From the Rapaport Archives (I)

This collection of images comes to us from the archives of leading pipe collector and author Ben Rapaport. Ben has delved into all aspects of pipe scholarship across dozens of books and articles. The illustrations in these galleries were provided by several collectors for possible inclusion in Mr. Rapaport’s book. Take it away, Ben:

Humankind has had a long history of using plants and weeds for their intoxicant, medicinal, or social properties. Throughout the world and through the ages, plants have been smoked, chewed, and ingested, often accompanied by elaborate social and religious rituals. Opium was one of these plants.

As Joseph Westermeyer asserts: “Cigarette smokers have their lighters, cases, and holders; pipe smokers, their pipe racks and humidors; and betel chewers, their elaborate brass or silver sets. Similarly, even the humble opium smoker has certain paraphernalia” (Poppies, Pipes, and People. Opium and Its Use in Laos (University of California Press, 1982). To smoke opium, three utensils were essential: a pipe, a lamp, and a box to store the opium pellets. Ancillary items in the smoker’s “kit” were tools—spoons, cooking pans, tweezers, scrapers, scissors, spatulas—along with non-essentials, such as a display tray, an ashtray, a pillow, a bed, and, perhaps, a divan. In a word, considerable paraphernalia was necessary to support his consumption, comfort, and convenience.

The host of has created a very important site to inform, illustrate and illuminate the art and craft of myriad talented and skillful Chinese artisans who produced these implements for the ingestion of “the black perfume.”   

Enjoy the view!

Ben Rapaport

Co-author of The Arts of an Addiction (2005)

Gallery I: Pipes

Gallery II: Boxes
Gallery III: Layouts, tools, and media

All gallery images are free for non-commercial use. Commercial use is prohibited.