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The Somerton Man Case. The body of a man found on an Australian beach close to a major Atomic Testing ground, he was probably poisoned, a copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and an unbroken Code page found and associated to him. Set against a Cold War background in 1948, was this man a spy? We think so and this blog focuses on the evidence that was left behind and in some cases missed, the Code page, Dry Cleaning numbers, A Poem and a small, torn piece of paper bearing the words TAMAM SHUD.

Monday, 19 June 2017

SOMERTON MAN: MICRO WRITING, HAY BANKNOTES & MICRO NEWSPAPERS



THE ECHO MARCH 3RD 1885



Someone very kindly gave me copies of 3, miniature, newspapers dating back to the 1880's and 90's. The copy of The Echo above is in fact an 8 page version, 1 sheet folded in 4 and then both sides printed. The examples I have show printed letters at a height of between .25 mm and .5 mm, interestingly you can actually make them out with the naked eye and quite clearly see them with spectacles or a small magnifying glass.

This conclusively proves that such sized lettering is not on the edge of perception as those lacking in knowledge would have you believe. Writing of this size is very definitely doable and legible.



All by itself it's very interesting to see the result of skills and a craft probably now long forgotten. But there are other aspects that will be of interest to the followers of the Somerton Man case.
First of all, how was this micro type actually achieved? It was a photo process, in fact it was called the 'photo-zinco' process first developed in the 1850s, there is some argument as to who developed it first, an Englishman, Sir Henry James or an Australian, John Walter Osborne. In the end it was all but a tie but Sir Henry won the day by a smidgen and he had to acknowledge the work of Captain A. de C. Scott head of the photography department at Southampton who had in fact done much of the research and development.

The motivation for the invention was Ordnance Survey maps, the long used method of pantagraphs were clumsy and often produced inaccurate results. 

Photo-Zinco Tools

It didn't take long for this new technique to spread across the printing world and many works of literature were quickly converted and in one famous example, The Domesday Book was copied in this way. Of course it wasn't long before the world of banking and banknotes were suitably enamoured with the development. One of the major drawbacks was the fact that the process only produced outcomes in mono tone, so no colour with early maps produced by the process being hand coloured.

The bank notes struck a chord, was this or a similar process used by George Teltscher of Hay Banknote fame? It seems to have been a fairly simple process and the basics would have been available to him. The banknotes at Hay were duo-tone as in Green or Red or Blue so that should not have presented a problem.

On another point for consideration, the process relied on a camera set up for certain but it also required zinc plate and a camel hair brush or similar. A screwdriver would have been handy and even a sharpened knife to trim and perhaps add some fine details. The sorts of things found in the Somerton Man suitcase.

Effectively, this was an early form of a photocopier, I wonder whether this method could have been used to copy and produce false imprints of well known books?

You can read more about Photo-Zincography here:



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