The Pipe: Musings from a Bygone Era…

As many of you who read these articles will know by now we here at Carey’s Pipe & Tobacco Shop have a great interest in the history of pipes and pipe smoking, and as a result search high and low for any and all information we can find from a bygone era. We are very lucky to have collected a number of historical pieces over the nearly 35 years of our presence in the pipes and tobacco industry, and every now and then when we have a minute a quick rummage through a dusty packing case will throw up a gem. The latest I wish to share with you is a wonderful paperback book entitled ‘Weber’s Guide to Pipes and Pipe Smoking’. Some of you may in fact have a copy – I think it was popular at the time – but for those who don’t here’s a little backgorund. Published in 1965 by Bantam Books this little book is crammed full of useful information, all written in that wonderful 60s style – elegant, slightly pompous and with a whiff of chauvanism!

So here follows the all too brief Foreword – a beautifully put statement summarising the joys of pipe smoking for many…

“So profound are the pleasures of smoking that one must both regret and resent the dictionary definition of the pipe that is content to describe it merely as ‘a tube of clay, wood, hard rubber or other material, with a small bowl at one end, used for smoking tobacco.’ Such a definition is as frustratingly incomplete as calling a sea ‘a large body of water’, or a nightingale ‘ a small old-world migratory bird’. If the pipe, which has been man’s boon companion for a goodly thousand years or more, deserves a better definition, what is it to be? I leave the decision to phrase-makers , being content to remain a pipemaker, an activity that has happily occupied me for over fifty years. I would, however, subscribe cheerfully to any definition that includes the word ‘pleasure’, for the pipe and the smoking of a pipe, in every aspect, afford pleasure.

The appearance of a pipe – and especially a briar pipe – appeals; grain, bowl, shank and stem have been selected and crafted to seduce the eye. As for the rich taste and full flavour of a finely blended tobacco, and the blossoming bouquet of smoke curling quietly from the bowl, one can only say voila! Contentment is at hand.

In short, pipe smoking is pure pleasure; just ask the man who smokes one. It is to those who would learn or further extend their knowledge of the pleasures of pipe smoking that this book is dedicated – with the caution that no single book can of iteself completely define the pleasures of pipe smoking. As a sea must be voyaged if it is to be fathomed, or a nightingale happened upon if it is to delight, so must a pipe be smoked in order to be fully appreciated.

A word of advice, then: as you read this book, smoke a pipe and savor the pleasure both will provide, for books and pipes are the most suitable of companions, a friendship acknowledged long ago by poet James Thomson. He wrote:

Give a man a pipe he can smoke,

Give a man a book he can read:

And his home is bright with a calm delight,

Though the room be poor indeed.

Well I’m not sure it can be put much better than that and clearly from the pen of a pipe afficionado, so I shall regularly be dipping into this wonderful book for little nuggets and sweeping rhetoric on all things pipe based.

But to conclude this piece I thought I’d mention a couple of parts of the book that I am particularly keen to read… Chapters such as ‘Why Smoke?’, ‘Pipe Etiquette’ and ‘Pipe Smoking for Women’. The very fact there is a chapter devoted to this last one makes me chuckle. How times have changed!

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