11616 A REMARKABLE WALNUT SEGMENTED VASE TO CONTAIN A NUMISMATIC COLLECTION, CLOSELY RELATED TO AN EXAMPLE IN THE FITZWILLIAM MUSEUM POSSIBLY BY C. S. BULSTRODE (1818-1894) English. First Half of The Nineteenth Century. Measurements: Height: 17″ (43 cm); Width: 9 1/2″ (24 cm); Depth: 9 1/2″ (24 cm).

Of walnut. The ovoid stepped body containing twenty three trays. 19 trays , numbered 1 – 13, and 21-24, with 25 not numbered, due to its obvious last position, contain a total of 243 cut-out locating circles for specific coins. The larger trays above the step are likely very old design amendment, presumably to expand the collection capacity The domed top replaced. The whole raised on a flared socle above a square plinth mounted with four roundels, three of which are replaced.

This highly unusual collector’s vase is comprised of twenty three circular stacked trays; nineteen of these are fitted with circular cut-outs to accommodate altogether 243 specific medals or coins, while four ‘open’ trays without circular divisions, would have freely contained coins of different sizes. When assembled together on their central threaded rod, the trays form the shape of a classical urn. Such a rare form of container would have been a personalized commission, most likely destined for a library in a grand residence of an aristocratic connoisseur-collector; both the classical form of the vase and its purpose can be seen a testament to the education and taste of its owner.

Along with increased interest in the study and acquisition of antiquarian artifacts in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, came the need for collector’s cabinets to contain, display or safeguard these treasures. Such cabinets were not infrequently designed to relate to their contents, and were decorated with, or took the form of, elements of classical architecture. Notable examples include  ‘His Majesty’s Grand Medal Case’ which adapted Corinthian columns and a triangular pediment inspired by the shape of a Roman funerary stele, made for the Prince of Wales by William Vile in 1760, and a medal cabinet in the form of a temple attributed to George Sandeman in the collection of the Duke of Atholl at Blair Castle (figure 1).

The vase-form concept of the present piece, however, is exceptionally rare. We know of only one other numismatic collector’s vase, belonging to Reverend Samuel Savage Lewis (1836–1891), a classical scholar and Fellow of Corpus Christi College with interest in archaeology and numismatics; it is today on loan to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (figure 2). Notably, Lewis owned several archaeologically-inspired cases for his collection, however, the museum highlights the coin-vase as one of two “worth particular mention”, [which] show Lewis’s elaborate taste.” and states “The ‘sliced urn’ mahogany coin cabinet is unique.”4

Like the present piece, “the individual ‘slices’ [of the Lewis cabinet] are held by a central rod and form trays with a wide variety of hole sizes for coins.”2 The top of the case screws off “and each tray has to be removed individually. If the coin needed is from the bottom of the urn, then each individual tray above it has to be removed one at a time.”3 This routine was likely to be appreciated only by a collector of Lewis’ caliber and accounts for the rarity of the design. “It is easy to imagine Lewis impressing visitors to his crypt with his cabinets as much as with the coins that they contain.”4 The Fitzwilliam ‘sliced-urn’ example was made in Cambridge circa 1880 by C. P. Bulstrode, and is signed Bulstrode, Cambridge.

Christopher Stone Bulstrode (1818-1894), was a Cambridge cabinet-maker with premises opposite Trinity College Chapel. He is recorded in directories as working between 1857 and 1892; An 187 Directory of Cambridge lists him at 38 Sidney Street as “Christopher Stone Bulstrode: upholsterer, cabinet maker, house decorator, appraiser, house agent, carpet warehouseman & furnishing undertaker.”5 Much of Bulstrode’s work was for the University of Cambridge, including the Master’s Lodge of Trinity College and furnishing the premises of the Cambridge University Pitt Club.6


  1. The Lewis Collection. The Fitzwilliam Museum. https://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/gallery/lewiscollection/ inthefitzwilliam.html
  2. Popescu, Adrian. Cabinets at the Fitzwilliam Museum. The E-Sylum: Volume 19, Number 39, September 25, 2016, Article 29. https://www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v19n39a29.html
  3. The Lewis Collection. The Fitzwilliam Museum. https://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/gallery/lewiscollection/ inthefitzwilliam.html
  4. Ibid.
  5. Post Office Directory of the Norfolk Counties: Cambridge, Norfolk, and Suffolk. London: W. Kelly and Co, 1875. 28.
  6. Fletcher, Walter M. The University Pitt Club, 1835-1935. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. 37.

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