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Showing posts from June, 2010

Arturo Schomburg: bibliophile, historian, writer, curator

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From 1994-2001, Grolier, Inc. published a series of collectible cards called Story of America . They were issued by subscription only in decks of 20 cards, one deck at a time, and each card featured an historically significant event, place, or person in American history. Frankly, I never even heard of this set of cards, but if I had I doubt I would have guessed there could be a card for a book collector. But there is such a card and it is for Arturo Schomburg (1874-1938). Arturo Schomburg and his sister in 1905 Arturo Schomburg (about whom I was also unaware) was no ordinary book collector. He was a prolific collector of books and ephemera about African American history, heroes, and accomplishments. But there was more to the man than just collecting books, as you will see. One of his elementary school teachers inspired in him the passion to collect this history, but not in the usual manner you would expect from a teacher. Schomburg and the rest of his fifth grade classmates recei

Arey & Jones, San Diego booksellers

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This is one of my favorite covers in my collection--an engraved image of what I assume is San Diego's harbor, an elaborate, eye-catching scene by which San Diego booksellers Arey & Jones could make a statement about their business. It's not quite what collectors term "illustrated all over" because the backside is blank. So I guess this could be called... full frontal illustrated ? Whatever, it's a beautiful cover. The engraving was done by Marr & Richards of Milwaukee. This firm did many engravings of panoramic maps and bird's eye views popular in the late 1800s to early 1900s. The booksellers appear almost an afterthought, but they wisely chose a bold-colored return label to "rescue" lookers from the captivating water scene. There's not a lot of information on the early history of Arey & Jones, but a Publishers Weekly ad from August 28, 1897 pins down their beginnings with the following announcement: Arey & Jones announce

Ticknor and Company postal cover

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Here is a postal cover with an embossed one-cent Franklin in blue oval that Ticknor and Company put their logo on and used for correspondence. What I find notable about this cover, other than Ticknor's logo design, is the way it is addressed with as few words as possible--company, city, state. Keystone Phila Pa . And they probably could have gotten away with excluding the state abbreviation. In my collection of postal covers, they take top prize for brevity. There even seems to be some intentional formatting of the address, descending in a stair-step pattern away from the company logo, reminiscent of an e.e. cummings poem ( my favorite here ). If the Wikipedia page on Ticknor is correct, and other sources seem to confirm it is, then Ticknor and Company's roots go back to 1832 when William Davis Ticknor and partner John Allen started a publishing business out of the Old Corner Bookstore in Boston. Through a series of partnerships and buyouts and new start-ups over the nex

The Virginian rides into print... and history

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In 1902, Macmillan issued this notice about the publication of a new novel. I wonder if they foresaw how important this book would become in American literature? The Virginian , by Owen Wister (1902) was the first serious fictional work about the cowboy on the American frontier. The cowboy myth originated in this work--the strong, silent type who gets the girl, kills the bad guys, and doles out his brand of justice in the Wild West. It set the standard for the genre of Western fiction. Of the three book reviews listed, the Chicago American was the only one that speculated on its importance to future generations of readers: " In The Virginian, he [Wister] has put forth a book that will be remembered and read with interest for many years hence. " This press release from Macmillan is printed on a single sheet, folded in half to a size about 4 X 6 inches. Other titles are advertised inside and on the back, but aside from The Virginian , the only other noteworthy book is on

Picky smokers and their first editions

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Here we have a couple of guys who are very particular about their first editions, so declares the ad copy in the vintage magazine advertisement below. Their discriminating tastes, we learn by reading further, extend to their cigarettes, particularly the British brands Three Castles and Passing Clouds made by W.D. & H.O. Wills. Their pickiness, however, does not seem to extend to the handling of their first editions, as they are exposing these volumes to smoke damage and odor, as well as risking burn marks from their cigarettes' ashes. I'm intrigued with the way ad campaigns have used rare books and bibliophiles in the past (haven't seen any in the present) to sell unrelated products. From the few ads I've collected from that earlier era, the relationship they tried to convey seems humorous, even ridiculous, by current-day standards, but in the first half of the 20th century, rare books appear to have held a much higher status for discriminating consumers tha

Mark Twain: San Francisco Correspondent

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I recently went to Austin for a meeting of the Texas Booksellers Association and had the pleasure beforehand of visiting with Bill Holman in his studio. I enjoyed hearing more stories about his book, The Orphans' Nine Commandments , the writing process, and anecdotes and history about books, booksellers, printing and ephemera. Several months ago, he told me he had set aside some ephemera I might like and I could get it on my next trip to Austin. Last week, he handed me a large folder chock-full of print ephemera treasure. I was truly touched by his generosity. As a printer, publisher, and designer, Mr. Holman's gift to me pertained to print ephemera created for items such as publishers' book announcements and printing exhibit brochures and prospectuses--a number of them from the Book Club of California . Many, if not all, will eventually find their way onto this blog, but one jumped out at me right away for its timeliness (more on that further down) and I thought I

Jean Frey, Swiss book & art printer

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Jean Frey, as best I can determine, was once a printer of books and art prints in Zurich, Switzerland about the early 1900s. Buch is book and kunstdruckerei broken apart into kunst and druckerie yields "art" and "print." The logo also helps with the translation, with its depiction of a printer at work with his printing press. The business survives today, albeit in a drastically altered and much larger form under a corporate umbrella. When I first spotted this ad cover, I knew it was European in origin. I've seen enough of these in the last few years to recognize certain design differences between American and European graphic design on antiquarian business correspondence items, including envelopes. I have a growing collection of European covers and, more often that not, the size of the European envelope, or cover, is recognizably larger than American covers. Beyond size, there are distinguishing graphic design characteristics, such as the use of lines an

Lowman & Hanford - Seattle Booksellers' Guide to New Books

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For the month of June, Seattle booksellers Lowman & Hanford Co. present their monthly publication, Books of the Month . For June 1921, that is. This advertising booklet is subtitled, A concise guide to the new books prepared for the customers of Lowman & Hanford Co. , located at First Avenue and Cherry Street in Seattle. At first glance, I would suspect "concise" fits this small 3 X 6 inch booklet, but a closer inspection reveals how much material is crammed into 34 pages, beyond the scope of concise, for new reading suggestions. There's too much to list here, but I'll touch on some of the highlights. Respected Western writers Eugene Manlove Rhodes and William MacLeod Raine had new books out this month in 1921. Rhodes' book was titled Stepsons of Light , while Raine's novel was called Gunsight Pass . Edgar Guest and Booth Tarkenton were the big names of the day for this guide. Their new books were When Day is Done and Alice Adams respectiv