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Pen case

Pen case

  • Date:

    1652 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Madin, Thomas (maker)

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Rev. E. F. Russell, on behalf of Frederick Gill

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 56, The Djanogly Gallery, case 3 []

Object Type
This portable brass case would have held quill pens, sealing-wax and a glass bottle for ink. In the past it was convenient to carry writing materials for correspondence, as such items were scarce. The base of the case is engraved with the owner's seal and would have been used with sealing wax for letters and documents.

This brass pen case is one of a group of small brasswares produced by a craftsman working in Sheffield in the mid-17th century. This is one of the earliest dated items from the group and like the others has na‹ve foliage and scroll designs in punchwork.

The brasswares this craftsman produced bear dates ranging from 1652 (the date of the pen case) to 1656. The punchwork inscription 'I was in Sheffeid made & many can Witness: I was not made by any man' has been linked to another inscription, virgo me fecit ('a maiden made me'), found on similar small brass wares. Both refer to a maker of brasswares named Maden or Madin. A family of cutlers with this surname was working in Sheffield in the late 17th century and this craftsman was probably one of their forebears.

Some of these sealing-wax cases are decorated with distinctly Royalist symbols, such as crowned portraits of Charles I. All the brass cases by this maker discovered so far bear dates within the period of the Commonwealth (1649-60). It has been suggested that they were made specifically for Royalist supporters. The cryptic inscriptions in Latin were an ingenious way of concealing the true identity of the maker at a time when Royalist sympathies were unfashionable and dangerous.


1652 (made)


Madin, Thomas (maker)

Marks and inscriptions

Inscribed 'Virgo me fecit in Sheffield 1652'


Height: 11.2 cm, Width: 2.5 cm, Depth: 4 cm

Descriptive line

Pen-case and inkwell

Labels and date

British Galleries:

A Sheffield craftsman named Madin or Maden made these pieces, who signed his work 'Virgo', a pun on 'maiden'. The sealing wax case carries a portrait of Charles I on the hinge. If Madin worked for Royalist clients this may explain his disguised name and cryptic inscriptions. [27/03/2003]

Production Note

Signed and dated 1652


Tools & Equipment


Metalwork Collection

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