…By Jack Sylva for TDPel Media.
An auction house in Edinburgh, Lyon & Turnbull, is set to auction off a collection of 100 seals with Scottish connections.
Among the items is Sir Walter Scott’s personal desk seal from Abbotsford House, valued at £12,000 to £18,000.
This finely carved hand seal, believed to date back to Sir Walter’s knighthood in 1820, features lapis lazuli, gold, and amethyst stones, and bears the Scott family armorial.
It is likely that this seal was used for correspondence, including letters to King George IV that played a role in his historic visit to Scotland.
Sir Walter Scott’s Role in the Royal Visit:
Sir Walter Scott played a significant role in organizing King George IV’s visit to Scotland in 1822, just two years after the Scottish insurrection of 1820.
The visit marked the monarch’s return to Scotland, the first since Charles II’s stay in Holyroodhouse in 1650.
Scott’s letters, possibly sealed with the desk seal, may have helped pave the way for the visit, which showcased tartan pageantry and contributed to the kilt’s establishment as Scotland’s national dress.
The Matrix Collection and Notable Items:
The seals up for auction are part of the Matrix Collection, carefully amassed over several decades by the late David Morris.
In addition to Sir Walter Scott’s desk seal, other notable items in the collection include an unusual desk seal shaped like an armoured arm wielding a dagger, associated with the Wallace family, the seal of Archbishop John Spottiswoode, and Lady Mary Douglas Hamilton’s desk seal.
The collection is described as a remarkable assembly of historic and elegant objects that provide insights into a time when family crests and armorials held great significance.
Importance and Function of Wax Seals:
Wax seals were widely used from the Middle Ages until the 19th century, serving both practical and decorative purposes.
They provided a unique impression when dipped in hot wax, ensuring authenticity and safeguarding letters from unauthorized opening.
Over time, wax seals became esteemed objects and status symbols.
The auction of Sir Walter Scott’s desk seal and the Matrix Collection offers a fascinating glimpse into Scotland’s historical connections and traditions.
Sir Walter Scott’s role in organizing King George IV’s visit underscores his influence on Scottish culture, particularly in popularizing tartan and contributing to the nation’s identity.
The seals themselves carry a sense of heritage and authenticity, reflecting the importance placed on family crests and armorials during that era.
The auction represents an opportunity for collectors and history enthusiasts to acquire unique pieces that tell stories from Scotland’s past.
The significance of the items and the effort made by David Morris to gather this collection highlight the enduring appeal of historical artifacts and their ability to provide valuable insights into bygone eras.