Finds tray – Victorian letterpress printing plate

IMAGE: Birmingham Museums Trust/CC BY 2.0.

This 19th-century letterpress printing plate was found by a metal-detectorist, on cultivated land in Warwickshire, last summer. It is made from copper alloy, and – measuring 6.24cm by 4cm by 0.48cm – it weighs just over 100g.

Rectangular plates like this were used in printing until the second half of the 20th century. This example is complete, preserving several lines of text: a central title followed by four justified paragraphs (that is, with straight margins on both sides). All this is inscribed in retrograde, so that the text would be the right way round when printed, in a font similar to Times New Roman.

There are patches of iron corrosion on the reverse of the plate (which is undecorated), and the main text is worn and fragmented in places. This has rendered many of the words difficult to decipher, but it is clear that the item was produced to print information about postal weights and related charges. The surviving words offer guidance for ‘inland letters’ and ‘inland parcel post’.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has recorded several similar finds, including plate fragments inscribed with prose fiction (DENO-C4F053 and, possibly, WMID-FE36B8), Welsh text (WREX-DA1FBD), travel or ticket information (WILT-9DDA4D), and modern romance literature (NLM-1F9FA3). For more on this item, see or search for WMID-109741 on the PAS database.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme is an initiative to encourage the recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales. For more information on the Scheme, and to browse its database of over 1.5 million finds, visit Information for this find was provided by Teresa Gilmore, Finds Liaison Officer for Staffordshire and West Midlands, based at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.