Bookseller Trade Cards - Die-cut Fans

Several weeks ago, there was a discussion introduced on the Ephemera Network about business cards. Frank DeFreitas, whose holography specialty of ephemera is found at Antiquarian Holographica, invited participants to join the group Business, Trade & Calling Cards and to share examples. I submitted the card below from Thomas W. Durston, Bookseller, of Syracuse, New York. I have found references to Durston's book shop in the 1880s, so the card dates from about that time to possibly the turn-of-the-century.

This is a die-cut piece of ephemera, which means a press was used with a specialized cutting tool (die) to cut and create the fan shape from the paper used for the card. I have two more of these from the same bookseller, only in different colors:

The ubiquitous bookseller symbol, the owl, is present in the design, but this one is holding or playing what looks like a mandolin. I'm not sure what that represents, nor am I sure about the fishing frog's role in representing this business, but they do a good job of making the card interesting. But as interesting as it might be, there is a collection of trade cards that just blows these samples away for artistic appeal.

On the aforementioned Ephemera Network, Tom Murphy, of Encore-Ephemera, shared a link to an ephemera site called Sheaff : Ephemera, created by Boston artistic director, typographer, and stamp designer Richard D. Sheaff. He is also a prolific collector of ephemera and features on his Web site a stunning collection of cards under the tab Artistic Printing Album.

When you're done feasting your eyes on those beauties, which may be awhile, be sure to click the Artistic Printing page for an interesting and informative article on the Artistic Printing movement, developed by British and American letterpress printers during the Victorian era.


  1. I had a comment from Clare Imholtz about the owl on the postcard, but the comments didn't make it through, so she sent them directly to me:

    The owl is based on Edward Lear's drawing to illustrate his poem The Owl and the Pussycat.

    Thank you for the information!

  2. Oops... make that trade card, not postcard in my preceding comment.

    Also... in our email exchange about the owl, I remarked that the frog resembled Jeremy Fisher from the Beatrix Potter book (my grandmother read me her stories from her childhood books), but it was pointed out to me that Jeremy Fisher wore clothes! Good point and quite true. Also, Potter published The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher in 1906, which appears to be a bit later than the date of this trade card.


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