At Edinburgh a castle became, in 1483, the distinctive mark of plate assayed in the town, being placed between the maker's initials on the left and the testing deacon's sign on the right; but it was not until 1681 that a date letter was introduced. This was a small "a," replaced the next year by a "b," and so on through the alphabet. The only other additions made were the same as those adopted in London, as stated in the first of these articles, the sovereign's head having been, after December 1, 1784, stamped on all assayed plate in proof of the duty on standard silver having been paid. The Canon-gate of Edinburgh, it must be added, had its own special crest, an antlered deer's head beneath a cross, that was stamped between the maker's initials on all silver assayed in it.
The names of all the deacons of the Edinburgh Goldsmiths' Guild down to 1759, when their initials were superseded as assay marks by the thistle, have fortunately been preserved, and are given in chronological order in Cripps' "Old English Plate," as well as in Percy Macquoid's edition of it, and with its aid, and that of the various tables of marks that supplement it, it will be found exceptionally easy to identify and date Edinburgh plate. Neither is there any special difficulty to contend with in connection with that of the provincial towns of Scotland, the general rule having been to adopt the arms of each place, supplemented at first only by the initials of the maker, and a date letter, but later by a lion rampant, the figure of
Britannia, and the sovereign's head, the last a token, north as well as south of the Tweed, that the duty on standard silver, enforced from 1784 to 1890, when it was remitted, had been duly paid.*
Glasgow Plate The town arms of Glasgow are a tree with a bell on one side, a letter G on the other, and the head of a fish with a ring in its mouth at the base of the tree, the mark in very early specimens being very small and difficult to make out, whilst in later ones it can easily be deciphered. Date letters were also generally used, and some eighteenth century plate bears a large S, supposed by some to stand for standard.
The Dundee city arms was a pot containing a group of three lilies that varied considerably in size and appearance. As time went on, plate bearing the initials of the maker's Christian name and surname were stamped in either side. At Aberdeen, letters, B D or A B D, standing for the name of the town, with the initials of the maker on one side and a date letter on the other, alone were used until the beginning of the eighteenth century, when a shield with three small castles was substituted for the A B D, which, in its turn, gave way, about 1770, for the written letters A B D.
Certain Montrose plate bears a full-blown rose and a crown above a hammer, with the initials W. L. beneath, a badge long claimed by Aberdeen, but now known to specify that the plate it bears was made by William Lindsay, of Montrose, who belonged to the Hammermen's Guild - hence the hammer - and flourished between 1671-1708.
At Inverness the letters I N S alone were used until about 1810, when an animal resembling a horse or dromedary, filched from the city arms, was also sometimes employed.
At Perth, on the other hand, the marks were numerous and varied, including, in the sixteenth century, a lamb and flag, and later a spread eagle, sometimes single, sometimes double-headed, that was retained until quite modern times, also a castle with a triple facade, a thistle, and a date letter.
A St. Andrew's cross, resembling a huge X, fitly marks the plate made in
Some of the town marks that are found on old silver plate the city named after the saint whose symbol it is.
That produced at Banff may be identified by a heart surmounted by a design resembling a crown; whilst that of Elgin bears, with the name of the city in full, a double-towered castle and what is supposed to be the figure of St. Giles, the patron saint of many Scottish towns, including Edinburgh and Elgin.
It is somewhat difficult to deal with Irish plate, so many are the gaps in the information that has been collected concerning it. The Goldsmiths' Company of Dublin, which is still the final authority on all matters connected with the production of gold and silver plate, received its charter, dated 1638, from Charles I. In it the rule was laid down that the standard for Ireland should be the same as that for England; that the ' King's Majesty's stamp called the Harp crowned " should be its distinctive mark, and should not be put on any metal that did not come up to it in value.
Date letters taken from the old English alphabet appear to have been used from the time of the inauguration of the Goldsmiths' Company, but they are of very irregular occurrence.