August 2012 Archives

William Heath's signature

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The British caricaturist William Heath (1795-1840) liked to sign his prints with the tiny figure of the actor John Liston (ca. 1776-1846) in role of Paul Pry from the 1825 farce of the same name. So popular were Heath’s prints that pirated copies flooded the market, reproducing both the central image and the Paul Pry monogram (For the original image of Liston as Pry, see:

Dorothy George writes, “[Heath’s] prints were copied, his manner imitated, his signature forged and plagiarized. …After protests at ‘some scurvy rogue … robbing us of our Ideas & Just profit …’ Heath announced on 6 July 1829 that henceforth his prints would be signed with his full name … The false Paul Pry continues for a few months, then the signature ceases, but imitations go on.”

While many prints contain the simple figure with an umbrella shown above, there are also variations. Can you tell the real William Heath from the copyist?

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An Amateur of Fashion, 1813.

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The Parish Overseer
[Paul Pry Says: “from a Hint of W-R-V-s-, Esqer. Del.”], no date (1825?).

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A Wellington Boot or The Head of The Army, 1827.

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State of the Giraffe, no date (July 1828).

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I Was Lucky I Got Shelter At All, no date (1828-1830).

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Greedy Old Nickford Eating Oysters, no date (1828-1830).

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Innocent Amusements. Pitch in the Hole, no date (1825-1830).

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Modern Peeping Tom’s Who Deserve To Be
Sent To Coventry !!!,
no date (ca. 1829).

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The Slap Up Swell Wot Drives When Hever He Likes, April 1829.

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A Slap At The Charleys Or A Tom & Jerry Lark, May 26, 1829.

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The Cad to the Man Wot Drives the Sovereign, 1829.

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Come To My Harms [H Crossed Through] King of the Protocals!!!,
August 1, 1831.

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The Bears at Bay, 1831.

All prints from the Graphic Arts Collection, Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University.

Mr. Woodward and Mr. Shuter, Two of His Majesty's Comedians

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Unknown artist, Mr. Woodward and Mr. Shuter, Two of His Majesty’s Comedians, in the Characters of Capt. Bobadil, and Master Stephen, in the New Reviv’d Comedy Called Every Man in His Own Humour, ca. 1752. Etching and engraving. Graphic Arts Collection British Prints GC106.

During London’s 1751-52 theater season, a revival of Ben Jonson’s renaissance comedy, Every Man In His Humour, was performed at the Theatre-Royal in Drury Lane. The role of Captain Bobadil was played by Henry Woodward (1714-1777). Just over twenty years earlier, Woodward had received his first recognition a few blocks away playing Ben Budge in John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera.

Specializing in comedy and the character of the Harlequin in particular, Woodward’s stature grew to include leading roles in theaters throughout London. During the 1747-48 season, Thomas Sheridan invited Woodward to perform at the Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin, after which the actor join David Garrick’s company at Drury Lane. At the age of 34, his Romeo was declared a masterpiece of acting.

“Woodward now added to his repertory in quick succession Ananias (1749-50), Face (1752-3), and Subtle (1755-6) in The Alchemist and Sir John Daw in Epicoene; but it was as Bobadil in Every Man in his Humour (1751-2) that he again struck gold, the seedy, down-at-heel braggart with the expansive imagination calling on all his expertise in low comedy, his verbal brilliance, and his capacity for subtlety of characterization in roles that might easily invite mannerism or caricature.” - Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Ben Jonson (1573?-1637), Every Man in His Humour. A Comedy. Written by Ben Jonson. With alterations and additions. As it is perform’d at the Theatre-Royal in Drury-Lane (London: J. and R. Tonson and S. Draper, 1752). Rare Books (Ex) 3806.351

Contemporary Playing Cards

Paul Smith, Christmas 1996. Promotional pack of cards designed by Aboud Sodano. Gift of William Drenttel, Class of 1976. Graphic Arts Collection GC146

The Uncards. Promotional pack of cards for Neenah Paper, 1991. Gift of William Drenttel, Class of 1976. Graphic Arts Collection GC146

Playing card pack of Champion Carnival paper samples, no date. Gift of William Drenttel, Class of 1976. Graphic Arts Collection GC146

Play Wojcik in Miniature. Promotional deck of cards for James Wojcik photography, 1991. Gift of William Drenttel, Class of 1976. Graphic Arts Collection GC146

