Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Google Translate and tiny printer names

Recently I compiled a list of the printing houses identified on the bonds and shares illustrated in the blog. Some of these printers have produced bonds and shares over many decades and in different styles. It shouldn't be a surprise that people start a collection of certificates made by their favorite printer, such as Waterlow & Sons, Richard or Cote Libre. But the quest is not always straightforward.

There is always a possibility that one can't detect a printer name on a certificate. The reason why may be simple. Sometimes the design did not include a printer name. Or, speaking for myself in this case, the name can not be identified because you don't know how to read the language.

This ¥25 million stock certificate for 500,000 Hitachi shares of ¥50 is an undated specimen (見 本) from the 1970s. Its vignettes show the company's logo, a power transformer and an electric locomotive.

As a kid I was mesmerized by the sparkling Hitachi modular Hi-Fi systems on display in a local shop. Hitachi, Ltd., a Japanese multinational conglomerate company, has been active in many fields of technology such as electric and nuclear power installations, electric engines and locomotives, military vehicles, supercomputers and communication technology. Today, Hitachi has about 300,000 employees.

The illustrated Hitachi share shows the name of its printer at the bottom. It's in Japanese. That's out of my depth but there is a work-around.

I once wrote about What you can do with Google Translate on your smartphone. In that article, I showed you how to deal with scripophily catalogs in an unknown language. I tried that same approach, this time on the printer name of the Hitachi share. It did not work.

The name of printer was too small, less than 2cm, about two grains of rice long. The characters, less than 1.5 mm wide, were too small for my camera to be recognized. If I could only provide a larger image. Now, that thought turned out to be a step in the right direction. 

high resolution scan of printer name, taken at 600 dpi

I put the certificate on the image scanner. I set the scanning properties to a high resolution of 600 dots per inch to get a large and clear image of that line of text. I narrowed the scan area to a rectangle surrounding the text. The resulting image, see above, was saved.

Next, I opened the saved image file on the PC screen, and started the Google Translate app on the smartphone. Language parameters were set : 
  • Text to translate from : Japanese
  • Text to translate into : English
I pointed the camera to the image on the PC screen and pressed the camera icon in the app.

The Google Translate software tried to recognize the words that were captured by the camera. It was necessary to find the right distance between the camera and the computer screen by holding the phone closer to and further from the screen. Then the answer appeared on the phone : Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd. Got it !

The text on the share actually shows two words 大日本印刷株式会社 and 印刷. The first part says  Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd., the second part - which occurs also in the first part - means 'printing'. I guess the entire line means '(a) printing of the Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd.'.

Here is another example of a Dai Nippon Printing certificate. Note that the name of the printer here is written from right to left.

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. 
100 Shares of 50 Yen, specimen stock certificate, 1968 

The Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd., (Dai Nippon Insatsu) was organized in 1935 as a merger between the Shueisha printing house and the Nisshin Printing Co., Ltd. After WWII the company began printing new banknotes for Japan. In 1949 its Enokicho plant started producing share certificates.

What I like about Dai Nippon Printing certificates are the fine patterns and guilloches produced in subtle color tints in the underprint. You can check this blog's printer page to find another Dai Nippon Printing share.


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