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Wooden and tortoiseshell snuff box, France, 1801-1830

The lid of this snuff box shows three views of a phrenological skull. Supporters of phrenology believed that the shape and size of various areas of the brain (and therefore the overlying skull) determined personality. Each number on the skull relates to a character trait. For example, number 24 denotes love; number 19, vanity. There is a key to all the traits on the base of the box. This system was invented by Franz Joseph Gall (1758 –1828), a German physician who founded phrenology. There were a number of different systems of phrenology as disagreements arose over how many brain ‘organs’ there were.

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Glossary: snuff box

a small usually ornamental container for holding snuff Boxes, usually having a hinged lid and small enough to be carried in the pocket, used for holding snuff

Glossary: smoking

A practice where a substance, most commonly tobacco is burned and the smoke inhaled. It is currently practiced by over one billion people worldwide (2008)

Glossary: phrenology

The study of the bumps on the outside of the skull in order to determine a person's character. It was based on the mistaken theory that the skull becomes modified according to the size of different parts of the brain.