Not content with creating his immense Mabie Todd list, John Brindle has given me another list, this one the result of his observations of Onotos over a period. I think it’s fair to say that though mysteries remain, the Mabie Todd numbering system is no longer the impenetrable puzzle it once was. There are some rare colours and numbers to be matched up. An explanation is needed for those pens that start with 6. The combined efforts of a number of individuals over a couple of years have shown the way the numbers work. It’s a pair of fairly simple codes, in effect, with the odd anomaly. Once you get a hang of how it works, the mystery blows away like a morning mist.
Studying the Onoto list, no such consistency leaps out at me. If you can see a coherent whole in this pot-pourri of numbers, you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din (allowing for the fact that I’m not a man and nor really, for that matter, is the fictional Gunga Din), as Kipling repeatedly said. The low two-digit models like 14 and 16 could be part of a design run, but then it leaps to 30 and we discover that these higher numbers were made in Australia, some as late as 1960. And what about the 4-figure numbers; what do they denote? The last digit sometimes seems to relate to the number of cap rings; other times it clearly doesn’t. And, of course, many have no number at all.
It’s perfectly possible that there is no crackable (is that a word? It is now) code, but just numbers that relate only to entries in a long-ago destroyed book, a bit like Conway Stewart. Or it may be a bit of both, some code, some merely reference.
Deb, awaiting enlightenment.