A journey which started out as a gift, Author of 'A Visual history of walking sticks and canes' Anthony Moss received his first 2 canes as a gift, little did he know how much they would become apart of his life. Now owning over 2600 different walking sticks and canes he is one of the worlds leading Rabologist. We sat down with Moss to speak to him about his book - 'A Visual history of walking sticks and canes'.
Anthony, for those reading this, can you explain a little about what your book 'A Visual history of walking sticks and canes' is about, without giving too much away?
As collecting Antique Walking Canes is my passion, I hope to pass this excitement to a broader readership than just collectors, the public, students, and researchers. I trust that this will include those interested in Fashion and the social changes that have led us from an agricultural and rural society to the age of the iPhone, artificial intelligence, and the world of algorithms.
I also want this Book to inspire and interest new converts to the hobby of collecting canes and act too as a reference and catalogue for existing collectors and dandies. The intention is to expand the subject by exploring how the walking cane, the parasol and the umbrella acquired their place in fashionable society and how they maintain their relevance even today.
Besides adding more library yards to an Everest-size Mountain of print, I wanted to write this Book to share my emotion, finds, and discoveries. Most of the books on walking canes have been to glorify the beauty of a collection, but there is a need to see the walking Cane, not just in a historical context but also as a fresh complement to today's Fashion.
This Book aims to bring to life a picture of a bygone era, a time when 'the cane was king', simulating an age which the only film, theatre, literature, and imagination can re-create. In this way, I wish to educate the student, collector, historian, and researcher how the Cane played such an essential role in Fashion. From the very start, through to the emergence of haute couture, through the Jazz Age and then through many years of austerity, culminating with the Second World War, the Cane has held sway. Surprisingly, even today, the walking Cane has retained its magic and is used in theatre, fashion shows and by more flamboyant dressers or dandies.
You are one of the world's leading Rabologist; where did this all begin?
I am one of many leading International Antique Walking Cane collectors, and we feed off each other's knowledge by going to various Walking Cane Conventions and exchanging ideas.
Collecting has always been my craving, starting at the tender age of 9, collecting books. Coming from an inherently poor working-class family, we had little in the way of personal possessions, so when I and Deanna married 55 years ago, we bought Victorian furniture as it was cheap. In the '70s, our appetite expanded to encompass a wide range of antiques and collectables. In the 1970s, I became fascinated with writing instruments, nibs, pencils and early pens. I was a Founder Member of the WES - The Writing Equipment Society founded by Phillip Pool – The Penman – Drury Lane. http://westendextra.com/article/powerful-pens-from-mr-poole
Deanna and I always imagined that we were antique dealers. Over 50 years we regularly, made early morning calls to the fairs and markets as dealers, collecting items for our stock. Whether as a dealer or collector, the only way to gain knowledge is to handle objects and talk to dealers. Yes, you make many mistakes and buy fakes, but that is the best way to learn your trade. This way, you build an appreciation of real quality, craftsmanship and gain experience.
In 1998 Deanna made the mistake of buying me a few walking canes, and thus my passion as a Rabologist* began.
Initially, I had little idea what to collect and looked for craftsmanship and beauty. Over time, learning from two of my key dealers, Paul Meyer, and Nellie Leson Smith, I knew what was best to collect and was selective. Later, I looked for rarity, artistry, and missing examples to make the Collection more representative of the range of Walking Canes produced over the centuries. The Collection encompassed canes from the 15th Century up to the 1940s and then to the present day.
*Rabology' is the English term for the scientific study of walking sticks (ραβδί, or 'rabdi' the Greek for a stick or rod -- 'Rabology' is already reserved for the study of logarithms, using rods as counters); the 'Rabologist' is a collector student of walking sticks.
Was writing this Book in your plans?
Yes, after collecting Antique Walking Canes for some years and forming “The Antique Cane Society” in London and acquiring a copy of every Book ever written or published on the subject, it was evident that no one had covered the topic in depth. Most books on Walking Canes glorified someone's Collection rather than creating a book of reference. The best examples were the three main Books by Cathine Dyke, which are still the best and most informative reference Books on Walking Canes ever written.
How much research has gone into this Book?
Fortunately for most of us, Google has opened the world. Instead of visiting libraries and museums, I searched using the WEB by going into the University Libraries and Archives online, researching material and obtaining information. In addition, I also built my library of Books, Photographs and both relevant and valuable material.
Copies of John Tallis’s account of The Great Exhibition of 1851 and Harper’s New Monthly Magazine of publish in June 1870 added greatly to my research, by providing useful resource information.
Why do you believe people are fascinated with Walking sticks & Canes?
People are fascinated with the Walking Cane as throughout the history of walking sticks, they have evolved from an icon of high social status for men, a sign of authority, to the fashionable accessory in the 17th and 18th century.
Today, people will still wear a Walking Cane as a Fashion accessory especially the Modern Dandy and on the Fashion Catwalk. It connects them with a gentler age where the Cane was a symbol of strength, power, authority, and social prestige. On The West End Stage and even today, on the BBC’s “Strictly come Dancing” the dancers wear and dance with a Walking Cane.
The Walking Canes made today, by Boris Palatnik in the USA are examples of fine collectable modern Walking Canes and keep alive the traditions of wearing a wonderful Modern Walking Cane.
For you, what make a Cane stand out from the rest?
