A font too small to read?

A font too small to read?

One of the really fun things about buying and selling vintage is the thrill of picking up a rarity in amongst the bric-a-brac.  I came across this little marble curio one day last summer and nearly left it on the shelf because of the extensive damage where it appears to have been dropped from a great height, but something about it spoke to me and I was excited to discover that it is a mini church font and that they are very collectable, with a long history, which was the subject of Julian Wheeler’s recent book Miniature Baptismal Fonts (Fircone Books 2016 ISBN 978 1 907700 08 8).

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Miniature Baptismal Fonts by Julian Wheeler

This slim but fact-packed book outlines evidence of scaled down portable fonts coming into use as early as the 16th century to enable baptism to be carried out wherever and whenever required, with their popularity reaching a peak in the 19th century among the wealthy, who started a trend for private ceremonies.

Made in a variety of materials from precious metals to wood, a number of fine examples of porcelain and parian ware portable fonts made by Spode Copeland, Wedgwood, Minton and Worcester are described by Wheeler. Scholars of architecture and design in the day also collected replica and souvenir fonts in stone and marble as examples of Gothic Art, and my four column, marble model may fall into this category, although there is also a chance it may be a ‘Pocket Font’. This type, often with an accompanying leather case, came into use during the flu, cholera and typhoid outbreaks of the mid-1800s, when the disease ravaged communities across the country and the clergy often had to carry out emergency baptisms. 

My quest to find out more about my marble font continues and I was intrigued to find, when looking at the websites of churches near to where I bought it, that one of them has an octagonal font with four pillars supporting the bowl, however, this one also has a thicker, central pillar and a hexagonal base which differs from mine. So the next step on my search is to pay a visit to this church to ask the vicar if he recognises it from another church in his district, and if you recognise it as being local to you, or as a replica of a famous font, then I’d love to hear from you, so please get in touch via the Contacts page if you have any further information about this Pocket Font or similar examples.