Shakespeare's portrait on a Bois Durci circular plaque, c 1860.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Plaque commemorating English playwright, actor and poet William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Bois Durci (literally translated: 'hardened wood') was patented by Francois Charles Lepage in 1856. It was made from a combination of powdered wood and blood (which Lepage obtained from the Paris slaughterhouses), together with vegetable, mineral or metallic powders. The mixture was heated and stirred until it attained the required consistency, before being moulded in heated moulds to produce the final object. Lepage claimed that his Bois Durci was a substitute for various natural substances, including wood, leather, bone and metal. He established a company which specialised in making desk items such as inkwell stands and plaques from the material.