The Anglo-Ethiopian Society

James Bruce’s Cup

Author - Christopher Clapham

As devotees of James Bruce’s Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile will remember, when Bruce reached what he described as ‘the Fountains of the Nile’ in November 1770, he drank the health of King George III out of a coconut shell which he had brought with him from Arabia, and which, it is stated in a footnote to the Second Edition, has been preserved.

It is still preserved. Members may be interested to learn that the original coconut shell, set into an unhallmarked but apparently contemporary silver cup with a knop and reeded foot, came up for auction at Messrs. Rowley’s fine art sale in Newmarket on 27 June 2006, where it sold for £4,600 (£5,410, including buyer’s premium).

The inscription around the rim reads:

On the 4th of Novr 1770 MR BRUCE drank out of this Cup the health of HIS MAJESTY George III at the fountains of the NILE

Given the anonymity of the auction rooms, I do not know either who sent the cup for sale, or who bought it, but I hope that members will be pleased to know that it still exists.





Photo - © Rowley's Fine Art Auctioneers and Valuers - 2006

First Published in News File Winter 2006

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