Adhesives and repair tapes are essential tools in any museum collections department. Sadly, none of those used at Whangārei Museum are packaged quite as prettily as this 1920s reel of Nulli Secundus tape.
Housed in a red cylindrical tinplate reel is a roll of matching red linen adhesive tape that was recently acquired by the museum.
Gold writing advertises the product as "Adhesive tape for repairing music & books" with "British Manufacture". A die-cut tinplate butterfly adorns the top of the roll above the branding "Nulli Secundus Brand Registered Design".
The range of Nulli Secundus stationary was produced by brand Samuel Jones & Co and included a similar reel of light brown waxed paper tape. As well as fixing music (sheet) and books, this tape could be used to mend bank notes. Nulli secundus is Latin for "second to none".
The Jones paper company was founded in 1810 by Londoner Edward Jones, who started in the paper staining business at the age of 10 years. Later on Edward purchased a mill in Pickford, Hertfordshire, England and ran a business as a wholesale stationer and hot presser.
His business was later expanded by his son Samuel who gave his name "Samuel Jones" to the company. In turn, Samuel's son James took over in 1874, adding on the "and Company" to the business name.
Since 1840, letters were prepaid for by adhering on a stamp, as we do today. The earliest stamps were made sticky by hand rolling or brushing acacia gum on their reverse.
Companies like Samuel Jones specialised in producing pre-gummed papers for self-adhesive stamps and posters. In the early 1900s, the business expanded through revolutions in the process of mass printing blank sheets of gummed paper which did not curl (a previous problem) to provide to printers.
Due to their success the company had mills in Camberwell, Surrey, Letchworth, St Neots and Ware in England and in Tillicoultry, Scotland. At this point they were also producing gummed tapes and were operating from a London office.
To date our little red tape reel, we had to look at various developments. The iconic branding was a good place to start. Advertising shows that from 1912 Samuel Jones and Co started to use their iconic butterfly emblem, based on the Camberwell Beauty butterfly (Vanessa antiopa).
While a butterfly seems an odd advertisement for gummed paper, the connection lies in their Camberwell mill location, while the more important purpose was to highlight their ability to print multiple colours at once with a yellow, blue and black butterfly.
By the 1920s, Samuel Jones & Co had become a limited company and in 1929 advertised coated papers, fancy papers, sealing and labelling machines, bottled gum and "many stationery lines", including Nulli Secundus.
The fineness of the gold lettering and butterfly logo suggest that our red tape is an early piece from the post-1929 Nulli Secundus stationery line, as a later model in the British Museum features bolder white writing and logo, reminiscent of 1930s advertising.
The firm continued until, in 1966, it joined the Wiggis Teape Group. Their historic successes include a contract to produce Births stamps, being the first makers of self-adhesive labels, ticket development with London Transport and even patents for fire extinguishers.
It is amazing how much history can be bottled up in such a small artefact; a functional and beautiful result of one of Britain's leading stationary enterprises.
• Georgia Kerby is exhibitions curator, Whangārei Museum at Kiwi North.