The Hinson shoehorn is for sale

I’ve recently had contact with Richard Gardner, of Richard Gardner Antiques about the sale of Mindum’s Hinson shoehorn from 1600. Permission has been given to Richard for the catalogue to quote me extensively,  and the website provides links to the catalogue and the relevant pages of this blog.

The sale page is here. The Featured Image is Richard’s copyright.

The usual disclaimer applies, I have no financial interest in the sale but in this case there is a debt of gratitude owed to the current vendor for trusting me alone with the horn and a camera for four hours one day.





Two more shoe horns by Robert Mindum

I’ll do the disclosure part first. The 1596 horn is to be auctioned on 24 November as lot 134 by Matthew Barton Ltd. I’ve been in contact with Matthew to discuss the content of the catalogue listing for this lot (go to p39), and have been given permission to use his photograph. He also provided the information on the 1599 Violet shoehorn below that was also missing from my catalogue. At no time was promotion or advertising requested and this post should not be construed as such. When I become aware of other Mindum horn sales, I’ll also mention them.

Mindum's own shoehorn? 1596

Photograph copyright Matthew Barton Ltd 2015

I think this is a particularly significant horn for a couple of reasons that I’ll outline below.

The finish of the horn isn’t as fine as his usual work. There’s a number of inked-in scratches meaning that either he didn’t polish the horn before starting, or it’s been reinked since. I think it’s the former due to the way the triangles along the top edge are worn and uncoloured.

The location of the date isn’t quite right, it looks like he had planned to put it at the end of the inscription but then changed his mind after doing the text and put it in a more prominent location instead. He usually fills those sort of spaces with scrollwork. He’s also tried a different technique that I haven’t seen on any of the earlier horns. There’s a row of opposing triangles between the arches at the base and the lady. Rather than opposing point to point, these are wider spaced and the points of one row face towards the spaces between the triangles in the opposite row. He’s done a knife cut either side from the apex to the base, then a third across the base, slid the point in and lifted the piece. Slow, fiddly and not a particularly good finish. I can’t see it used on any of the later horns, but he does use the opposing facing triangles from 1597 on as far as I can see, every horn after that date. I’ve discussed the purpose-built tools I think he had made in a previous post.

This horn appears to be missing at least a third, possibly more of its original length. This is normal for the horns that have been heavily used, due to wear from the coarse woollen stocks in use at the time – several others show similar amounts of loss. Looking at the decoration, there’s a row of opposing triangles across the top, that would normally separate another design area from what we currently have. For 1596, I’d expect at least an encrowned rose or fleur-di-lis at the end, and possibly a band of knotwork. This then gives us significantly more room for the inscription around the outside edge.

This example is only the second known to display Mindum’s middle name, the other being the 1595 “Robart Go To Bed” horn. I’m not certain of the significance of this and why it only appears to have happened during this two year period. Have a look at where he has put his name. The extant inscription is THIS IS ROBART HEND / RT MINDVM. Could this be Mindum’s own shoehorn? Given the extra space we’ve identified and following his usual formula, the inscription may have read:


The lady on his shoe horn looks very similar to the lady on the 1593 Jane Ayres shoe horn in the Salisbury Museum and appears to be wearing the same hat, not a particularly fashionable one for the period. I’ve haven’t seen the 1595 Jane Ayres shoehorn, it hasn’t been noted since 1921 but may feature another picture of Jane. I’ll owe an ale to anyone who can produce a picture of the later one.

Crackpot theory time: let’s assume for the moment that this is Mindum’s own shoe horn. He’s done a picture of his sweetheart on it, arguably Jane Ayres. We know he married a woman called Jane some time prior to 1613 as he made (another?) shoe horn for her then. This is pure supposition drawn from idle speculation, but I would like it to have been true.

The second horn escaped my attention mainly because the sale predated on-line catalogue distribution. It last sold in 1986 at Christie’s Important European Sculpture and Works of Art sale NINI-3357.

Mindum shoehorn Violet 1599

This has all the features you’d expect to see on a later Mindum shoe horn. The design is the same as Iohn Gybson’s 1597 with the addition of a small tree at the base near the arches. The catalogue notes that it is “A late 16th century English white oxhorn shoe-horn by Robart Mindum.” The inscription is:


I’ve attempted to contact Christies for more details or a better image but am yet to get a response.

Thanks to Matthew Barton for bringing both these to my attention.

Another Mindum Catalogue update

It’s been 11 months since my last update, I’ve found a bit of new information since then.

  • Added previously unpublished 1600 Hinson Shoehorn, linked to my blog post describing the horn and Flikr account with the images.

This shouldn’t be news to anybody who’s read any of the posts here.

  • Additional 1912 reference to Bridget Dearsley’s shoe horn of 1605 in the Saffron Waldon Museum.

A note from Guy Williams asking if there has been any new information found about Mindum since Sir John Evans first posed the question in 1877. I think he’d be happy with my catalogue.  Notes and Queries 11th Series. Volume V. January-June 1912. No 6, January 6, 1912, p8.

  • Added the extant inscription from the 1612 …umer shoe horn.

Not sure how I missed this one, a gorilla must have hit me on the head while I was drunk.

