This blog has been set up to help understand the visual and material culture of drinking in Early Modern England. I can only apologise for the poor quality of some of the photos; I am no photographer. Please click on the various posts to find out more information.
Place of origin:
England, Great Britain (made)
Materials and Techniques:
Lignum vitae, with ivory decoration
Museum number (V&A):
W.8A to C-1976
British Galleries, room 56d, case 12
Object history note
This unique ceremonial drinking ensemble is said to have been presented to Sir Charles Cokayne, first Viscount Cullen, by Charles I after the battle of Naseby in 1645. (Dating casts doubt on this tradition). Close inspection of the engine-turned rose ornament shows that two separate craftsmen were involved. The candlestands and table were probably added to make up a set with the wassail bowl and candlesticks in about 1670-80
A large number of fuddling cups were decorated fairly plainly or with no decoration at all. They also seem to have been produced in large numbers with fragments being found regularly across England.
These two details suggest that they were not necessarily designed just to be looked at but to be actually used. The large number also suggests that the practice of playing drinking games with them was quite widespread
It is not known when they were first called “fuddling cups” but the term was in use by 1791. The Reverend J. Collinson wrote of earthenware made at Donyatt in Somerset, “the chief productions of the Crock Street potteries would appear to have been Jolly Boys or Fuddling Cups.”
The ‘Oxford English Dictionary’ defines “fuddle”, a word in use by the late 16th century, as “to confuse with, or as with, drink”.
A three-part cup in the Taunton Museum, dated 1697, with the inscription “THREE MERY BOYS,” has led scholars to suggest that the individual cups were called boys; similarly, a fuddling cup formerly in the Louis Lipski collection is labeled “DRYNCK ALL BOYSE”, with a word on each container so that the words can be read in three ways. ‘Boy’ may be a corruption of the French conjugated verb ‘bois’, to drink, or may derive from earlier drinking cups decorated with faces on each of the cups.
Fragments of fuddling cups found in Southwark and Rotherhithe potting sites confirm their manufacture in the London area. Undecorated versions of these cups were the least costly and were produced in the greatest numbers. All dated fuddling cups (1633-1649) have a cordon at the junction of the neck and the body suggesting that others with this feature can be dated to the same approximate time period.
"The tyg was, before the introduction first of separate mugs, and subsequently of glasses, the cup common to all the guests at convivial gatherings, and was furnished on all sides with suitable handles (very odd-looking to the modern eye), which probably indicated the portion of the cup from which each convive was to drink. These vessels, and others of the same body and glaze, must, from the conditions of their employment, have been made in countless thousands, and a certain not inconsiderable proportion doubtless bore dates and inscriptions; yet it will be observed that only a very small number of such have come under our notice."
1993 H. PetroskiEvol. Useful Things 171 A curious category of earthenware known as ‘puzzle jug’. These devices had odd projecting tubes, hollow handles, and hidden conduits that carried the liquid in deceptive and unexpected ways.
The figures on this decorated jug are thought to represent naked bishops, dancing girls and musicians. It was made around AD 1300 in Saintonge in medieval France, but was found in pieces on an Exeter building site in 1899. This kind of humour would hardly have been acceptable to everyone at the time. It shows that medieval Exeter was a city with European tastes and trading links and a sophisticated outlook.
The jug was donated to RAMM by a man who found the pieces in his drain when it was being repaired. The fragments were gathered up by a museum curator and sent to the British Museum to be restored to what we see now. This jug’s puzzle lies in working out how to fill it up and how the liquid then gets to the spout despite its hollow centre. In other puzzle jugs the liquid spills out unexpectedly through hidden holes or spouts, to trick the unwary.
In medieval Europe the church was at the centre of life - even if it was the butt of a joke. A wealthy, cultured elite across Europe shared the same taste in entertaining, tableware and possibly even humour.