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Mystery objects

Started by jamesw, March 22, 2008, 10:07:53 PM

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jamesw

Hi,
    I know that this may be a bit of a long shot, but I was wondering if you may possibly be able to identify the objects in the attached photo.



I picked them up at various locations along the Thames foreshore in London UK (they appear to be everywhere) and was wondering what they could possibly be!

They all seem to be made of some sort of metal alloy and are stamped with notches on one edge to varying degrees. The short thin edge also seems to be indented slightly and contains a number of very small marks (lines or dots?) Not sure if they are deliberate however.

Initially I thought they may be something to do with printing, hence this post.  I recently found one marked with the letters S.B&Co, a Google search of which identified these as Siemens Brothers & Co.'

One or two also seem to be marked MIN, NIL, CASION & BPF ?

I also have one or two much thinner examples, one of which definitely has the letter 'e' embossed on the end. I can post a picture of these if it might help.

Any ideas?

Regards

James


Dave Hughes

Welcome to the Metal Type forum James, and thanks for an interesting post.

The objects have certainly got me baffled. One thing that rang a bell though was the SB&Co. inscription. That could possibly relate to Stephenson Blake & Co. a big UK typefounder.

More information on Stephenson Blake can be found here:
http://www.britishletterpress.co.uk/type/stephenson-blake/

On a matter of scale, is the piece of paper marked cm in the picture a centimetre?
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jamesw

Dave,
Thanks very much for that. Stevenson Blake does seem more plausible than Siemens Brothers. I'll try and follow up on this link.

The CM scale in my photo is 1cm long - saves having to write dimensions for each one!

Do you think these are print related? Unfortunately, I have absolutely zero knowledge of anything to do with printing.
They look like they could be used to form spaces between words in a strip of type perhaps? Maybe newspaper related?

I'm sure the notches are significant.

I notice that Steve suggests that they may be quoins - what's a quoin?

Dave Hughes

James, a quoin is a mechanical device that expanded to lock all the elements of a letterpress page into its frame or chase.

Here's a picture of one:



There were various different designs used throughout the centuries. The simplest were opposing wedges driven against each other.

Are the items you found wedge shaped in any way?

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jamesw

No, they are all rectangular.

I'll keep on investigating. If I do find out anything I'll post it up.

Regards,

James

Jeff Zilles [jeffo]


Wot's the metal? Is it soft or brittle, heavy or light?  Can you write with it - like a lead pencil?  Has the outside any oxidation that comes off when you rub the object on the rough side of a soap powder or breakfast cereal packet?

Where is the imprint?  Is it on the face or along the edge?  Is it on all of the pieces on on just a few and if so have these items anything in commonn - size. shape, notches?

Always I have the questions but not the answers and the longer I stay on-line the more I think of!!

jeffo


jamesw

Hi Jeff,
Okay.....all the objects are hard, like aluminium. They are too heavy to be aluminium however, more like some sort of lead or tin alloy. They are non-magnetic and do not have an oxide layer as you describe.
They do not leave any marks on paper or card.

The imprint is always on the short end of each block, nearest to the notches which always occur on the face. Blocks of different size and thickness have different sets of notches.

The notches are clearly deliberate although, I'm not so sure about the imprint which is often feint, indistinct and not always the same.

Hope that helps!

James

Dave Hughes

Quote from: jamesw on March 22, 2008, 10:07:53 PM

I also have one or two much thinner examples, one of which definitely has the letter 'e' embossed on the end. I can post a picture of these if it might help.


Don't think we've given up on this one yet James  :-\

Perhaps another picture or two would help.
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