The Fascinating World Of Antique Secret Concealment Devices

Favourite Finds


Ahoy there!  Welcome to another instalment of 'Blog Post Monday' and it's warm one today, blimey!

While out and about this week I stumbled across a curiosity that got my tingles buzzing.  You know how much I like my oddities and this piece sent my imagination wild.  From murder mysteries and extraordinary prison breaks, to James Bond MI5 business, this little find made me feel like a child again, so it came home with me.  And, it's the subject of this week's blog post.

So, as always, get that kettle on, I'll have mine "shaken, not stirred", as we take a look into the fascinating world of secret concealment devices and their different forms, and uses, throughout history...


 Image:  my 19th century French secret concealment book


Concealment devices have been used throughout history and were essentially created to hide things for the purpose of secrecy or security.  They were made from ordinary household object such as books and candles or something as small as a coin.  The idea is that such an inconspicuous object would not be expected to contain anything of worth.


Image:  my 19th century French secret concealment book


Examples in espionage include dead drop spikes for transferring items to other people, or hollowed out teeth for concealing something - such as microfilm or a suicide pill.  In fact, during World War II many concealment devices were created for "escape aids" to assist prisoners of war to escape.


Image:  radio hidden in a book (This was commonly done in WW2 to hide radios from the German occupiers)


Starting in World War I and still continuing today, military personnel use ammunition casings to hide small amounts of critical information, for examples encryption or recognition codes, or navigational grid references etc.  A small piece of paper with writing on it can be stored inside. Given that ammunition can be found everywhere in a combat zone, it was very easy to hide or discard such items because they blended in easily. 


Image:  a book used to conceal a small pistol


Books are another example of a secret concealment device.  They were easily made and could contain objects of varying size.  They have been used throughout history to conceal anything from jewellery and money within the home, to more sinister items such as small pistols.  


Image:  a concealment device in the form of a coin


Coins were another excellent way of secretly carrying items, such as pills or tiny poisoned needles, and as they resembled ordinary pocket change, it was virtually undetectable as a concealment device.  They were created from two ordinary coins, by milling out one face and the interior of both coins to create a cavity, and the edges of one so it could slide into the other.


Image:  a 17th century 'Assassin's Cabinet'


Image:  a 17th century 'Assassin's Cabinet'


And, this is probably the best of the bunch (pictured above and below), 'The Assassin's Cabinet', a hollowed out book containing secret drawers full of poison plants!


Image:  a 17th century 'Assassin's Cabinet'


A decade ago, this hollowed-out book (pictured above) dated 1682 went up for auction at German house and these photos certainly captivate the imagination!


Image:  my 19th century French secret concealment book


Anyway, that's it for this week folks!  I hope you've enjoyed this fascinating insight into the creative world of concealment devices, I certainly have!  As always, let me know what you think in the comments section below.

In the meantime, you'll be pleased to hear that my 19th century French secret concealment book is currently available to buy HERE



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So, until next week, stay safe, keep buying those antiques and keep spreading that Source Vintage love!




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