No gunmaker can claim Holland & Holland’s scintillating history for specially engraved firearms. During the 1920s and ’30s India’s nabobs ordered them by the dozen. In 1971 H&H Managing Director Malcolm Lyell added luster to his “Products of Excellence” series with a 12-bore he called “The Art of the Engraver and Embellisher,” with gold inlays by Ken Hunt. The recently produced London Map Gun continues this rich tradition.
Conceived as an exhibition-grade piece based on London being a world trading hub, the gun is inlaid with gold, silver and copper—representing the metals that were traded as currency. The left lockplate features a map of London’s docklands in the late 18th Century. A gold-inlaid eel reminds us of the jellied eels once eaten by hungry dockworkers. The right lockplate is engraved with Tower Bridge, The Tower of London and a gold-inlaid raven, recalling the aphorism “If the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it.” Both lockplates also feature copper-inlaid poppies, representing the opium trade; silver-inlaid tea flowers; and mulberry flowers, used in silk production. Holland & Holland’s name on the bar of the action is framed by stylized scrollwork inspired by a mid-19th Century Henry Holland trade label.
All of this is the work of H&H’s first engraving atelier forewoman, Kirsty Smith. Ms. Smith recently was asked about her most memorable gun-engraving experience. “The most memorable gun has to be the ‘London Gun,’” she said “We were given the opportunity to design whatever we wanted to be engraved on the gun, with a few ground rules! Lots of tears and upset words came with the London Gun but also fun and a load of enthusiasm, so it would be pretty hard for me to forget. The client who owns the London Gun wants another, but one designed and engraved for his own country; so it could be endless!”