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Late twentieth century vertical toilet roll holder with early twenty-first century finish.

Toilet paper holders have been an important facet of European bathroom design since antiquity. Distinctly European in origin, they have been part of Western culture since their invention in the mists of pre-history. The artistic glory years of these bathroom fittings began in the 16th century, since when splendid designs have been produced by everyone from Palladio to Fabergé. Individual toilet paper holders have played key roles in European history: a uniquely alarming Palladian polar bear holder dissuaded England's Virgin Queen Elizabeth I from marriage to the King of Sweden; one jewelled Fabergé holder precipitated the Russian Revolution; and another exacerbated the course of World War I.

In the modern era, the digital (paperless) toilet has emerged, thanks to the integrated bidet. Although German fashion has followed this reductionist approach, Scandinavians have favoured an increase in opulence. The United Kingdom and Benelux have shown a third way, with the adoption of retro unarticulated forms such as the vertical rod.

Despite a common misconception, there are no known references to toilet paper holders in the extant works of William Shakespeare.

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