A few years ago, I picked up this roll, and I am still not completely sure what it was for. I’m pretty sure is for tooling cut out leather thumb tabs, which would then be glued to the book.
It contains the letter sequence “A – C – E – G – I – L – N – P – R – T – W – Y” The makers mark is “J. MARKS”. Tom Conroy’s Bookbinders’ Finishing Tool Makers places this English company between 1868 – 1901. He also mentions there are no marks known, so this will be an entry for the revised and enlarged edition. No marks for J. Marks! Tom would love it, since he also wrote a book of humorous bookbinding verse. If you enjoy reading this blog, you will love both of his books.
The letters were hand cut on the double yoked wheel, which must have taken incredible skill so that they ended up essentially even in height. The “A” was repaired or replaced at some point, and soldered into place. All the letters are quite worn.
The dealer I purchased this from cleaned it up and polished it, more than I would have liked. Cleaning is irreversible!