Wolf’s Tooth Baby Rattle

After two years in Spittal Street, the internationally important Neish Collection of British Pewter will be displayed in the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum, later this year.
Shown here is a small item from it, a baby rattle dating to the 1540s. The rattle opens into a ball shape with 4 copper alloy bells attached. Under this there is a long stem which ends in a whistle. At the whistle end are the pewterer’s initials cast as part of the design – A.B. or A.I.B. The whole object is covered in cross hatching except the ball which has an Elizabethan-style design around it.

Neish Pewter Collection, Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum

Neish Pewter Collection, Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum

This type of rattle was common, until the end of the 18th century, but with one difference: the hard ‘teething’ piece, on which the baby could cut its first teeth was usually a piece of coral, imported from Africa or the southern Mediterranean. The ‘teething’ piece here is the canine tooth of a wolf, which the baby could press to its gums, to relieve the pain. The rattle will feature in the book The Tudor Child: Clothing and Culture 1485 to 1625, by Jane Huggett, Jane Malcolm-Davies, Ninya Mikhaila, and Perry Michael, published this month.

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