How to take Snuff: Snuffboxes and Snuff Handkerchiefs..................                                   Back to Contents
    Some (and I) take a pinch between thumb & forefinger (see picture); others by putting a pinch in the "snuffbox": the depression caused in the back of the hand by keeping the fingers together and stretching the thumb.
    Either way, a snuffbox is essential to keep the snuff in good condition, one never filled with more than a day's supply.

  Snuffboxes are of course sought-after collectors items,  and, if a bit old, in consequence expensive: hundreds, even thousands of pounds.
    Snuffbox collectors are as likely to use their snuffboxes to take snuff as book collectors are likely to read their books.
    The everyday snuff taker wants a box that he can lose without financial distress: to him the snuffbox is an everyday practical utensil, just as to a cook the frying pan is not a valuable exhibit to be polished and housed in a glass cabinet for the neighbours to admire.
    But a good cook won't use any old frying pan; and the snuff taker will find himself in difficulties with any old tin.

    A snuffbox must be airtight, with a strong hinge.
    It must not be too big - containing too much snuff for a day's use, or, equally bad, air.
    Nor too small:  nothing could be more frustrating than to find yourself running out of snuff in the middle of your planned one-hour speech in the House of Lords.
    It should have a flat lid: if the lid bulges it contains unwanted air.

    So a snuffbox is not any old box.  Snuffboxes are ingenious artefacts: the most important ingenuity that
of the Scottish cripple James Sandy - the Laurencekirk airtight hinge,  invented at the end of the C18th.

    Serviceable and cheap snuffboxes are therefore difficult to come by and easy to lose.

Snuff boxes: Illustration from McGaheyTheTobacconist's website
McGahey TheTobacconist  ( see illustration from his web site left),
Wilsons (Sharrow) , Smiths London,
 and others, market a range of snuffboxes 

-- but they are not very cheap if you are going to lose them.

    There are good wooden boxes (papier mache boxes used to be common but I think unobtainable now except as antiques).  Metal ones are better;  but pewter boxes should be avoided as the metal is too soft, resulting in vulnerable hinges which are difficult to repair.

    Boxes made for other purposes sometimes suit: I found, in San Francisco Chinatown, some very cheap Chinese pillboxes  which do the job.  But such are not easy to find: and  -you must have a good box!

   Handkerchiefs are another problem for the snuff taker.
    Large white ones are obviously out, unless you don't mind laundresses thinking you must be short of toilet paper.    (W. A. Penn wrote in 1901: Snuff-taking today is indeed a curiosity.  One reason for the decline of the habit is said to be that white handkerchiefs have completely displaced the coloured silk and bandana ones of our grandfathers)
    Paper hankies are rough on the nose.
    Wilsons market some good Paisley pattern snuff hankies.
    I, however,  solve the problem by buying ladies' silky patterned scarves, 32"X32", at £3 each

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