The acanthus is a plant which originated in Greece but grows in many countries of the world, and in quite a few varieties.
It is otherwise known by the not very charming name of ‘bear’s breeches’.
However, its leaves form one of the enduring symbols in classical architecture and calligraphy.
The ancient Greeks decorated their Corinthian columns with acanthus patterns, and the theme was taken up by the Romans.
It appears in illuminated manuscripts, and in renaissance art it was found in sculpture, wood carving and friezes.
The Victorians also took to it and used the leaf pattern to decorate wallpaper and china.
Little wonder, then, that the early gun engravers were attracted to it because of its classical associations.
The tradition of its use in shotgun engraving continues to this day.