This post is also available in: Italian

The smoking pipe is an object of ancient tradition, used for smoking tobacco or other substances, particularly those for healing purposes.


The ancient Babylonians, Greeks and Egyptians knew and smoked their pipes. For example, the famous Greek doctor, and founder of ethical medicine, Hippocrates used to prescribe smoking herbs to treat certain diseases.

In the last millennium Columbus discovered the use of tobacco, which represented an important element of the culture of indigenous peoples in the Americas, and brought it to Europe together with the smoking pipe. In fact, the smoking pipe was used by North American Indians for ceremonial purposes and was considered a symbol of peace and called ‘Calumet’ among the American Indian people, Sioux.

By the sixteenth century, the use of tobacco and thesmoking pipe had become very popular in Europe. In 1559 Jean Nicot de Villemain launched tobacco use as a medical multi- remedy and the habit of sniffing to mitigate the effects of the headache became a fashion within the French nobility.

The use of the smoking pipe was diffused particularly among sailors and fishermen who used clay pipes, gypsum or corncob. The fisherman is often depicted with a pipe in his mouth as the ‘baciccia’ (diminutive of John the Baptist) Genoese who is portrayed in the symbol of the Italian football team Sampdoria, from Genoa.

In the following centuries, the pipes of plaster and clay give way to those briar, a wood that is formed over about 20 years at the root of heather trees. The French were the first users of briar in the manufacture of the smoking pipe, and it proved to be an ideal material in terms of heat resistance allowing the smoker to appreciate the aroma of the tobacco. Saint Claude in the department of Jura is still the main centre of production.

So was born the modern smoking pipe that between 1800 and 1900 spread throughout the world, thanks to industrial production. The most important manufacturing companies then were based in Britain, France, Italy and the Scandinavian countries. In this period there were many famous smokers of the pipe in the creative world, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes, Hemingway, Mark Twain, and Tolkien plus scientists such as Einstein and Hubble.

Despite industrial development, fortunately each craftsman/artisan in the relatively small band that have survived, produce handmade pipes of the highest quality. These pipes are not just for the pleasure of smoking, but are also collectibles for an increasing number of aficionados of the delights of the smoking pipe.


We talked about them also on a discovery. Click here to read it.


Claudia Bettiol

IT Ingegnere, futurista e fondatrice di Discoverplaces. Consulente per lo Sviluppo Turistico dei Territori, specializzato nella sostenibilità e nella promozione culturale dei piccoli territori e delle piccole imprese. Ama i cavalli ENG Engineeer, futurist, joint founder of Energitismo and founder of Discoverplaces. Consultant for the development and promotion of the Touristic Development of Territories specialising in sustainability and in cultural promotion of small places and small enterprises. She loves horses


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