This Mosda clipless paper fastener is one of a large number of machines designed to attach sheets of paper together without the use of external materials. They date from the early years of the twentieth century and are often referred to as stapleless staplers. These are admirably simple and efficient machines.
My machine was made in England, and looks like it is from around 1930. The Early Office Museum has some great information on the history clipless paper fasteners, unfortunately it does not record the cutting patterns of the machines, which is necessary to determine what particular machine was used. The wonderfully detailed blog, The American Stationer, examines a number of paper fasteners, but not the Mosda. Except for a couple of ebay and etsy sales, I’ve not found much info about it, other than an almost exact copy ( maybe the original?) machine called the Chadwick. (Fig 2.)
According to the Early Office Museum Website, machines for stapleless paper fastening started in 1909 by two competing firms, the Bump Manufacturing Company and The Clipless Paper Fastener Company. There is some confusion as to which company came up with the first machine. Yet even today, you can buy a new Japanese machine, which uses almost the exact same punching configuration, though in tandem.
The mechanism is quite ingenious, and even though this machine is very well used and the blades slightly dull, it still creates a surprisingly secure paper attachment with a single push on the top knob. My machine is missing a spring under this knob, so I need to manually lift the knob back to the start position before making a new attachment.
First the stapler punches a “U” shape and a small straight line behind it. For clarity, I am showing the mechanism on the bottom of the machine. In use, the paper is inserted in the slight gap between the bed and the half arch head as seen in Figure 1.
Next, a tongue pushes the attached tab of paper from the “U” punch through the slit. This is then raised to the top of the papers, securing them. Other manufactures report that six to twelve sheets are the maximum number that could be punched through, though of course this depends on the thickness of the paper. I’m pleasently surprised this machine works so well, as can be seen below, considering that the punches are unhardened pressed steel.
Examining these stapleless fastenings could even generate useful information, such as establishing the terminus post quem a stack of sheets were assembled. With such obvious tool marks, I imagine it wouldn’t be too difficult to get a sense of a range of shapes and match them to extant machines. Or maybe these antique machines still have uses for the inventive book artist, like non-adhesive corner locking for limp structures?