The Walking Canes that give me the most pleasure are canes with provenance or that tell a story. In the collection my favorite canes are the narrative canes, or those owned by a notable person. The Pique Canes made by the Huguenots which are generally dated and made between 1650 to about 1720 are wonderful examples of early fashion canes with shafts made of Malacca Cane.
However, jewelled and those made of rare materials stand out from the day-to-day Walking Cane. Some examples of Tradesman’s canes and Multipurpose canes can be intriguing. Besides, I am totally enamoured by the amazing variety and beauty of Art Deco Canes made in the 1920s.
How do you identify a new walking stick or Cane to add to your Collection?
Over time as with any collection where you want to keep representative, you discover missing examples, unknown designers or retailers and sometimes subdivisions not fully represented. This was the case for our Collection of Sunday Canes when we found how popular these Sunday Golf Canes had been. Similarly, Children's Canes are not generally collected and represent an important sector.
Similarly, Art Deco Canes are generally unknown or unrecognized as even dealers are not aware of the range and beauty of Walking Canes made during the 20s and up to 1939. There is so little information as, by then, people generally chose to carry an Umbrella rather than wear a Cane, so the Walking Stick was often discarded or just left in the hall stick stand.
I find early 17th and 8th Century Walking Canes fascinating, especially if they have a Silver Handle rather than a Pique Handle. Still, less interested in the long ferrules had been replaced by a modern one.
Anthony, you are one of the world's leading Radiologists, but how much did you learn when researching this Book?
Let me state again although I am one of many leading International Antique Walking Cane collectors, and we feed off each other's knowledge by going to various Walking Cane Conventions and exchanging ideas. Seeing and handling, fine examples of various Walking Sticks give you a first-hand experience that a photograph can’t.
Writing A Visual History of Walking Sticks and Canes has been a voyage of discovery. This journey opened the fantastic History of this initial humble digging stick first used by early man had taken to the age of sophistication and Fashion. Therefore, the need to share that knowledge with the global antique and social History community was paramount before History was lost to antiquity.
First, I needed to determine what representative examples were missing from the A&D Antique Walking Collection of over 2500 examples. Who were the early retailers and manufacturers of both Walking Sticks and Parasols? What was the provenance of these beautiful canes? On further examination, I found some incredible hidden gems, which had been unrecognized within the Collection. Such discoveries added to my appreciation of the extensive scope of our canes, a collection accumulated over 25 years.
Besides, I could also call upon my network of Dealers and collectors to help fill in the blanks.
What are the typical responses you get from those who have read your Book?
Gianmario Casalis Cavalchini
Dear Anthony, the Book has arrived; it left me speechless; you have created a masterpiece! My fondest congratulations. I wrote a comment for Amazon; in Italian, since it is directed to Italian readers. I wish that it would sell one million copies, because it deserves to be in all serious collectors' shelves. Well, thanks again and all the best. I liked Deanna's poems!
To - Antique Canes Amsterdam: Eduardo, what a beautiful Collection , showing the constant quality increase of the canes you are proposing to the collectors. Bravo !!
I am reading and enjoying the book of Anthony: he has succeeded in creating a fantastic work both from the visual and the descriptive aspect. This book rightly deserves to sit beside the Catherine's ones.
Take care, all the best, Gianmario
How would you describe your collecting habits?
Collecting is an obsession, with the need to discover an item rather than just acquiring an item. In some cases, you could easily return the item as the chase and discovery raise the adrenaline and create excitement. Maybe it's an eccentricity.
What advice would you give a young collector?
The essential advice for a young collector is to buy quality, not quantity—a collection of 15 excellent Walking Canes is far better than a collection of rubbish. Building as a collection of some 30 to 40 Walking Canes does not have to be expensive, as the average Cane can be purchased for below a pounds at an Antique Fair.
Please beware of the Gadget Walking Canes as they are very often faked and created to deceive. So, unless the contents are practical or made as a presentation piece, it lets the buyer beware without provenance do not buy. After a time, the collector can spot the genuine article.
Therefore, I hope my Book will inspire and interest new converts to collecting canes. The intention is to encourage the new collector to explore how the walking cane, the parasol, and the umbrella acquired their place in fashionable society and how they maintain their relevance even today.
When did you decide to write a book? How long did it take, and have you written others before?
I had started to draft the Book in 2016 and commenced taking RAW Images of the Collection before my approach to AC Art Books. Having prepared the manuscript, I initially wrote a proposal to James Smith, ACC Publishing Group, on December 20, 2016. The Publishing Contract with ACC Art Books was then signed in 2017. After, sometimes we mutually decided to part company, and I was faced with self-publishing or finding another publisher. I contacted Roman and Littlefield in New York on January 3, 2020, and after initially turning down my proposal, fortunately, they agreed to publish my Book. However, COVID delayed the publication due to New York shutting down for three months. Regrettably, the Winter 2020 and then Spring 2021 launch was delayed until September 1. - therefore, it took nearly 5 years to bring to the market.
Are you planning on any follow-ups to this Book?
I have two Books in the pipeline. The sequel will contain a catalogue of the entire Collection and a New Book on antique writing instruments - Mightier than the sword - a visual history of the Pencil and Pen. One of my other passions is our A&D Antique Writing Instrument Collection. There is a WEB site: http://antiquecanes.net
and an Instagram Site: www.instagram.com/antique_canes
Anthony, Thank you for your time.
Thank you, Curtis.