Dear MMd's, Musical snuffboxes from the XIXth century are very often
found in black "composition cases", as written in the catalogues from
Christie's and Sotheby's.
These composition cases are different from wooden cases, of course,
and from tortoise shell cases. Tortoise shell cases may be recognized
because they are more or less translucent to the light.
"Composition cases" are made of a non-translucent black stuff which
seems to have been pressed (probably with heat), and allows decoration
sometimes rough, sometimes very elaborate, depicting scenes, famous
buildings, mythological or humorous scenes, or more simply a basket
of flowers or purely geometrical decoration.
In French, this black stuff is often called "sang de boeuf"
(oxen blood!), because it is supposed to be made of sawdust ?
crushed brick ? soot ?, and with oxen blood as gluing material.
I have heard other possible ingredients such as shellac, ceramic dust,
horn dust and so on.
It actually seems that there are several kinds of "composition"
material, as the good or early snuffbox cases keep a fine black
appearance, whereas late ones seem to be thicker and turn in a kind
of undefined dirty chestnut colour when aging.
I'd really like to know if someone _really_ knows the materials which
make these "composition cases". Probably this stuff was described in
articles in old magazines (of mechanical music societies, or of
magazines at the turn of the century), but I could not find it.
(Etienne Blyelle told me it was described at the turn of the century in
an article of "La Nature", but we could not find the reference ...).
Philippe Rouille (Paris, France)
[ A quick search with Alta Vista indicates that the French term
[ "sang de boeuf" is nowadays used mostly for the "ox blood" glaze
[ applied to fine Chinese porcelain of the T'ang Dynasty. -- Robbie