Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cut Rectangles Seize the Day

I have not hidden my affection for the early CTs, but the later ones have stories too. The cut rectangles and ovals speak out about how the industrial revolution and improved communication transformed the CT landscape. Tokens began to look more alike in the mid-1840s: churches compared notes and token merchants struck (and molded) more and more CTs.
An oval type cut rectangle from
Govan in Lanark dated 1821
     I have already mentioned that over a third of all CTs are rectangular. And 80% of these have cut corners. It is the most utilitarian shape of all. Sharp corner points are not friendly to the hand, so they are cut. The elongated shape allows easy grasping -- plus it is easier to hand it over to the elder collecting them at the communion service. The broad face also allows more data to be squeezed within the rims. Quite a design!
     As a group, cut rectangles are more attractive than the old ones. Engraving and die-sinking were improved; in fact, many cut rectangles were produced on a screw or steam press. Letter and number punches were used to create the dies. As such, Bible verses placed on the reverse became popular. No longer did the elders walk down the stoney path to the plumber's cottage and ask for stone molds to be cut with a few letters and a date. Rather, the elders in the industrial era visited a workshop where they were presented with a several broad shapes and lettering styles to choose from.
     For collectors, the cut rectangles provide a great opportunity to get started. The high quality and uniformity make for attractive sets. Like the early squares, the date fanatics can assemble as set with every year represented for 1830 to 1880. A bit of hunting will get you most of the 1820s too. And of course, do not forget the Balquhidder cut rectangle of 1778. Cut rectangles are inexpensive too, as most sell for under $20 with a few nicer ones costing less than twice that.
A cut rectangle with horizontal
lettering from late in the CT era.
This piece from Glasgow.
     Two major types of cut rectangles are immediately obvious: those with ovals and those without ovals. The oval motif is similar to the Glasgow-styled straight rectangles. Cut rectangles with ovals represent an earlier type that was most popular in the 1830s and 1840s. They are fewer too. One out of six cut rectangles have this oval arrangement. As you may have guessed, over half of them come from shires adjacent to Lanark; hence, this is a regional design. But what about the other half? Well, good ideas travel far and wide (so do ministers). In fact, we can find Glasgow-styled squares, straight and cut rectangles across the Atlantic in Canada. The oval motif on cut-rectangles disappeared as the 1840s progressed. Simplicity prevailed: horizontal lettering became the preferred (or cheaper) style. You could see it coming on the reverse, as most of the Bible verses were organized in three or four horizontal lines. By the 1850s, the decorative oval designs were largely gone. The latest cut rectangles were all business -- very proper.

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