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I recently picked this up and was wondering if it is an ashtray or something else. Looks like cast brass with a pull out drawer and a curved rack of some kind.

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pipe stand ? 

I am thinking it is a cigarette "dispenser/holder", mostly because the racks might hold cigars, but I don't think people leave them out in the open air like that.

Possibly, but the racks are 3 3/4" apart and graduated from about 1/4" wide at the top to about 1/2" at the bottom. They wouldn't be wide enough for a cigar. very strange.

by the dimensions you just stated i am thinking more that is is for pens and and inkwell 

That also crossed my mind too. The circular base looks like it could hold an inkwell and fountain pens would probably fit in the holders.

Victorian era brass (?) pen holder. Round part holds a fancy round bottom

glass ink jar. The drawer holds boxes of nibs (pen points), paper clips, scissors, etc., round wooden thing might be a handle, or a rack to dry wet copy, or a paper dispenser--does it come off easily? Like a paper towel holder?

Image result for brass calligraphy pens holder

Yep, Tom is correct, I have seen many such pen holders before.  Yours, Bill,  has a draw to house writing papers, inks and additional nibs etc...

Thanks Michael. Definitely makes more sense than a pipe holder/ashtray as it was presented at the estate sale. Lol.

I think you are spot on. The top cross bar is the same metal and is not removable, so it could be a handle or a drying rack. Different size fountain pens would fit into the curled holders. Looks like that is what it is to me. Thanks.

It certainly could be a writing stand, but I think we need to know exact dimensions before we say for certain?

If for instance, it is more like 1.5 to 3' width by 7-10" high - then I would think that the circle in center held a tobacco jar - With a lid, like a humidor. Then the slots would be to hold your various pipes. I've seen this type sit atop the little smoking stands that were very popular in the 1880 - 1920 time frame. 

But, if this is very small - the size of an inkwell, then absolutely the writing stand works!

Here's another "Victorian pen and ink holder".  Not for tobacco. This one is currently for sale and has 18 bids, $86.00 USD bid.

If you google:  victorian brass ink pen holder, and click "Images" you will see all sorts of them.

Image result for victorian brass ink pen holder

Thanks. I'm sure that's what we have here.

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