The death of the White Goddess

Or: The Meerschaum Pipe.

Admittedly pipe smoking has long since passed its peak of popularity. The days of gentlemen sitting in their book-lined studies puffing at a fine pipe whilst sipping at a tumbler of brandy are long gone, thrown out with the servants, the wife-ruling, the mistresses, and the dishwater. With them so too has passed the glory days of the pipe carver. Sure there are stragglers, both smokers and carvers, but I’d wager that today most pipe smoking is done sans tobacco and I think anyone who has ducked into a head shop, out of need or curiosity, can attest to the fact that pipe craft now strives to fulfill a different set of demands, and adheres to a very different “aesthetic.” So, digging now into the “dying arts” file, I bring you some images and some history of the once great meerschaum pipe.

10.01. filed under: art. !. design. history.

I’d love to walk down the street and smoke out of a carved City of Atlantis, or perhaps the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Though I do like the bull’s head and tiger pipes quite a bit, too.

posted on 10.02 at 11:37 AM.

This is great. They look ridiculously delicate. I can’t see them lasting long in my inside pocket.

posted on 10.02 at 02:03 PMPierce

Oh, great.  Now I’m going to think of Leda and the Swan every time I smoke my old briar pipe:

“A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.”

posted on 10.02 at 02:25 PMjackrusher

Mr. Morisson,

Cool pictures. Reminds me of the old “Tinder Box” stores in malls in the late 70s through the 80s. Don’t know what happened to them.

FYI, the dudes over at Social Fiction are talking about Robert Graves’ “The White Goddess” in a much different fashion than here. I think. Unless they saw this. Or something. ???

Up in smoke!


posted on 10.02 at 11:12 PM.

A few more things, if I may…:

Most of the meerschaum pipes of today come from the same place where the best quality meerschaum is found —Turkey. This is because Turkey imposed an export ban on raw meerschaum blocks in the early 1960s. Some carvers (Gülel, Baki, H.Yanik..probably left out many..)  make quite asthonishing ornamental and figural pipes, in traditional style, but more simple (trad. briar pipe) shapes, are also popular among pipesters. Anders Bauer (trademark is now owned by a Turkish manufacturer) is an example of the latter style.

A French artisan Philippe Bargiel still makes meerschaum pipes in old traditional way, finally dipping the pipe in spermaceti (Turkish carvers use beeswax), an oil that comes from the frontal sinus cavity of the sperm whale. This gives the pipe a “self-cleaning” properties. And no - no more whales are killed anymore to obtain this oil!

Best regards & Mellow smokes!

posted on 10.03 at 08:50 AM.

If the folks who read and commented on your piece want to see more such meerschaum wonders, they should purchase my fifth book, “Collecting Antique Meerschaums: Miniature to Majestic Sculpture, 1850-1925” (Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1999). I can provide autographed copies at discount. You quoted from my second book, written 20 years, earlier that contained only one chapter on the history of meerschaums. This relatively new book is all about antique meerschaums.

posted on 10.03 at 09:59 AM.

Thanks for the info Jari.

Incidentally here is the link to Ben’s 1999 book mentioned above.

And here is the link to Social Fiction mentioned by Joe. (No joe, defintely not the same “White Goddess.”)

posted on 10.03 at 12:10 PMjmorrison

“The days of gentlemen sitting in their book-lined studies puffing at a fine pipe whilst sipping at a tumbler of brandy are long gone, thrown out with the servants, the wife-ruling, the mistresses, and the dishwater”

Speak for yourself, Morrison!

posted on 10.03 at 01:51 PM.

Some of the comments I have read are just flat wrong, The great carvings in the 1800’s came out of Vienna and when the turks stopped exporting block meerschaum some of the carving did suffer but today I would say the Turkish carvers are starting to turn out the finest carvings ever. I have collected for over 40 years and started in the original Tinder Box. The carvers today are experimenting with waxes and additives that are turning out some incredible work and colorings. Carvers like Karahan (he is really starting to turn out great work), Sadik Yanik and a number of others are getting as good as they get! Although Yanik needs to have someone else drill his work so they draw better! People like Baki do beautiful precision work and there is always Beckler.The fine carved meerschaum is alive and well!

posted on 12.17 at 08:09 PM.

I remember my grandfather smoking from his pipe when I was a child, sitting on his old crappy chair while fishing. He had a funny pipe too: it was looking like a cup of tea, and when he was smoking from his pipe, the smoke was like the steam of the tea. :D

posted on 02.29 at 06:49 AMDrug rehabilitation

My grandpa loves to smoke on his pipe too, and frankly I couldn’t imagine him otherwise, there’s something very lyrical about pipe smoking, it’s old-school and sweet at the same time, I think I’ll turn to smoking a pipe when I’ll be a granpa.

posted on 05.20 at 03:21 PMdrug addiction treatment center

return to the front page