoire (French for ‘Memory Aid’) is one of the quirkiest antiques that you could find today. Most people who come across them have no idea what they are, and frankly I’m not surprised. So, here we go…

Aide memoires were riveted booklets made of very thin slices of ivory, usually numbering between five to eight pages in length, and usually having the days of the week on the pages (usually Monday through to Saturday, and sometimes Sunday).

More elaborate versions had covers of pierced silver, mother-of-pearl, or tortoise-shell as decoration, while others had simple ivory covers, sometimes with silver edgings or cartouches riveted on.

Aide memoires were popular during the 1700s and 1800s, slowly dying out in the early 20th century, and their existence is 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 almost 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.

Due to their extremely thin sheets of ivory, aide memoires are pretty fragile. They need to be handled with care, and cleaned gently. Any old marks or stains can generally be polished off with warm water. If there are heavier stains, then a microscopic amount of Brasso metal-polish will also do the trick; a drop will suffice.

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.

 

Ten Tools for Effective Antiquing.

As with any proud antiques collector, I take a lot of pleasure in showing off my latest finds online. On Facebook, in collectors’ forums and of course, here on my blog.

Often I get people asking me stuff like: “Where did you find that?”, “How did you spot it?”, and “How do you know what to look for?”

A lot of my success is down to dogged determination and careful examination, but there are certain things which I always believe that a good antiques-hunter should always have on his or her person whenever they go out bargain-hunting. Here are my tools that I think every person should bring with them when they go antiquing, to improve their chances of finding a bargain…

  1. A flashlight or torch – Antiques shops are not always the best-lit of places. The most amazing treasures are usually hiding in plain sight and without adequate lighting, it’s impossible to tell what you’re looking at. In flea-markets, where cases are often jammed with trinkets, a small, but powerful pocket flashlight is often useful for carefully inspecting each object, before asking the shopkeeper, or the stallholder, to unlock or open the cabinet for you. It’s easier for you, and it saves the other guy’s time.
  2. A Magnifying Glass – Every good antiques collector should have a magnifying glass…I actually have several of these. Everything from those massive, solid, cut-glass monsters with brass frames, that remind you of Sherlock Holmes, right down to tiny pocket-magnifiers which I keep in my waistcoat pocket. A powerful magnifying glass is essential for checking for flaws, cracks, chips, maker’s marks, hallmarks, serial numbers and other small details in items like watches, porcelain, silverware and other manufactured goods.
  3. A Measuring Tape! – A small, pocket-sized retractable measuring tape is great for antiquing. Ideally, it should be one of those cheap ones with the soft plastic measuring-tapes inside them, not the hard, steel ones that you find at hardware stores – the last thing you need is the hard edges of your tape scratching up a table! A small measuring tape that measures out to about 150cm (around 60in) will be sufficient for most purposes. Nothing sucks more than not knowing if that vase or pot or spare part, or table, is going to fit into the space that you had envisioned for it in your home! So make sure you take measurements!
  4. Notepad and Pen – For taking notes, jotting down measurements, serial-numbers, the names of items…What, you seriously think you’re gonna remember all that crap? Huh… Get real!
  5. Camera – For taking pictures, duh! Useful for remembering things and cataloging where and when you saw something of interest. In antiques shops its unlikely to be a problem, but some people at flea-markets get a bit antsy when you snap their stuff (I’m yet to figure out why), so unless you know the person well, always ask before snapping.
  6. Your Mobile Phone – For taking pictures, if you don’t have a camera, and for accessing the internet (if you can), for doing on-the-fly checks about whatever it is you’re looking at, to find out more information before you buy it.
  7. Cash! – Where possible, pay in cash! Sometimes, you have to (such as in flea-markets or antiques fairs where access to EFTPOS isn’t always possible), and sometimes it’s just easier. People are more likely to accept a discount if you’re able to cough it up there and then. Cash is King. And the king (usually) gets what it wants.That said, if possible, keep your cash to small denominations. Fives, tens and twenties. Don’t bring out the big guns unless you’re actually paying for something expensive. Trying to chip down something from $30 to $20 and then paying with a $50 bill looks kinda iffy, yeah?
  8. Pocket Reference-Book – If you can find one (and if something like this is useful), then a pocket reference-book (such as for silver hallmarks) should be something you should keep on you at all times when antiquing. If nothing else, it’ll save the batteries on your phone from wearing out as you try to look up those marks online!
  9. A Magnet – For testing if something is brass, gold, silver, plated, or just really really shiny steel.
  10. Manners and a Good Sense of Humor – You want a bargain? Smile. You want more bargains? Be funny. I’ve managed to knock prices off all kinds of things just by being sweet, charming and cute. If a stallholder or antiques dealer likes you enough, they may be induced to drop the price…even moreso, if you’re a regular customer!

And there we have it. Some of those are obvious, some, perhaps not. But either way, they should all help to increase your odds in one way or another.

If you want to know more about antiquing and get more tips and tricks, then keep an eye out for the upcoming MAY issue of The Australia Times – Antiques, where I’ll be going into this stuff in MUCH more detail! The magazine is free, online, and easily accessed at:

Magazine