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The Collation

"What manner o' thing is your crocodile?": June edition

This month’s crocodile mystery will hopefully be less mysterious than last month’s, which was a bit unclear as to what you were meant to be focusing on. Take a gander at the picture below, keeping in mind, as always, that the object might not be depicted at life-size and that you can click on the image to enlarge it in a new window.

click to embiggen

Leave your suggestions and comments below and stay tuned for the revelation in a future post. And if you have suggestions for future crocodile mysteries, feel free to shoot me an email.


If it were not for the three studs, bolts, rivets, or whatever they are I’d say it was a printing plate. Of course size matters and without knowing that it is fairly hard to guess for what this is being used for if it is indeed a printing plate. Of course the slot on the right might mean that, depending on size, this is part of a buckle of some kind.

William Proctor Williams — June 7, 2012

It looks like leather to me, though it’s probably some sort of metal. And it’s mostly legible — I think I can see ‘maria gracia’ — and not backwards as a printing plate would be. But it’s just as obscure as last month’s; a bit more context would help.

William Ingram — June 7, 2012

Perhaps the catch-plate on a binding; I make out “maria gratia”, but not the first word or abbreviation. The slot does seem more as if it would mate to a strip of material rather than a clasp.

John Lancaster — June 7, 2012

A church donation box

John Russell — June 8, 2012

John Lancaster’s on the right track. I take the first word to be “Ave,” customary for this prayer. I agree that it’s a catch plate.

Stephen Ferguson — June 9, 2012

I think perhaps John Lancaster and John Russell are both right. Could it be a lid for a collection box, the donation being made after the saying of one, or many, “Hail Mary full of grace. . . .”?

William Proctor Williams — June 9, 2012

Kudos to John Lancaster who was indeed on the right track: it’s the catch to a fifteenth-century binding clasp. I reveal all–including the nice touch that the plate’s “ave maria gratia” mirrors the “ave maria” tooled into the binding–in today’s post, “Binding clasps.” Thanks, all, for playing along! And don’t forget, if you have suggestions for future crocodiles, shoot me an email at

Sarah Werner — June 11, 2012