The mystery radio that wasn’t…

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Julian Stargardt, who shares the following in response to our recent mystery radio post:

Deciphering Dan Robinson’s mystery photo from the Marvellous Mrs Maizel


  1. The object at the right background below the painting and behind the cravat wearing adult male’s raised hand is a chair with 4 or 5 old leather bound books stacked on it. Thanks to Bill Hemphill WD9EQD for suggesting chair(s)! It was a big hint.
  2. The object with a white frame that’s almost flush with the wall at the extreme lefthand side – to the left of the book case – maybe a mirror or an alcove, difficult to say. It is above a shallow built in cupboard that looks like a book cabinet to me.
  3. Slightly toward the foreground visually in front of the low level cupboard is a corner of a brown wood table.
  4. There is a ledge or mantelpiece beneath and in front of the mirror/alcove(?) and bookcase. On this shelf at the lefthand side there is another stack of 3 leather bound books with a glass paperweight(?) on top of the top volume. Behind the stack of books, either a reflection in the mirror, if it is a mirror, or in the alcove, if it is an alcove, are some other indistinct objects. From Dan’s photo, I don’t think it’s a painting, but it might be.

Steps to solution

Key items in the photo:

  1. Child and adult (“pianists”) at the piano
  2. Piano
  3. Wall and features of the wall behind the pianists
  4. Gilt framed painting at the righthand side of the photo
  5. Below the painting is a difficult to interpret composite object. To resolve the identity of the composite object, I copied and pasted the image to a word document, then pasted the image again and cropped it to focus in on the composite object. Looking at the image of the composite object several components become apparent: (i) a slightly curved and tilted vertical brown frame surrounding with a gap on either side (ii) an unornamented white panel, (iii) an object or stack of objects in front of the vertical white panel, (iv) at the extreme bottom right hand side of the frame an angle, a close to a right angle that transitions the rear slightly curved and tilted vertical brown frame to a horizontal frame containing a padded off white insert that matches the vertical off white insert surrounded by the vertical brown frame, ergo a chair, (v) so what is or are the object(s) on the chair? They are objects, i.e. there are more than one. These objects are 4 or 5 leather bound books, see 2 below.
  6. Book case with diagonal wire lattice security doors containing mostly leather bound books on 3 shelves that are visible or implied
  7. Shelf below bookcase
  8. Small stack of 3 leatherbound books and glass paperweight(?) at lefthand side
  9. Alcove/mirror/painting behind the stack of 3 books and glass object at the lefthand side – how do I know it’s glass and likely a paperweight? (i) Glass: Because the frame behind it can be seen indistinctly through it, (ii) Paperweight: because of its shape and size and apparent mass, seems likely to be a solid or near solid object
  10. Right angled brown object at left hand side – looks most likely to be a table

  1. Just to throw the viewer off the mark, many of the books in the image have broken or damaged spines revealing the underlying binding, this makes it difficult from this photo to confirm if there are 4 or 5 books in the stack on the chair. It’s possible that there is a bottom-most thin dark bound book at the bottom, an alternative interpretation is that this bottom-most object is the bottom cover of the book resting on the chair.
  2. (a) The books in the photo seem to be at most quarto or small folio in size, with most being octavo or smaller. (b) From the usual size of a chair my guess is that the 4 or books on the chair are all quarto or small folio sized. (c) From the bindings and the state of the bindings, I’d guess that they are mostly mid to late 19th century books, possibly early 20th century.
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5 thoughts on “The mystery radio that wasn’t…

  1. jack dully

    Possibily a speaker Rt. or Left hooked up to the piano or a stereo system (not seen).At first I thought a router for wi-fi but no antennas,then I noticed what appears to be a cloth covered speaker grill,or a watchamacallit to be sure


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