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20th century spice rack couples function with style

Dr. G. Marchelos fields two intriguing inquiries in the latest Ask the Experts column, including one reader's fascination with the initial use for a wooden rack.

Q I would like information on an item I have that I call “A View Of Toledo.”
One question I have is, which category would it belong? It is approximately 10 inches by 20 inches and encased between two panes of glass, which I haven’t separated for fear of causing damage.


There is Latin text along the bottom which includes dates from the 1700s, but the clothing in the vignette indicates an origin of maybe 1400-1600. It is not printed on paper, but I have included a photo that shows the grain of the material.
Can you identify it? Of course, I would appreciate an estimate of value. Thank you.
— D.R.
via email

A This appears to be a wood block print from the 1600s on vellum or parchment.
Whether this is the case, however, can only be determined by close inspection of the item itself. The reason for the caution is that in the photo showing the texture of the material of the print, the texture doesn’t seem to have the right characteristics to be vellum or parchment. If the print is real, unframed it should sell for $300 in a print shop.
Although old, these prints are still easily obtainable. Many such items were printed alone or in books during this period, especially in Venice, Amsterdam and Paris.


Q I hope you can help. I have an old wooden rack that my mom picked up at a yard sale in Philadelphia. She told me that it was used as a tobacco leaf sorting/measuring device. I find it beautiful and put it up for display in my kitchen. However, I have wondered how it was used and how old it might be.

I started researching online and have found all kinds of drying/sorting/fermenting racks for tobacco leaves but nothing that looks like mine. Until, I noticed a thread about the spice rack that Martha Stuart used in her studio kitchen. Apparently, she picked it up at an antique store and used it as her spice rack. She had so many inquiries about where she got it, she produced a line inspired by the design.


Other than the brief line that this rack was used for tobacco sorting, I can find no other information on the history of such racks. How was this device used? Why is it shaped in this unique way? When would it have been used? Thank you in advance for any information you can provide!
— H.M.K.
via email

A It is used for storing spices and condiments in the kitchen, around the early 20th century, at a time when homes did not have the luxury of space found today. Items could be set in the frame, which was propped against a wall in the kitchen, and used as needed. The rack is handmade, which adds to its appeal as a collectible or for actual use. Its value is about $95.20th century spice rack couples function with style

About our columnist:
Dr. G. Marchelos is an honors graduate and certified appraiser of the Asheford Institute of Antiques. Additionally, Dr. Marchelos has a PhD in history, is a professor of antiquities at the University of Alabama, and is a nationally recognized appraiser working for both private and public institutions across North America. Dr. Marchelos is also a well established antiques dealer, operating both in the U.S. and Europe.

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