52 Cards. Promotional deck of cards designed by Harris Bhandari Design Associates for Neenah Paper, no date. Gift of William Drenttel, Class of 1976. Graphic Arts Collection GC146


Playing Cards by Donald Sultan & A/D, 1989. Gift of William Drenttel, Class of 1976. Graphic Arts Collection GC146

Destruction of the Royal Exchange by Fire

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Attributed to William Heath (1795-1840), Destruction of the Royal Exchange by Fire, on the 10th of January, [1838]. Etching with hand coloring. Published by Robert Havell’s Zoological Gallery, London. Graphic Arts Collection GA2012 in process

On the night of January 10, 1838, the Royal Exchange, at the corner of Threadneedle and Cornhill Streets in the City of London, burned to the ground. It was one of the most spectacular fires of the 19th century and many artists got out of bed to sketch the scene, including William Heath. At least two prints are derived from Heath’s drawings, an etching published by Robert Havell at his Zoological Gallery [above] and a lithograph published by Rudolph Ackermann at his Eclipse Sporting Gallery [below].


The Destruction of the Royal Exchange by Fire on Jany 10th 1838
British Museum

See also: Effingham Wilson (1783-1868), Wilson’s Description of the New Royal Exchange, including an Historical Notice of the Former Edifices … (London: E. Wilson, 1844). DA687.R69 W557 1844.

Jean Berté's Water Colour Printing Process



Not long after the French printer Jean Berté (1883-1981) immigrated to the United States, he applied for a patent to his watercolor printing process. The technique was similar to other letterpress methods, except plates were cut in soft rubber and the inks were water-based rather than oil. As in Japanese woodblock printing, a separate plate was cut for each color and the color was laid on in a particular order of translucent layers.

The patent was granted on August 10, 1926 and Berté began looking for a commercial distributor for his process. That’s when he found Fred A. Hacker in Belleville, New Jersey.

Through their partnership Hacker not only provided American commercial printers with a license to use the process but he also sold “engraving equipment, plate material, inks, and rollers … [for] the type and size of presses you wish to equip.” Perhaps Hacker got the best of the deal because the 1930 census has changed Berté’s occupation from artist to clerk and by 1940, he is teaching French in a private school.


Volume one, number one

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Elmer Adler, former curator of the graphic arts collection, was a connoisseur of publishing. One of the genres he collected was first issues of magazines. This collection is separate from the library’s own runs of serial and includes mostly American titles. Each issue is volume one, number one.

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One important exception is Adler’s copy of Fortune magazine, which is volume one, number 0. This September 1929 publisher’s dummy includes many of the articles but lacks some of the photographs and has no table of contents. The cover image by Stark Davis (1885-1950) is completely different than the one by T.M. Cleland (1880-1964) used when the magazine debuted in February 1930.

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A letter to advertisers included with this issue of Fortune reads in part, “The advertising manager has prevailed upon the editors to issue a few copies of this dummy, the fourth of ten steps in the publishers’ program for the artistic and mechanical evolution of Fortune. It will give advertisers some hint of what Fortune vol. 1 no. 1 will be like when it appears January, 1930.”

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Here is a list of the titles represented in Adler’s collection: Accordion World, April 1936; American Aviation, June 1, 1937; Americana, February n.d.; Apparel Arts, Christmas 1931; Atom, fall 1945; Atomic and Gas Turbine Progress, October 1945; Austria Invitans, 1951; Bean Home News, v.1 n.d.; Book Collector’s Quarterly, October 1925; Bulletin of Collectors of American Art, May 1938; Common Sense, December 5, 1932; Creative Typography News, October 1950; Ebony, November 1945; Esquire, autumn 1933; Fascination, February 1946; Flair, February 1950; Fortune, volume 1, no. 0, 1929 (prepublication); Gentle Reader, December 1931; Gilcrafter, December 1938; Harkness Hoot (Yale), October 1, 1930; Holiday, March 1946; Irish Review, April 1934; Island, June 15, 1931; Junior Bazaar, November 1945; Letters (New Hope), spring 1935; Life, November 23, 1936; Linonia, May 1925; Literary Observer Illustrated, April/May 1934; Literature: the International Gazette of Criticism, November 5, 1897; Lowdown, January 1939; Magazine World, November 1944; New Atlantis, October 1933; Panorama, October 1, 1928; Parade, spring [1937]; Princeton Athlete, October 3, 1941; Reading and Collecting, December 1936; Ringmaster, May 1936; Salute, April 1946; Scenic Trails, May 1937; Social Frontier, October 1934; Technocracy Review, February 1933; Typography (Shenval Press), n.d.; Warren Standard, 1924

Is it Grover Cleveland?

