At auction in June 2003 the Library and Museum acquired an exceptionally rare piece: a lodge meeting in a bottle that appears to date from the late eighteenth century. It shows a group of men in regimental uniform positioned around a table. The man at the head of the table appears to be standing on a box underneath an archway decorated with foliage and Masonic symbols. This is a Masonic example of a type of a model in a bottle that has a substantial tradition in folk art.
Models in bottles begin to appear in the early eighteenth century once the technology to make clear glass had been developed. One of the first groups of people to produce this sort of work were miners in central Europe who produced detailed models of their mines, often showing three of four levels of the mine in great detail, in large square bottles. The earliest known example dates from the late seventeenth century and is now in a museum near Chemnitz. The second earliest known example is actually in an English collection at Snowshill Manor, a National Trust property near Broadway, Worcestershire, which is dated 1719 and inscribed with the name of the maker.
Other scenes were produced later. Crucifixion scenes were common in Catholic Central Europe and then the most widely known type: ships in bottles, the earliest known example being 1784 in Lubeck although this subject continues to be made up to the present day.
The acquisition of the “lodge meeting in a bottle” was assisted by the Public Schools Lodges Council, Jubilee Masters Lodge No 2712 and the Friends of the Library and Museum.