  • Added link to Sophie Cope’s Marking Design Part 2: Objects in the Sea of Time which mentions the 1597 Will’yam horn and discusses the how the inscription on the 1600 Hinson horn contributes to both context and significance. The thumbnail link on 1597 Will’yam horn now goes to Sophie’s photograph, the previous Christie’s Lot Finder link is still in the text.

I’ve written to Sophie asking for permission to use her photo as the thumbnail for this horn. There hasn’t been a response to date.

  • Added descriptive portions of the text of the Agecroft Hall blog post to the 1613 Jane Mindum shoehorn.

The Agecroft Hall blog has been taken down, so I’ve reproduced the relevant text.

  • Added CC license link below and the header and footer detail.  Where an entry spans a page break, added an indication at the top of the next page showing which horn is being discussed.
  • Added bibliography and reading list.

Just housekeeping and usability improvements, the pagination has also been adjusted to try to keep the information on each horn together. There have been a few places where people have reused the information but had trouble attributing it.

The catalogue is at

I’m chasing a possible Mindum shoehorn that was last reported as being in the York Castle Museum in 1981. I’ll let you know how it works out.

Mindum catalogue update

I’ve just done an update of my catalogue of Robert Mindum’s opus. I’ve been able to identify all three of the shoehorns that I was uncertain if the were doubles of ones I had identified or not.  There weren’t any hidden gems lurking there, all three were duplicates and all were in John Evan’s collection. John’s collection passed down to Joan, who in turn donated them to the Museum of London. One of these remains in the MoL, another is on loan to the VAM, but I haven’t been able to find where the third one has gone.

There’s two new horns, one from 1604 which has been in the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum since 2011, and a previously unpublished one from 1600 that surfaced in a private collection in Australia. This brings the total to 20 known shoehorns and one powder horn.

I’ve added thumbnails following some criticism on the Wikipedia Shoehorn entry and done a general tidy up.

Shoe Horns – a repost

This post is from the blog, published on September 10,2010.

In some way, Helmut is the genesis of this post. I’d done a post on the ceramic Salisbury Leather Jug and within a few days Helmut had posted some photos of the original the pottery one was copied from. I located the museum website, had a look around at the rest of the site and found this shoehorn.

The museum placard reads “Shoehorn 1593 – Shoehorn engraved and inscribed by Robert Mindun in 1593 depicting a figure in Elizabethan costume, perhaps Jane Ayers the lady named in the inscription. Mindun is the earliest recorded English engraver of horn.”

The extant inscription is: THIS IS IANE AYRES SHOEING … ROBART MINDVM 1593. The top of the horn is missing, I imagine it was originally similar to the complete one in the photo below below. It was made by Mindum in 1612 and recently sold for £8,800.


Shoehorns go back a long way. They hold the shoe open and allow enable the foot to slide in without crushing the shoe’s counter or splitting the back seam of the shoe. While they were made from a variety of materials, cow horn is an ideal medium as the desired complex curves, smooth surface and size occur naturally in the material.

Secrets from the Curator’s Closet has an article about one in their collection, with some information on how the horn was prepared, and some background on Mindum’s work methods. I’ve written to the author and asked for clarification on a couple of points, as the preparation information seems to be for making lanthorn panes and spoons rather that shoehorns, the production times appear to be excessive, and the assertion that Mindum only produced one per year is contradicted by two shoehorns made by Mindum both dated 1593.


(Photograph from Secrets from the Curator’s Closet copyright © Bruce Parker, 2010)

The Salisbury and South Wiltshire Musuem claims Mindum is the earliest recorded English engraver of horn. Mindum has left more than his fair share of items for us, indicating that he was either particularly prolific or his work was particularly well regarded and preserved. We really don’t have many plain ones so we can’t even get an idea of the proportion of plain to decorated ones. The proceedings for the Society of Antiquaries on November 24, (The Antiquary, Volume 27, 1893, p41) record that “Mr. Hartshorne exhibited a shoe-horn carved by Robert Mindum, dated 1598, … ; Sir J. Evans exhibited a powder horn and two shoe-horns, also carved by Robert Mindum”. I can’t say that I’ve found any earlier by anyone else but I also can’t say I’ve looked particularly hard.

The Exhibition of the Royal House of Tudor in Repent Street, London(?) in 1890 featured items: 981i ENGRAVED SHOE HORN, 1600 and ENGRAVED POWDER HORN, 1601 by Robert Mindum. Both items were lent by JOHN EVANS, ESQ., P.S.A. I would presume that these are the same J Evans and the same items, giving a date of 1600 for the one displayed to the Society of Antiquaries.

This last one creates a number of problems for those other authorities – made in 1593, it means that he made two that year. The name on it is Hamlet Radesdale Settson, male when all the others are made for women and some sites claim that they were only made for Mindum’s favourites, and Settson’s profession and location are mentioned, to me making it look for all the world like a seventeenth century version of those etched glass or embossed leather coasters or flash pens handed out by software companies that are of not insignificant value but are meant to get their name in front of you every day. This image is from London – A Concise History by Geoffrey Trease, Thames & Hudson 1975.