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Pyne Library, the sesquicentennial gift of Mrs. Percy Rivington Pyne, mother of Moses Taylor Pyne, Class of 1877 (1855-1921), was added to Chancellor Green in 1897. In one of its alcoves, a long-term exhibition was mounted of the Lawrence Hutton collection of death masks, donated to Princeton University that same year.

When the collection moved next door to Firestone Library, no such exhibit was created, to the regret of a reporter for The Daily Princetonian. “The collection, a gift of Lawrence Hutton, former lecturer in English, was at one time a prize exhibit in the Pyne Library but lack of space in the new building has prevented its display since it was moved to its present quarters.”

The article also mentioned that masks were added to the collection after 1897, noting that “Mrs. Grover Cleveland, longtime resident of Princeton, donated the likeness of her ex-president husband at the time of his death.”

Our collection includes an unmarked mask, unusually cast in cement rather than plaster and, because of its enormous weigh, permanently housed in a wood frame. Is the mask below (also in the center of the photograph above), the 1908 mask of the 22nd and 24th President of the United States?

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Death mask of Grover Cleveland?, 1908. Cement in wood frame. Donated by Mrs. Grover Cleveland.

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See also a photograph of Cleveland’s 1885 inauguration: /~graphicarts/2008/09/mammoth_inauguration.html

Guy J. Wells, “Firestone Houses Death Masks of Kings, Musicians, Presidents,” Daily Princetonian, 73, no. 136 (8 November 1949).

James Nasmyth and the Durable Image

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First edition, heliotype with thumb right

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Second edition, woodburytype with thumb left

In 1874, the Scottish engineer James Nasmyth and London publisher John Murray prepared and released two simultaneous editions of Nasmyth’s study of the moon. Although the text and pagination is the same, the illustrations are not. Why?

Nasmyth was an amateur astronomer who built his own 20-inch reflecting telescope and made detailed observations of the moon. He was also an amateur photographer and experimented with various ways of making images of the moon. He drew, creating the plaster models, and photographed both the moon itself and his own reproductions.

nasmyth the moon4.jpg1st ed., heliotype dated 1865
nasmyth the moon5.jpg2nd ed., woodburytype dated 1864

It was a time when many men and women were attempting to find the perfect form of reproduction: the durable photograph. One that would not fade or change over time AND could be printed in ink (independent of the action of light), so it could be made on cloudy days.

Heliotypes, autotypes, and woodburytypes were only a few of the non-silver prints made from photographic negatives. Each had their own drawbacks, especially the beautiful woodburytype, which was the most time-consuming. Some publishers preferred the heliotype, which did not have the glossy surface of the woodburytype or the albumen photograph. The autotype was the quickest but didn’t have the detail of the others.

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Both woodburytypes, one with pigment?

Is it possible that Nasmyth and Murray were experimenting with book illustration, to see which edition would remain true longer? If so, the woodburytype won because the third edition of this book, published in 1885, is listed as having only woodburytypes (not held at Princeton).

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1st ed., front cover

James Nasmyth (1808-1890) and James Carpenter (1840-1899), The Moon: Considered as a Planet, a World, and a Satellite. 1st edition (London: John Murray 1874). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2012- in process. With 23 plates, including 6 photogravures, 4 heliotypes, 2 lithographs and 1 chromolithograph after drawings or photographs by Nasmyth, 12 mounted photographs on 11 leaves (10 autotypes by Brooks, Day & Son and 2 woodburytypes), and various wood engravings with text.

James Nasmyth (1808-1890) and James Carpenter (1840-1899), The Moon: Considered as a Planet, a World, and a Satellite. 2nd edition (London: John Murray 1874). Graphic Arts Collection GAX Oversize 2003-0202Q. Note, frontispiece and plates XII, XIII XVI, and XX are photogravures in the first edition, woodburytypes in second edition; plates II, XIX, XXI, XXIII in first edition are heliotypes, woodburytypes in second edition; plate XIX in first edition has one illustration (glass globe cracked) and two illustrations in second edition (add the full moon); plate III is woodburytype in both editions, but larger in first edition; plate XIV is woodburytype in both editions, but smaller in first edition.

