This lid from a snuff box features an ink drawing of Robert Burns, based on the 1787 portrait by Nasmyth. The inscription reads:
THE AYRSHIRE BARD / Born 25 Janry 1759 Died 22 July 1796
Sniffing snuff was the original method of taking tobacco, first used by indigenous Americans. The practice came to Europe with the return of Spanish, Portuguese and French explorers during the 1500s. It was in Scotland that the traditions of snuff taking were first established, perhaps because of its close links with France. It gained acceptance throughout Britain when Charles II brought the custom back from his exile in France.
More tobacco was made into snuff than was used for smoking or chewing until the 1900s. Everyone took it. Lord Nelson took large quantities to sea with him, while Napoleon sniffed over three kilos a month. Physicians made great claims for it, prescribing snuff for headaches, insomnia, toothache, coughs and colds and recommending it as a measure against infection.