This lovely letter holder could be a Bradley Hubbard and in trying to verify this, I discovered the reason for the round holes in the bottom of the holder. I thought they were for air circulation, or ease of cleaning. Letter holders are bad about collecting dust on the base, and the holes would help with prevention and cleaning, I thought.
Until I ran across this image of the bottom of a Bradley and Hubbard inkwell.
|Ornate Bradley Hubbard gift inkwell from Ebay. Click here for more info about the inkwell.|
This is the brilliance of machine age designers! They would have created a basic base, with holes that could be used as inkwell holders, or ignored, and you can change the top pieces to make it a letter holder. Additionally, the ornate Art Nouveau plates could be used for the back plate of the inkwell or as the face plates/sides of the letter holder. On both items the ornate plate is added in one set of holes, with the inkwell utilizing the front holes for hooks to hold the pen and the letter holder adding the other peice- they are reversable. You can see on the bottom of my letter holder that the center holes are different from the side holes; they have honing marks around them. I think, they drilled these holes, after casting, for the center piece of letter holder. They had to grind off the filings to smooth the piece and that is why they look different
Previous to the Industrial Revolution there was no need to consider the advantages of making one item, or part, to serve two purposes. The real advantage of this types of design work is the ability of current artisans to study the transition from the uniquely produced item to the production item. As people are again desiring work be made by hand, locally, or at least by a person, these pieces can aid the artisan into the history of the transition to production work and teach them how to make their workshops more productive, profitable, and competitive in a global market. It is great to see an early design for good thoughtful design!