Der blaue Vogel comes to London, 1923

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In the 1920s, Der blaue Vogel (The Blue Bird) was a theater/cabaret founded by Russian émigrés living in Berlin. Their performances combined Russian folk songs, modernist theater, and satirical sketches. Three of the men active at The Blue Bird were L. E. Duban-Tortsov, a former Moscow Art Theatre actor; Jasha Jushny (also written Sasha Yuzhny or J. Yuzhny); and the director André Andrejew (1887-1967). It was Jushny who took the company on a European tour in 1923, reaching London’s Scala Theatre in October.

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The Entire Blue Bird Company, [1923]. Lithographed poster. Printed by J. Weiner Ltd., London. Theater Collection GAX 2012- in process

One reviewer noted, “There are no people like the Russians for making us feel artistically ashamed of ourselves. We Westerners … have been taught to forget the evidence of any drama other than the fidgety compositions of our own stage. And then … Russia will send over one of her operas, her ballets, or her vaudevilles, and after the first gasp all our critical standards have to be adjusted to make room for the new-comer—at the top.”

“…The latest came from Moscow by way of Berlin. It is the Blue Bird Company under the direction of Mr. Yuzhny, who presents what is really a glorified cabaret performance consisting of a heterogeneous mass of singing, dancing, and mimic turns, with a running commentary from the director at the footlights.” (Manchester Guardian, October 5, 1923)

Another reviewer was less enthusiastic, “The ear, practically every time, comes off worse than the eye… . The Volga Boat Song, like a page torn from Gorky, is a cry from the depths. Only an artist with a strong sense of humanity and pity could have conceived those seven outcasts in their rags straining at a barge rope against a sunset sky… . As music supplies the basis of these “dramatizations,” surely it ought to be treated less as an intruder in the theater and more as an honored guest.” (The Christian Science Monitor, October 27, 1923)

Engraved on steel

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Views of London. 45 plates engraved by Charles Heath (1785-1848) (London: Hurst, Robinson & Co., & R. Jennings Year: 1825). Each plate accompanied by a leaf with descriptive letterpress. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2012- in process

Charles Heath made his first etching when he was six years old and in 1840, was responsible for engraving on steel the world’s first postage stamps. It is his skill engraving on steel rather than copper, for which he is best remembered today.

“Heath was also a pioneer in new printmaking techniques… . In 1820, for an edition of Thomas Campbell’s poem Pleasures of Hope, he engraved the first plates on mild steel rather than copper, giving much longer production runs from each plate. In larger commercial plates he was less successful. By contrast his View from Richmond Hill and his Gentlemen of the Time of Charles I, together with his Christ Healing the Sick, were masterpieces of their kind.

In 1821 and again in 1826, Charles Heath got into financial difficulties, but quickly recovered following an energetic diversion into the new fashion for illustrated annuals and giftbooks… . From 1825 onwards he was almost entirely occupied first in engraving for The Amulet, Literary Souvenir, and Landscape Annual, and then in promoting his own productions, notably The Keepsake, Picturesque Annual, the Book of Beauty, and similar publications such as J. M. W. Turner’s Picturesque Views in England and Wales.” Dictionary of National Biography

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House Cleaning, no. 3. Arms and Armor

Various weapons held in Rare Books and Special Collections, Firestone Library, Princeton University.
rifle3.jpgThe top rifle belonged to John James Audubon (1785-1851), the French-American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter, best known for publishing Birds of America (Oversize EX 8880.134.11e).
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House Cleaning no. 2. The Family Jewels

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Josepha Weitzmann-Fiedler (1904-2000), the wife of Princeton University medievalist Kurt Weitzmann (1904-1993), was a scholar in her own right. She published Aktdarstellung in der Malerei (Annex ND3305 .W44); Romanische Bronzeschalen mit Mythologischen Darstellungen (Recap 29525.963); Romanische gravierte Bronzeschalen (Oversize NK7904 .W44q); and Zur Illustration der Margaretenlegende (SA ND3385.M25 W4).

She also worked as an assistant to Paul Frankl (1878-1962), helping to complete a study of Gothic Architecture for the Pelican History of Art (1956) and a study of Gothic literature (1960). Both Mr. and Mrs. Weitzmann donated material to Firestone Library (as recent house cleaning attests). Photograph:

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House Cleaning no. 1. Bonaparte et al.

