SALT-CELLAR, a vessel containing salt, placed upon the table at meals. The word is a combination of "salt" and " saler," assimilated in the 16th and 17th centuries to "cellar" (Lat. cellarium, a storehouse). " Saler " is from the Fr. (Mod. salihe), Lat. solarium, that which belongs to salt, cf. " salary." Salt cellar is, therefore, a tautological expression. There are two types of salts, the large ornamental salt which during the medieval ages and later was one of the most important pieces of household plate, and the smaller " salts," actually used and placed near the plates or trenchers of the guests at table; they were hence styled " trencher salts." The great salts, below which the inferior guests sat, were, in the earliest form which survives, shaped like an hour-glass and have a cover. New College, Oxford, possesses a magnificent specimen, dated 1493. Later salts take a square or cylindrical shape. The Elizabethan salt, kept with the regalia in the Tower of London, has a cover with numerous figures. The London Livery Companies possess many salts of a still later pattern, rather low in height and without a cover. The " trencher salts " are either of triangular or circular shape, some are many-sided. The circular silver salt with legs came into use in the 18th century.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)