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Sunday, May 23, 2010

A plate of Belgian lace

I have a chromolithograph plate, for which I am trying to find the book it once illustrated. If I can properly identify the book, I'm sure I can find it.


I blogged about this mystery three years ago, pre-Bibliophemera, dusted it off, and thought it appropriate content now for this venue. Close enough anyway.

This plate was not created as a piece of ephemera, rather a lasting contribution to a book that should still be around somewhere. But separated from its book, this illustration had recently become thrift shop ephemera, which if not purchased may have wound up in the trash. I found the folio-size plate (12 X 17 inches) hanging in a resale shop several years ago and walked out with it for $7.

Bargain? I don't know for sure (the dampstain doesn't help), but I do know that it reminded me of a trip to Belgium with my wife some years ago, walking through the old city of Bruges along the aged cobblestone streets, window shopping for chocolate and lace, which the area is known for. And so I'm sure sentimental reasons factored into the decision to make the purchase. That and I love a good bibliomystery! I wanted to know the antiquarian work from which this plate had been extracted.

The title of the plate is Brussels Lace, by V. Washer of Brussels. In small print above the title, and just below the chromolithograph, are some good bibliographic clues that help identify the book:

London. Chromolithographed and published by Day & Son,
Lithographers to the Queen
J.B. Waring, direx.t



This information helped me locate a few copies of a book, or set of books, that may be a good candidate for having contained this plate: Masterpieces of Industrial Art & Sculpture at the International Exposition, 1862 (3-volume set), edited by J.B. Waring. There are more than 300 chromolithograph plates in the set. Other books I found were ruled out if the number of plates in the book were less than than 109, which is the number assigned to this plate.

The International Exhibit was like a World's Fair exhibition of culture and industry taht began in 1851 in London and was held again in London in 1862. Images, like the one below, of the 1862 Exhibit can be found at the Science and Society Picture Library site.



If indeed the above book does include the Brussels Lace, I may have even found the lithographer who actually did the chromolithographs for the book. Researching the International Exhibition of 1862 led me to a related book, Victorian Decorated Trade Bindings 1830-1880, by Edmund M.B. King, Oak Knoll Press (2003). An excerpt of the book referenced William Robert Tymms, artist and engraver, who created the chromolithographs for J. B. Waring’s Masterpieces of the Industrial Art & Sculpture at the International Exhibition, 1862.

All I need now is a copy of Waring's set of books to prove my detective work is on target. I've seen a few copies in the neighborhood of $2,500.00. I won't be visiting that neighborhood anytime soon. Perhaps a few queries will turn up something...

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