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Charles Furne

In the year following the death of the French publisher Charles Furne (1794-1859), a record of his life was published by the noted historian Rosseeuw de Saint-Hilaire. To further honor Furne, a portrait photograph was printed and pasted to the frontispiece of each book. The prints may have been created by his son Charles Paul Furne, an early practitioner of photography.

Furne is best remembered for publishing a twenty-volume illustrated edition of La comédie humaine by Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) (Rare Books EX 3232.1842)

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Eugène-François-Achille Rosseeuw de Saint-Hilaire, Notice sur Charles Furne (Paris: J. Claye, 1860). Graphic Arts GAX 2012- in process

Advertising The Sunday World

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F. Gilbert Edge (active 1890s), Advertising posters for The Sunday World, [1896]. Color printed letterpress posters. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2012- in process

We recently acquired nine color letterpress advertisements for Joseph Pulitzer’s Sunday World, the heavily illustrated Sunday edition of his daily newspaper The New York World. Pulitzer increased his advertising in 1895, when William Randolph Hearst established a rival paper The New York Journal and the two vied for subscribers.

Note in particular the announcement of an article by Garrett Putnam Serviss (1851-1929) describing “Monsters That Live on the Planet Jupiter.” Serviss was a trained astronomer with degrees from Cornell and Columbia, who wrote early science fiction. He published an unauthorized sequel to War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, called Edison’s Invasion of Mars. This was followed by a second book about life on Venus and a third about the Moon. His story about Jupiter never made it beyond the pages of The Sunday World.

The Montclair Theatre, Montclair, N.J.

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The Montclair Theatre opened on Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair, New Jersey, early in the 20th century. The first newspaper reference ran on August 17, 1913, when the New York Tribune reported on the development of “…that section of the town, which has recently been benefited by the erection of the new municipal building, the art museum, and the Montclair Theatre.”

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Along with legitimate stage productions, the auditorium was used in 1915 for a sermon by the evangelist Billy Sunday; in 1917 for a “mass meeting to protest against the deportation of Belgians by the Germans”; and in 1938 for “Fol-De-Rol,” a presentation by the Princeton Triangle Club.

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Leo Sielke Jr. (1881-19??), Montclair Theatre, N.J., no date (ca. 1913). Watercolor with gouache highlights on board. Theater Collection GAX 2012- in process

In March 1921, the New York Times announced that H. H. Wellenbrink, lessee of the Montclair Theatre, had purchased another plot to erect a second theater. This would become the Wellmont Theatre, which is still operating today. Unfortunately, the Montclair Theatre was torn down to provide room for a parking lot.

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P. T. Barnum's Illustrated News

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P.T. Barnum’s Illustrated News (Buffalo, N.Y.: Courier Company, 1880). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2012- in process

P.T. Barnum (1810-1891) issued an annual newspaper, sent out in advance of the circus as an advertising circular. This one was prepared for Jefferson City, Missouri; you can see where the location has been dropped into the top of the front page.

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“To My Many Patrons. Season of 1880. During the season of 1879, Barnum’s Own and Only Greatest Show on Earth was exhibited to more people than attended the exhibition of nearly all the other show on the entire continent combined. Why was this? Because, I had the best show ever organized either in America, or Europe, and its various attractions gave instruction, pleasure, and healthy amusement to nearly two millions of people! So great was the popularity of this gigantic show, so vast its proportions, and so varied and novel were its attractions, that I could have sent out the same show this season and it would, undoubtedly, have received as large a patronage as it received last season. …” —P.T. Barnum

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Yoshu Chikakazu (active late 19th century), [Japanese battleships sink Chinese fleet], no date. Three color woodblock prints.
Graphic Arts Collection GA 2009.00794

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Migita Toshihide (1863-1925), [Heroic Japanese troops march across a pontoon bridge], 1894. Three color woodblock prints. (Meiji 27).
Graphic Arts Collection GA 2009.00775

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Unidentified Artist, [Sino-Japanese War scene depicting the heroic Japanese battling the Chinese], no date. Two of three color woodblock prints.
Graphic Arts Collection GA 2009.00781

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Hashimoto Chikanobu (1838-1912), [Emperor Meiji meeting with his Imperial Council], 1888. Two of three color woodblock prints. (Meiji 21).
Graphic Arts Collection GA 2009.00765

