Bonhams to sell 252 year old wine glass that recalls bloody business of legal piracy on the high seas

Fine British and European Glass and Paperweights
30 May 2012
London, New Bond Street

A magnificent engraved glass bearing the image of a privateer launched in 1756 is one of the top items in Bonhams sale of Fine British and European Glass & Paperweights on May 30 in London.
This sale features a stunning array of glass survivals from the 17th to the 21st centuries.

Lot 69 is a rare example of a wine glass engraved with a portrait of The Eagle, a privateer, circa 1760. The flared bowl of the glass is decorated with a three-masted ship, inscribed 'Succefs to the EAGLE FRIGATE'. It is estimated to sell for £8,000-12,000.

This spectacular glass recalls a time when piracy was legal on the understanding that attacks would be limited to the shipping of England's enemies.

The Eagle, a 250-ton frigate armed with 24 guns, was owned by Messrs. Camplin and Smith of Bristol and Manslip and Wilkinson of London. She was commanded by Captain John Knill on 13 November 1756.

Simon Cottle, Head of the Glass Department at Bonhams, comments: "This glass represents a fascinating period of British history. Drinking from it would be an act of communion with a very different world, one of desperate courage, blood, danger and big rewards or death."

The Eagle has been described as 'a fine large ship built on purpose for a privateer by a gentleman of this city...'. A full account of the history of this ship is covered in Bristol Privateers and Ships of War (1930), by Damer Powell.

A privateer was a person or a ship authorized by a government through letters of marquee to attack the ships of its enemies during wartime. It was a way of mobilizing a naval force without having to spend public money. Privateers disrupted commerce and forced an enemy to deploy warships to protect its merchant shipping. The cost was borne by investors hoping to profit from prize money earned from captured cargo and vessels. The proceeds would be distributed among the privateer's investors, officers, and crew.

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