This lock was made by the British blacksmith John Wilkes around 1680. It can be considered the masterpiece for the security closures of the seventeenth century, an inextricable enigma for those who had tried to access the contents of the closet which closed. The lock was made of steel and brass, and has several moving parts which, when combined, allow numerous operations to control access, opening, closing and numbering of the openings.
But why so much security?
If today the most important documents are often contained in files and electronic supports, once they were, of course, written documents, sometimes written with secret information capable of destroy a King or an entire State!
Such a lock would have been fitted to the door of a private closet, where important business took place.
The front of the lock is engraved with the verse:
If I had ye gift of tongue
I would declare and do no wrong
Who ye are ye come by stealth
To impare my Master’s wealth.
Signed: Johannes Wilkes, de Birmingham Fecit
But how did the lock work?
This “detector” lock shows how many times a door had been unlocked by means of a numbered dial set to the right of the clock. The soldier at the center is, intuitively, the key to everything: he holds a pointer against the dial. Each time the key is turned in the lock, the engraved dials rotates and the pointer indicates a number. The key-hole is concealed by the man’s front leg, which operates on a pivot. When a button is pressed, the leg swings forward to reveal the keyhole. The door-bolt is released by tilting the man’s hat.