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A concave vessel with three curling features coming from the top rim.

A silver vessel which has been polished to a high reflective shine. It is concave and round in shape, with a wide rim which features three shapes which rise up and curl away from the center of the vessel. The middle of the vessel between the curls has a circular opening. On the underside of the rim has etched words, which are difficult to read due to the elaborate font. These words are also reflected in the bottom edge of the vessel due to the concave shape.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Unidentified Artist
"The Great Salt"
Work Type
c. 1629-1638(?)
Creation Place: Europe, United Kingdom, England, London
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2340, European and American Art, 17th–19th century, The Silver Cabinet: Art and Ritual, 1600–1850
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Physical Descriptions

11.8 x 16.8 cm (4 5/8 x 6 5/8 in.)
594 g
Inscriptions and Marks
  • hallmark: in bowl, the foot and each scroll, struck: Traces of four marks found in bowl (one recognizable as leopard's head crowned); the foot and each scroll struck with lion passant
  • inscription: on bottom, engraved: "I G E" (added in 1847)


Recorded Ownership History
Jose Glover, ?, passed to his wife, Elizabeth, upon his death, 1639. Rector of Sutten, in Surrey, England. Planned to introduce printing to New Eng.
Mrs. Elizabeth (Harris) Glover, from her husband, Rev. Jose Glover, at his death, 1639, transferred to her brother, Richard Harris. Transferred to brother in part payment of debt. Richard Harris, Bequest to Harvard College, 1644. The Great Salt was brought to America in 1638 by Jose Glover, who hoped to establish the first printing press in America but who died during the trans-Atlantic voyage. In 1641, Glover's widow Elizabeth married Henry Dunster (1609-58/9), Harvard's first President. Upon her death in 1643 the salt was bequeathed to her brother Richard Harris, probably a tutor at the College, who left it to Harvard upon his death in 1644.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Loan from Harvard University, Gift to Harvard College from Richard Harris, 1644
Object Number
European and American Art

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Plain spool form, applied with reeded borders, the flat top with central well flanked by three cast free-standing outwardly curving scrolls with flared bases, the base engraved G over IE, the side under the rim later engraved (upside down): The Gift of Mr. Richard Harris of Cambridge. 1644

Publication History

  • F.D. Bosworth Jr., "The Statue of John Harvard", The Harvard Illustrated Magazine (November 1899), vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 28-31, p. 29
  • Francis Hill Bigelow, Historic Silver of the Colonies and its Makers, The Macmillan Company (New York, NY, 1917), p. 253, ill.p. 156.
  • E. Alfred Jones, Old Silver of Europe and America from Early Times to the Nineteenth Century, J. B. Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA, 1928), p. 100, repr. as pl. XXX, #12, opp. p. 115
  • Frederick Bruce Robinson, "Harvard's 'Great Salt'", Bulletin of the Fogg Art Museum, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, November 1935), vol. V, no. 1, p. 6-9
  • Furniture and Decorative Arts of the Period 1636-1836, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, 1936), cat. 74, pl. 14
  • Samuel Eliot Morison, Harvard College in the Seventeenth Century, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1936), pp. 94-95, ill. opp. p. 94
  • Harvard Tercentenary Exhibition: Catalogue of Furniture, Silver, Pewter, Glass, Ceramics, Paintings, Prints, together with Allied Arts and Crafts of the Period 1636-1836, exh. cat., Harvard University (Cambridge, Ma., 1936), p. 20, no. 74, pl. 14
  • E. B. Tustin, Jr., [Unidentified article], The Christian Science Monitor (June 23, 1945)
  • Norman M. Penzer, "Scroll Salts", Apollo Annual (1949)
  • Jonathan L. Fairbanks and Robert F. Trent, New England Begins: The Seventeenth Century, exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, MA, 1982), pp. 480-481, 489-490, no. 453
  • Kristin A. Mortimer and William G. Klingelhofer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press (Cambridge and New York, 1986), p. 210, cat. 241, ill.
  • David B. Warren and Katherine S. Howe, Marks of Achievement: Four Centuries of American Presentation Silver, exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston/Harry N. Abrams Inc. (Houston TX/New York NY, 1987), p. 27, fig. 11.
  • Sandra Grindlay, "Harvard's Portraits: An American Treasure", Harvard University Art Museums Review (Fall 1992), vol. II, no. 1, pp. 6-7, p. 6
  • Timothy Anglin Burgard, American Art at Harvard: Cultures and Contexts, brochure, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1994), p. 10, cat. 18
  • Jeannine Skerry, "'Ancient and Valuable Gifts': Silver at Colonial Harvard", New England Silver and Silversmithing, 1620-1815, The Colonial Society of Massachusetts (Boston, MA, 2001), pp. 183-209, p. 185, figs. 1 and 13
  • "The Table is Set: Out Comes the Ceremonial Silver to Celebrate a President", Harvard Magazine (November 2001), p. 112, repr.
  • Jeannine Falino, ed., New England Silver & Silversmithing 1620-1815, The Colonial Society of Massachusetts (Boston, MA, 2001), P. 185, fig. 1; P. 204, fig. 13; Pp. 183-209
  • John T. Bethell, Richard M. Hunt, and Robert Shenton, Harvard A to Z, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 2004), pp. 176-177
  • Christopher Hartop, British and Irish Silver in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums/Yale University Press (Cambridge, Mass. and New Haven, 2007), pp. 30-36, cat. no. 6, repr. pp. 31, 32
  • Timothy Schroder, British and Continental Gold and Silver in the Ashmolean Museum, exh. cat., Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology (Oxford, UK, 2009), p. 310, note 2
  • Joyce Chaplin, "Serving Up a New Social Order", Harvard Gazette (June 29, 2020), repr.

Exhibition History

  • New England Begins: The Seventeenth Century, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 05/05/1982 - 08/22/1982
  • American Art at Harvard: Cultures and Contexts, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/01/1994 - 12/30/1994
  • The Persistence of Memory: Continuity and Change in American Cultures, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 07/29/1995 - 05/13/2001
  • Re-View: S424-426 Western Art from 1560 to 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011
  • 32Q: 2340 Cabinet Gallery, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 09/24/2019; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/25/2019 - 12/31/2024

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Verification Level

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