Tincture glasses - minature examples of Georgian and Regency glassmaking excellence

Something caught my eye when browsing through the catalogue of most recently added items on our website this week (as mentioned previously – being a discerning collector of antique glass and deciding what may be a marketable commodity isn’t my remit – I just witter on about stuff every now and then and quite like pretty things…). It was something called a tincture glass – not a word I usually come across in this context.

Anyway, a swift bit of investigative poking around reveals that such things are basically miniature reproductions of various forms of glassware, almost exclusively for the purpose of “taking tinctures” which were, and probably still are, supposedly medicinal or restorative preparations which include alcohol as one of their constituents. Sounds fair enough – medicinal dosing glasses – the sort of thing that you would think would be purely functional and quite dull, but clearly Georgian tastes demanded a little more than just small, plain “shot glasses” and so we find a whole genre of pieces which are nothing less than small scale reproductions of widely available glasses. There are miniature tankards, sweetmeats, baluster glasses – even examples with air and opaque twist stems – with the same variety of bowl shapes, foot types and decoration which you find on “full size” items. It would certainly make for an absolutely intriguing category in which any aspiring collector might want to specialise – all the usual subtleties of antique glass, with an added twist.

There are not, however, any sort of definitive guidelines which determine what might properly be termed a tincture glass. It’s not the capacity of the bowl – one only has to effect a quick search on our website for cordial glasses to see plenty of pieces which are of a similarly small capacity – but all of these have “full height” stems and, to my untrained eye, look rather ill-proportioned. It’s not just the height, of course, many dram or firing glasses are of the same abbreviated stature as tinctures, but these tend to look rather squat, are distinguished by having their sturdy firing feet and again have a tendency to look far from elegant. It would seem that tinctures are worthy of the name if they are “proper” miniatures – with all their dimensions being reduced in proportion and the result being perfectly scaled down replications of items that you can find in the appropriate categories elsewhere on our site.

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to really appreciate the scale of the pieces for which I have provided the pictures below (both from our site and from other on-line resources) as they do not all have any other item included by which any appreciation of relative size can be ascertained. Rest assured, though, that they are all indeed miniature glasses - with a rough rule of thumb being that they are all less than four inches (100mm) in height.

It’s also worth taking some time to consider what was actually drunk from these mini-glasses, and it should be noted that some my colleagues at have actually prepared an original Georgian tincture, with the recipe having been gleaned from contemporary sources. It’s something called Aqua Miribilis, a suitably elaborate potation, a noble example of Georgian quackery, and considered to be “carminative, and esteemed good in vertigoes, palsies and disorders of the stomach” – in other words, it cured wind, dizziness, tremors and paralysis and a bad stomach (plus any one of about two dozen other things listed in other sources, but these four seem to be the main ones).

The ingredients of this “celebrated cordial” were cardamom, lemon peel, lemon balm, cloves, cubeb (Javanese tailed peppercorns), cloves, ginger, mace, nutmeg and galangal – all steeped in fortified wine or “a strong, clear spirit” (that’ll be gin, then !). This was then to be heated vigorously, sweetened with sugar, filtered, re-boiled – and then probably best left well alone, while whatever ailment afflicted you subsided of its own volition, unless you fancied adding a banging hangover to your list of divers incapacitations and disagreeable incommodities !

Anyway – link below to all the relevant pieces on our website, as per usual - and I do hope that you feel better soon…

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