Merchant's Marks


Cat No.:   GB8094:

Merchants used 'marks' from at least as early as the thirteenth century and continued to use them for the next four or five hundred years.

In medieval times the risk of piracy or shipwreck was ever-present and it became customary for merchants to to divide consignments of goods between several vessels, rather than risk a full cargo in one ship. For this reason adequate marking of goods was essential to avoid confusion and a mark on a bale established legal evidence as to ownership.

Marks were also used by craftsmen such as masons, armourers and goldsmiths. Ownership marks can be found on items such as furniture and there are even 'Swan' marks indicating ownership of swans!

This book details the collection of Toby Elmhirst who owned possibly the largest private collection of marks ever known.

Kindly loaned to the Project by The Harleian Society.

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