Posts

Showing posts from January, 2010

The stubborn Book Man of Portland, Indiana

Image
Here's a letter from an Indiana bookseller in 1907, more notable for its letterhead than anything else I can find about its author. In addition to books and Bibles, The Book Man sold magazines and stationery along with games, pictures, and miscellaneous items. O.L. Hall, who billed himself as "The Book Man," typed this out, perhaps from his book shop, one summer day more than a hundred years ago in Portland, Indiana . His Walt Whitmanesque pose (Whitman below) makes for an impressive centerpiece in his letterhead. Mr. Hall's tone in this letter to the Liss Mapping Co., in Lima, Ohio, shows his patience is wearing thin with the mapmakers a few counties over in the next state. He's not about to let unanswered letters and a little detail about Liss having gone out of business deter him from getting what he wants. He stubbornly makes another request in one long, rambling sentence: Gentlemen; I have written you twice, and received no answer and I have been infor

Ramon Adams and "the work of an idiot printer"

Image
Ramon F. Adams was a prolific author, bibliographer and lexicographer on the subject of cowboys, range life, and the American West. The "idiot printer" is Bill Wittliff (he wrote it, not me! see below), whose Encino Press published this piece shown below in 1967. Mr. Wittliff's inscribed bit of self-deprecating humor graces the backside of a piece of printed ephemera from my recent acquisition of Wittliff/Encino Press material. Why Wittliff refers to himself this way, I'm not sure. An inside joke peraps, or just his sense of humor. Whatever, I'm glad he added this personal touch. It made me smile. I know it's his writing because all the other pieces in the batch of his epehemera I obtained have his handwriting in either initials or signed inscriptions. This appears to be a mock-up or announcement of some sort for the forthcoming book by Ramon F. Adams : A Cowman & His Philosophy . The Ramon Adams Collection at the Texas/Dallas History and Archive

A few words about printed ephemera

Image
Here's a nice descriptive piece about printed ephemera, which I was pleased to receive from William R. Holman . It was a nice surprise and most appreciated. I tried fitting it into the side column for permanent display, as its wordsmithing is most appropriate for this blog. But it just wasn't readable scaled down to fit. So here it is in a regular post, which is better than not sharing it at all. Enjoy! Mr. Holman's memoir, The Orphans' Nine Commandments tells the incredibly poignant story of what a young Oklahoma boy had to overcome during the Great Depression to find success in life as an innovative librarian, award-winning book designer, printer, publisher, and writer. I feel honored that he shared with me his thoughts about printed ephemera. Thanks again, Bill.

How to open a book

Image
Cataloging books the other day, I came across an 1890s multivolume set called Messages and Papers of the Presidents . Inside one of the volumes was a slip of printed paper with a bookbinder's message: How to Open a Book . The set was published by the Government Printing Office, so they are the likely source of this piece of paper, which reprints a passage from a publication titled, Modern Bookbinding . No other bibliographical detail is included for that title, but I have found a magazine from that era, Modern Bookbinding and Their Designers . No clue, though, as to the author of this particular piece. You might wonder (I did) why there would be a need for instructions to open a book. And if you put those instructions inside the book, doesn't that defeat the purpose somewhat? Opening a book is not as easy as you might think. At least if you read these instructions and try to follow them. Here's the gist of it in the opening run-on sentence: Hold the book with its back

A Letter from Frank James

Image
Back to my small collection of William D. Wittliff ephemera (started with this post ), here is a piece published by Wittliff's Encino Press in 1966. It's a four-page brochure, for lack of a better description, that presents a two-page letter written by Frank James, brother of the infamous outlaw, Jesse James. Most everyone has at least heard of Jesse James. Frank was Jesse's older brother. Together, and with other members of their gang, they robbed banks, stage coaches, and murdered. After Jesse was murdered himself, Frank turned himself in and was acquitted at a trial for murder. He went straight afterward, working in a variety of jobs, including shoe salesman, ticket taker at a theater, and telegraph operator. He later made money off his criminal past with lectures and tours of his farm that included the grave of Jesse James, who had become a legendary figure of the Wild West after his death. The most interesting thing I read about Frank James came from the Wikipedia

The Printing Arts in Texas

As I have posted recently about a few pieces in my ephemera collection related to book design and the printing arts, particularly in Texas, I thought I'd share this link: The Handbook of Texas Online - Printing Arts for anyone interested in more information on the subject. This page from the Texas State Historical Association site offers an overview of printing history in Texas through biographical sketches of the state's greatest practitioners of book design and fine printing. For further reading: The Printing Arts in Texas , by Al Lowman, published by Roger Beacham (William R. Holman's imprint), 1975.

Gendarmerie d'Haiti Bookplate

Image
With all the horrible news coming out of Haiti recently because of the devastating earthquake, I remembered a bit of history I learned about the country via the bookplate below. I wrote about it on another blog more than three years ago and it seemed timely to revisit it now and rework it for this blog. This is one of the more interesting bookplates I've come across in recent years. It depicts Haiti's first military force, the Gendarmerie d'Haiti , which was established in 1915 during U.S. occupation and commanded and supported by U.S. Marines. Quite likely, the previous owner of the book had been a U.S. Marine in the Gendarmerie d'Haiti during that time. I found the book at a Houston Public Library sale several years ago and, though it looks battle-worn, I bought it for the author's inscription inside and because of my interest in the subject. The book is American Ballads & Folks Songs , by John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax (Macmillan, 1934), first edition, ins

