Wooden Travelling Spoon

Albanian Studies and Research

Wooden travelling spoon. Culture: Albania. 1904. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Wooden travelling spoon with hinged handle, the handle incised with concentric circles and dots. Bought by Miss Mary Edith Durham at outpost on Lake Presba in 1904, an important record of the cultural heritage and traditions of Albania.

At the end of 1903, the British traveller and writer Edith Durham (1863-1944) departed for a five-month stay in the Balkans to take part in humanitarian work. She travelled over difficult mountain terrain on horseback in all weathers wearing a waterproof Burberry Skirt and Scotch plaid golf cape. The acquisition of this spoon is recorded by Edith in “Burden of the Balkans” (1905), chapter 10, p. 251: Upon arriving at Presba they came across some Albanian soldiers, “I bought for twopence a very neatly made wooden spoon, with an ingenious folding handle, from a trooper, who was whiling away the time by carving such from a lump of boxwood, and producing artistic results with no other tools but a clumsy pocket-knife…”

Edith Durham was born into a large wealthy London family in 1863. She attended Bedford College (1878-82), then Royal Academy Schools. Edith was one of the most distinguished Fellows of the Royal Anthropological Institute, and a well-known war-correspondent, lecturer, writer, photographer and artist of Albania and the Balkans. She began to travel rough in the then hardly visited Balkans from 1900 for the next twenty years. She worked for a number of relief organisations and became a champion of the Albanian mountaineers whose lands were coveted by neighbouring nations. Wherever she travelled she was always welcomed, offered food and shelter and greeted with the saying ‘Bread, Salt and our Hearts’. Her studies of Balkan ethnography led to a series of books, of which ‘High Albania’ is the best known and is still regarded as the best guide to the customs and society of the highlands of northern Albania.

Thank you.

Albanian Studies and Research