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Unidentified Artist, [Imperial forces attacking Satsuma forces during the Satsuma Rebellion], no date. Three color woodblock prints.
Graphic Arts Collection GA 2009.00778

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Adachi Ginko (flourished 1870-1900), [Sino-Japanese battle scene, Japanese navy bombarding a fortress as troops scale the ramparts], no date.
Three color woodblock prints. Graphic Arts Collection GA 2009.00763

Vauxhall Ticket 1792

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This is a ticket to the Vauxhall Theatre, London, for the evening of May 31, 1792. It retains the original wax seal, to prevent forgeries. Thursday, May 31 was the opening night for the new season, which this year included a masked ball.

“On the death of the younger Jonathan Tyers in 1792 ownership of the Gardens passed to Bryan Barret, High Sherrif of Surrey, who was married to Tyers daughter Elizabeth. A Masked Ball was held on 31 May contemporary accounts describing the Gardens as a Blaze of Light. Admission charges were raised to two shillings, or three shillings on Gala nights.” —quoted from “Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens” on the Vaux Hall Civic Society website at:

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Fanny Palmer

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Frances Flora Bond (Fanny) Palmer (1812-1876), The New York Drawing Book: Containing a Series of Original Designs and Sketches of American Scenery, No. 1 (New York: William H. Graham, 1847). Lithographs. Graphic Arts GAX 2012- in process

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Fanny Palmer created over 200 lithographs for the Currier & Ives publishing company and is regarded as one of the leading commercial illustrators of her time. Born in Leicester, England, she married Edmund Seymour Palmer at the age of twenty and immigrated to United States a few years later.

In the 1840s, Mr. and Mrs. Palmer set up a lithographic printing business called “F&S Palmer,” with Fanny drawing and Edmund printing the stones. The company was not successful and this drawing book was one attempt to begin a commercial series that would save the business. Priced at 25 cents, it did not sell well and the series ended with No. 1.

After going bankrupt, Fanny joined Nathaniel Currier as one of his leading staff artists. Palmer’s work was well received until 1857, when James Ives became Currier’s partner and began to redraw the figures in her pictures. She stuck it out, retiring in 1868 at the age of sixty-six.

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See also:

Fuse 1-20, with antimatter

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Neville Brody, Adrian Shaughnessy, and Jon Wozencroft, FUSE 1-20: From Invention to Antimatter: Twenty Years of FUSE (Köln: Taschen, 2012). 1 book (411 p.), 10 posters, 1 keycard. Graphic Arts GA2012- in process

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Adrian Shaughnessy writes, “Under Brody’s art direction, early Fuse stuck pins in the eyes of typo traditionalists and gleefully invited the displeasure of graphic design’s self-appointed ruling elite by simultaneously showing how typography, thanks to the computer, had become open to all comers and showing how it had been freed of its traditional purpose of conveying linguistic meaning.”

Launched by Neville Brody and Jon Wozencroft in 1991, FUSE was a forum for digital and experimental typography. Produced with FontShop International in Berlin and FontWorks in London, each quarterly issue was delivered in a cardboard box with a disk of new digital fonts, a couple large posters, and a colorful magazine (or booklet). Issues were constructed around a theme, through which the editors hoped would explore “the unmapped potential of the new digital technology.”

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Twenty years after that original launch, the out-of-print issues have now been reissued in this new limited edition. The box comes with a little credit card providing access to a computer database of fonts, which we are welcome to download and use as much as we want. There are ten poster from issues 19 and 20, and a 400 page glossy text of both old and new material, sure to shock the typographic community all over again.

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Roderick Random's Encounter with Captain Weazel

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George Cruikshank (1792-1878), Roderick Random’s Encounter with Captain Weasel, 1859. Oil on board. Museum objects collection.

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In 1748, the Scottish author Tobias Smollett (1721-1771) wrote The Adventures of Roderick Random. A miniature edition was released in 1776 with tiny plates and in 1792 Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) took on the first serious visualization of Roderick Random. During the nineteenth century, George Cruikshank (1792-1878) brought the book to life for a new generation with another set of illustrations. The work must have made an impact on the artist because twenty-eight years later, Cruikshank used a scene from the novel as the theme of an oil painting, which is now at Princeton University.

