From Academic Kids

This article is about the receptacle called a box. For other meanings see box (disambiguation).

Boxes are highly variable receptacles. When no shape is described, a typical cuboid box may be expected. Nevertheless, a box may have a horizontal cross-section that is square, elongated, round or oval; sloped or domed top surfaces, or non-vertical sides. A box normally may be opened by raising, sliding or removing the lid, which may be hinged and/or fastened by a catch, hasp, or lock. Whatever its shape or purpose or the material of which it is fashioned, it is the direct descendant of the chest, one of the most ancient articles of domestic furniture. Its uses are innumerable, and the name, preceded by a qualifying adjective, has been given to many objects of artistic or antiquarian interest.


Work box

Of the boxes which possess some attraction beyond their immediate purpose the feminine work-box is the commonest. It is usually fitted with a tray divided into many small compartments, for needles, reels of silk and cotton and other necessaries of stitchery. The date of its introduction is in considerable doubt, but 17th-century examples have come down to us, with covers of silk, stitched with beads and adorned with embroidery. In the 18th century no lady was without her work-box, and, especially in the second half of that period, much taste and elaborate pains were expended upon the case, which was often exceedingly dainty and elegant. These boxes are ordinarily portable, but sometimes form the top of a table.

Snuff box

But it is as a receptacle for snuff that the box has taken its most distinguished and artistic forms in Western culture. The snuff-box, which is now little more than a charming relic of a disagreeable practice, was throughout the larger part of the 18th century the indispensable companion of every man of birth and breeding. It long survived his sword, and was in frequent use until nearly the middle of the 19th century.

The jeweller, the enameller and the artist bestowed infinite pains upon what was quite as often a delicate bijou as a piece of utility; fops and great personages possessed numbers of snuff-boxes, rich and more ordinary, their selection being regulated by their dress and by the relative splendour of the occasion. From the cheapest wood that was suitable at one time - potato-pulp was extensively used - to a frame of gold encased with diamonds, a great variety of materials was employed. Tortoise-shell was a favorite, and owing to its limpid lustre it was exceedingly effective. Mother-of-pearl was also used, together with silver, in its natural state or gilded. Costly gold boxes were often enriched with enamels or set with diamonds or other precious stones, and sometimes the lid was adorned with a portrait, a classical vignette, or a tiny portrait miniature, often some choice work by an old master.

After snuff-taking had ceased to be general it lingered for some time among diplomats, either because as Talleyrand explained they found a ceremonious pinch to be a useful aid to reflection in a business interview, or because monarchs retained the habit of bestowing snuff-boxes upon ambassadors and other intermediaries, who could not well be honored in any other way. It is, indeed, to the cessation of the habit of snuff-taking that we may trace much of modern lavishness in the distribution of decorations. To be invited to take a pinch from a monarchs snuff-box was a distinction almost equivalent to having one's ear pulled by Napoleon. At the coronation of George IV of England, Messrs. Rundell and Bridge, the court jewellers, were paid £ 8205 for snuff-boxes for foreign ministers.

Now that the snuffbox is no longer used it is collected by wealthy amateurs or deposited in museums, and especially artistic examples command large sums. George, duke of Cambridge (1819-1904), possessed an important collection; a Louis XV. gold box was sold by auction after his death for £ 2000.

Jewel box

A jewel-box is a receptacle for trinkets, not only jewels. It may take a very modest form, covered in leather and lined with satin, or it may reach the monumental proportions of the jewel cabinets which were made for Marie Antoinette, one of which is at Windsor, and another at Versailles, the work of Schwerdfeger as cabinetmaker, Degault as miniature-painter, and Thomire as chaser.

Shoe box

A shoebox is, exactly as its name implies, a cardboard box which holds a pair of shoes. It is commonly acquired when one purchases a pair of shoes. Shoeboxes have long been cherished for their versatility and are commonly used for many tasks around the house, such as holding trading cards, photos, and just about anything else.

Strong box

A strong-box is a receptacle for money, deeds and securities. Its place has been taken in modern life by the safe. Some of those which have survived, such as that of Sir Thomas Bodley in the Bodleian library, possess locks with an extremely elaborate mechanism contrived in the under-side of the lid.

Knife box

The knife-box is one of the most charming of the minor pieces of furniture which we owe to the artistic taste and mechanical ingenuity of the English cabinet-makers of the last quarter of the 18th century. Some of the most elegant were the works of Adam, Hepplewhite and Sheraton. Occasionally flat-topped boxes, they were most frequently either rod-shaped, or tall and narrow with a sloping tip necessitated by a series of raised veins for exhibiting the handles of knives and the bowls of spoons. Mahogany and satinwood were the woods most frequently employed, and they were occasionally inlaid with marqueterie or edged with boxwood. These graceful receptacles still exist in large numbers; they are often converted into stationery cabinets.

Bible box

The Bible box, usually of the 17th century, but now and again more ancient, probably obtained its name from the fact that it was of a size to hold a large Bible. It often has a carved or incised lid. In Colonial America the Bible box was built of wood, specifically as a container for a bible, but it often had dual use as a portable desk.

Powder box and patch box

The powder-box and the patch-box were respectively receptacles for the powder and the patches of the 18th century; the former was the direct ancestor of the puff-box of the modern dressing-table.


The étui (or etui) is a cylindrical box or case of very various materials, often of pleasing shape or adornment, for holding sewing materials or small articles of feminine use. It was worn on the chatelaine.

Cricketing box

In cricket, a box is the plastic shield worn (inside trousers) to protect male players' genitalia when batting. In Australia the box is also known as a eo:Kesto


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