Monday, 25 August 2014


                                          Mystery Object.

No mystery about this object. It's a box. It measures about three and a half inches by just over two inches by one and a quarter inches; therefore either a table snuff or a tobacco box. It has a silver escutcheon (blank), and a very complex hinge.
The questions are :-  When was it made, where was it made, and of what material was it made?

                                          Good guessing, and good night.


Crowbard said...

Both the hinge grooves that allow the lid to open beyond 90 degrees and the 37 alternating hinge-loops are very patiently and evenly hand-cut, probably with a small sharp knife.
The octagonal silver escutcheon matches the shape of the lid and looks to be crudely shaped – possibly from a coin hammered flat and cut by hand with the same knife.
The lacquer/varnish looks uneven in colour and consistency, possibly ‘home-made’.
The lid is probably a sliver of wood but could be papier-machée, bone or even old boot leather under that ‘varnish’, the box is likely to be of the same material as the lid.
Apparently this box was made by a person with limited materials, few tools and lots of time.
Possibly made by a prisoner–of-war around 1800.

Rog said...

Crowbard is like Sherlock Holmes / can't follow that Mycroft!

kippy said...

Ha Rog is right!
1820, German or Austrian is my guess.

Mike and Ann said...

P.s. Crowbard's is easily nearest to the correct answer, although his reasoning leaves something to be desired. Not, I think, prisoner-of- war work, Crowbard. Much too restrained.

Mike and Ann said...

Sorry; tried to alter my explanatory comment and lost it. Will try again.
Answer :-

The box was made in Norther Europe (probably in England) around 1780 to 1800, and is made of processed leather (very successfully made, as it has held its shape for more than two hundred years).

I should have mentioned that the silver escutcheon was missing when I bought the box, but a perfect impression of the escutcheon remained on the box lid, so that a replacement was easily made. Not, from a hammered silver coin,Crowbard, but from a mid Victorian silver mustard that I have been cannibalising (to use for restoration purposes) for some years.

Margaret Brocklehurst said...

I rather like its honesty!

Did Annie tell you my good news? x

Mike and Ann said...

Thank you Maggie. She did. I congratulate you ( and please convey our congratulations to the prospective parents).

Crowbard said...

I wouldn't call that hinge restrained, Mike, but agree that it is not as artful an artifact as many POW pieces. But there must have been many less able POWs who subsisted by working within their less creative capabilities.
Glad I included leather among the possible materials but confess I had Dartmoor in mind as a likely place of origin. Leather is a remarkable material, 30 odd years ago I made a leather piston-washer for the hydraulic suspension of a 27 ton tracked vehicle when no original part was available. To my knowledge it has never needed to be replace.

Mike and Ann said...

Hello Crowbard. The hinge is restrained in its appearance, but not in its usefulness. To make a thirty seven lugged hinge when five would be fully enough, shows that there was no skimping on its manufacture. The P.O.W. artifacts were made with a Gallic flamboyance of ornament and ingenuity which marks them instantly for what they are, and by whom they were made; and I love them (slightly extravagant expression, I'm afraid) for what they are, just as I admire this box for what it is -a plain, well made, efficient,useful, practical and long lasting artifact. It would have been made for an English gentleman, who, like the box, didn't need a lot of flow'ry decoration to declare himself. Very satisfying somehow.

And I must apologise for over- expressing meself in the box's defence. It doesn't need it.

Mike and Ann said...

P.s. Gosh; I enjoyed that!