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Monday, August 8, 2011

An Allentown bookseller's cup of tea



Carrying on with the theme of the previous post (die-cut trade cards for booksellers), here is a trade card for an Allentown, Pennsylvania (nod to Antiquarian Holographica) bookseller--Shafer's New Bible House, which sold Bibles, of course, but also a wide variety of books, as well as albums and stationery.

The cup-and-saucer shape of this trade card is an interesting choice for a bookseller. I wonder why not a book, as used quite effectively by a bookseller featured in the previous post about a Cooperstown bookseller? It may have had some metaphorical meaning to the shop owner or it may have just been eye-catching and readily available, or even one of a variety of cards used by the proprietor. Or maybe it was just his cup of tea or that of certain customers for whom he reserved this special card. Then again, most Victorian-era trade cards I've seen for booksellers and other businesses sport images that have nothing to do with the businesses they represent.

Mr. Shafer got a fine write-up in the 1881 publication, Manufacturing and mercantile resources of the Lehigh Valley, including historical sketches of the prominent towns: A descriptive, industrial and statistical review. Progress. Enterprise. Development.  (Industrial Publications Company of Philadelphia). His business on North 7th Street was viewed as one of the best of its kind in Allentown. As a native of that city, Shafer knew his fellow citizens and he knew books. Though he specialized in Bibles and Testaments, he strove for a variety of miscellaneous books, among other items, that would provide the most beneficial reading for his community.

He appears to have used his own imprint and improved bindings on some of the books he purchased. The latter would explain why the American Bookbinders Museum site displays a Shafer's ticket, though bookbinder is not specifically indicated on the ticket. It could very well have been the bookseller's label. I was hoping to find another example at the great Seven Roads Gallery, but no luck there.

From the publication referenced above, in the styled prose of the era, here is the complete description of Shafer's business, for which a knowledge of books and customers and dedication to both were the ultimate cup of tea for this bookseller:


SHAFER'S NEW BIBLE HOUSE,
J. Alfred Shafer, Prop., 134 North Seventh Street.
 
Establishments of this kind, well stocked with the latest publications, are not confined to the great cities, but will be found in every city and town, thus evidencing the intelligence of the community and at the same time furnishing the rising generation with facilities for extending their store of knowledge.

One of the leading stores in Allentown in this department of trade, and one that has a reputation peculiarly its own, is that known as Shafer's New Bible House. He occupies a desirable store, and carries an extensive, stock of Bibles and Testaments, of which goods he makes a specialty, and also carries a complete line of Miscellaneous Books, Albums, Stationery, etc. No establishment in the city has any finer variety or a stock more extended in its subjects.

He deals extensively in the latest standard works, many of those which he sells with his own imprint upon them, and in many respects much improved by handsome binding that is placed on them by his direction. Persons desirous of securing Standard and Miscellaneous Books, will find at this house a variety worthy their attention.

Mr. Shafer is a native of Allentown, and not only thoroughly understands the book trade, but has done much to promote the circulation of useful and beneficial reading in this community.

His establishment presents a scene of busy activity, and the proprietor is fast pushing his way to the very front rank in the business.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Mischief in a Cooperstown book shop

Revisiting Cooperstown (see Delos M. Wood, Cooperstown Bookseller), here is an elaborately designed trade card for another Victorian-era, Cooperstown bookseller: S.J.W. Reynolds.


The die-cut card conveys an image, rich in colorful, busy detail, appropriately in the shape of a book. The binding provides the business vitals, while the cover invokes an imaginative scene of mischievous elves at play while the owner's away (actually, he's just returned and caught them in the act). This scene also provides more opportunity for advertising some of the shop's products for sale--writing instruments, ink, periodicals, and assorted categories of books.

I can date this to the 1880s or 1890s. I have found copies of Phinney's Calendar, or Western Almanac, 1885-1886, that show Reynolds as the publisher. So add that to this bookseller's resume. Also in 1890, a sales ad in a volume of Publisher's Weekly for Reynolds' bound collection of a full run of Century Magazine and a Cooperstown map that lists Reynolds' business.

By 1902, Reynolds can be found as a County Clerk for Fulton County (home to Cooperstown), but I don't know if that means he got out of the bookselling business. The trail goes cold here.

On a related ephemera note, the lithography for this card was done by the firm Mayer, Merkel & Ottmann of New York. Dick Sheaff has their trade card on his excellent ephemera site (one of the best!) Sheaff : ephemera, a visual feast of vintage paper.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Nun's Reading Habit

I have here a series of old monthly statements from various publishers and booksellers, 1906-1908, that involve book orders by a Sister Mary Ursula of St. Mary's Academy and Sacred Heart Academy (Gray Nuns) of Ogdensburg, New York.

To say, as the title of this post suggests, that this small collection of business correspondence reflects Sister Mary Ursula's reading habit is probably inaccurate (but I couldn't resist the play on words!).

However, these statements  do reflect that she did buy books and other items from, appropriately enough, Christian, Catholic,and educational publishers. Sister Mary Ursula was likely influential in the reading curriculum of her students at St. Mary's Academy, so it may have been their reading habits she was cultivating through her purchase with these companies.

Of the six statements below, only one actually indicates the books ordered. From Carey-Stafford Co., Publishers, Booksellers and Importers in New York City, Sister Mary Ursula ordered one 4-volume set of Apparitions. This single copy indicates an acquisition for a library.


Jan 1 1906 H.L Kilner & Co Catholic Publishers & Manufactuers of Vestments & Catholic goods 824 Arch St. Philadelphia


July 1 1908 Houghton Mifflin & Co Boston Mass
October 1 1908 H.L Kilner & Co Catholic Publishers & Manufacturers of Vestments & Catholic goods 824 Arch St. Philadelphia


Oct 23 1908 Librairie J A Jacques 94 Mechanic Street, Worchester MA



Jan 2 1908 Prang Educational Company 113 University Place NY NY (auditors request for balance due)



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