Finished in 1859, Cruikshank submitted the painting to the annual member’s show at the British Institution. All of the nearly 600 works in the exhibit were listed in The Art Journal London (v. 5) along with brief, unflattering remarks.

The review begins, “Again the Art-season commences: the British Institution is open, its walls are covered with pictures on every available space where they can be seen, and even where they cannot be seen… . The exhibited works amount to five hundred and ninety-two, among which are amply represented every department of Art except one, and that one is (the old story) what is called history. That which we know as “high Art” is denounced as ungrateful to the painter; but it is not that “high Art” is ungrateful, but that it demands for its themes the rarest gifts of the painter and the poet.

Mediocrity in the highest walk of painting is intolerable; but mediocrity in low Art sells readily. On looking round on these walls, the eye is met by declarations of the most fearful depravity of taste in the choice of subject; and right earnestly do the painters devote themselves to the consecration of their unworthy themes.”

No. 435 was Cruikshank’s Roderick Random’s Encounter with Captain Weasel, about which the reviewer adds only, “This is not so eccentric as some of the recent works of the artist, inasmuch as it would be difficult to exceed the extravagance of the text.”

In The Literary Gazette, a second reviewer commented: “George Cruikshank has a picture that of course has fun in it … but it proves that a design which would be irresistible in a wood-cut two-inches square, may prove a very vapid affair when magnified into an oil painting of as many feet.”

Tobias Smollett (1721-1771), The Adventures of Roderick Random (London: James Cochrane and Co.; J. Andrews, 1831). Graphic Arts Cruik 1831.

Pre-digital photography explained

The George Eastman House has just mounted an excellent video on pre-digital, gelatin silver photography. You also get to see their storage spaces! Take a look:

For videos on other, earlier photographic processes, click here:

Be Merry and Wise. He! He! He!

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Tommy Trapwit, Be Merry and [Wise], or, The Cream of the Jests, and the Marrow of Maxims, for the Conduct of Life: Published for the Use of All Good Little Boys and Girls. The first Worcester edition. (Worcester: Printed by Isaiah Thomas, 1786). Sinclair Hamilton Collection of American Illustrated Books (GAX) Hamilton 107s
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In 1770, the children’s book Be Merry and Wise was published by Carnan and Newbery at no. 65 in St. Paul’s Church-yard in the City of London. A copy sold for six-pence and the frontispiece showed a picture of a young boy reading a book. John Newbery (1713-1767) had begun publishing books in 1740 and moved it to central London around 1743. After Newbery’s death, his son Francis and his stepson Thomas Carnan continued the business.

The American printer Isaiah Thomas (1749 -1831) set up his press in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he published more than 900 books. Thomas decided to bring Newbery’s books to the United States and simply began printing copies. There was no payment to the London firm or mention of copyright. The same year he released Tom Thumb (1838-1883), A Bag of Nuts Ready Cracked, or, Instructive Fables, Ingenious Riddles, and Merry Conundrums; and the following year The History of Little Goody Twoshoes and The History of Master Jackey and Miss Harriot, among many others.

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See also Carnan and Newbery’s edition of Be Merry and Wise, (CTSN) Eng18 / Newbery 5359

What is history and what is stuff?

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“This table top was Oliver Cromwell’s camp table; it was taken by the Government forces at the battle of Chalgrove fields, where Hampden was killed and the followers of Cromwell were defeated; the effects of Cromwell were taken to Shirburn Castle, the seat of the Earl of Macclesfield, where it was with other things stowed in the garret pediment;

at the death of Thomas Parker, Earl of Macclesfield about 1850-52, the present Earl of Macclesfield in cleaning out the pediment gave the table to Wm. Wheeler (my wife’s father), who thinking we thought more of Cromwell in America, sent it over to me in 1864;

the table then had a pointed stem to drive into the ground, with a collar at top for the table top to rest on with a hole for a candlestick to set in; the top was in two halves and fastened together with hooks (one is lost) for convenience in packing.

Having lost the stem I suppose I unfortunately modernized it by putting on a new stem and feet and filling up the centre hold where it rested on the old stem with a white piece, and polished up the surface, and glued the two halves together; but the underside was not touched other than to put some screws into it to fasten it on a lathe so it could be turned.” [signed] Edwin W. Judge, New Haven

(Property of Mrs. George A. Hulett, ‘92; on deposit, 1934 for George Barker Hulett, ‘30). Museum objects collection

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