Wittliff ephemera - The Collector's Institute

Image
I recently purchased a batch of ephemera having to do with William D. (Bill) Wittliff and his Encino Press in Austin, Texas--pieces he designed and printed. Several pieces seem a good fit for the content of this blog, so the book-related ones will be featured here during the next week or so. Up first, The Collectors' Institute . This is a program designed by Bill Wittliff for the Second Annual Meeting of the Collectors' Institute. Wittliff signed (initialed) the back of the program. I had never heard of this group before, so I did a little research to see what it was exactly and what became of it (assuming it is no longer around). The Handbook of Texas Online has an article on the Collectors' Institute (the link above), submitted by the former (and only) president of the Collectors' Institute, Jenkins Garrett. There, I learned that the Collectors' Institute existed from 1968 to 1980. It was, writes Garrett, "a private association of collectors of libra

William R. Holman broadsides

Image
There was a good bit of ephemera at the Austin Book, Paper & Postcard Show last weekend (January 16-17, 2010). I didn't find any easily defined book trade-related ephemera ( bibliophemera ), but I did find something that might pass the test for this blog (looks like it passed--I'm writing about it): Two broadsides from the well-known book designer, printer, publisher, and retired library administrator, William R. Holman . His wife, artist Barbara Holman, illustrated them. The first broadside (top) features a passage written by Larry McMurtry. The other broadside features a quote from Lawrence Clark Powell , who makes an eloquent statement about the art of printing, with a subtly implicit recognition of its place and importance among a majority population who ascribes importance to function rather than form where print design is concerned. Coincidentally, I'd been reading at home Powell's A Passion for Books (World Publishing, 1958). Some coincidences just don&#

Isaiah Thomas

Image
Isaiah Thomas was born on this day: January 19, 1749 . This portrait, by Ethan Allen Greenwood, was found at the Web site for The American Antiquarian Society along with the biography (copied at the end of this post) of the man who has been referred to as the "Father of Ephemera." He was a patriot in the American Revolution, a publisher, a printer, and a bookseller. Early in the nineteenth century, he recognized the significance of printed ephemera in America's young history and the need to preserve it for the historical record of a growing nation. After his retirement from business, he pursued writing a history of printing in America and founded the American Antiquarian Society, for which he wrote the following justification: We cannot obtain a knowledge of those who are to come after us, nor are we certain what will be the events of future times; as it is in our power, so it should be our duty, to bestow on posterity that which they cannot give to us, but which th

Book Fair Postal Ephemera

Image
As I finally reach the century mark on this blog with this post, I thought I'd post a few pieces of ephemera in observation of book fairs. The subject is timely because I'm headed up to Austin with a truckload of books to do the Austin Book, Paper & Photo Show this weekend. The preceding link shows six images from last year's show. I didn't make the cut, but my wife did--our exhibit barely shows up on the far-right side of image 4/6. We were off in a side room, but hoping for a more visible spot this year. Here are some images that make my cut for today's post. Actually, they are all I have on the subject, but I'm always on the prowl for more. And who knows what will turn up in the Texas Hill Country ? What I have here are post cards and postal covers that commemorate various international book fairs (nothing close to home). First up, from India, is my favorite of the bunch because of its colorful display of an active image of people interacting with b

Delawareana Ex Libris

Image
If you collect books about America, you collect Americana. Focusing on a particular state, such as Texas, collectors and sellers of books about the Lone Star State, such as myself, deal in Texana. It’s easy to classify your geographic collection or interests with the ana suffix, where it fits and sounds okay. Sometimes you need another vowel to help with the transition, such as the letter i. Floridana doesn’t work for Florida, but Floridiana (accent second syllable) gets the job done. If you collect Louisiana, well… What about Delaware? I found the answer (wasn’t looking) in the ex libris below: I came across this elegant little bookplate bearing Delaware's state seal in a small, slim volume with the title, Wilmington Country Club 1936 . Its a book of by-laws and rules, as well as a directory of members for the Wilmington Country Club in Wilmington Delaware. A quick Internet search of Groves' name turns up a handful of books for sale that bear the same Delawareana boo

Math & Science Bookplate

Image
I was never a math and science whiz, but I like this bookplate, which appears to have belonged to a math and science whiz. I like it for the design and a particular memory it evokes from my high school days. Sometime around 1974, I had to take a Chemistry class and we had to learn how to make computations on a slide rule. In the bookplate, you'll find a slide rule in the middle of the design, laying across part of the book. Does anyone still use these things? Don't know, but further down you'll find a link about how to use them if you want to. At that time, Texas Instrument calculators were popular and some of kids had them. I remember wanting one so bad--the TI SR-50--but it was too expensive. The SR-50 was high tech and very cool for then. It had all these functions on it, which I had no idea about, but I liked knowing that I could have them. And I could have had them for $170, according to the Wikipedia page on the TI SR-50 . I remembered it being too expensive an

Postcards from the insane asylum

Image
Here are a couple of 1880s post cards from Blakiston, Son & Co., publishers and booksellers of Philadelphia, located at 1012 Walnut Street. Medical and scientific books were a specialty, as these mailers indicate by the books they advertise. Both cards are addressed to Dr. Henry M. Hurd at the Asylum for the Insane in Pontiac, Michigan. The earliest of the two cards, above, was sent to Dr. Hurd in 1882 and advertises two books that may be of interest to him in his practice: Buzzard on Diseases of the Nervous System and The Medical Register Directory of Physicians in Philadelphia . The next card, below, advertises the "just published" GOWERS on the Diagnosis of Diseases of the Brain , a series of lectures delivered at University College Hospital in London, by Dr. William R. Gowers. The post mark does not include the year, or it has worn off, but there is a brief review of the book and author by the London Lancet, dated July 11th, 1885, which helps date when the card