Tag Archives: printing

Here be Hedgehogs

Well, it’s actually Hedgehog Awareness Week, so I feel that I need to do my part. I always decorate with animals, and generally it’s a seasonal cycle of snails/foxes/deer/rabbits with a few individual oddities, but just recently I bought a cute ceramic hedgehog so I was thinking about about expanding my menagerie…..and then came Hedgehog Awareness Week! Interesting and historical images of hedgehogs are not difficult to find: medieval illustrators often inserted urcheons/urchins into the margins of their manuscripts and there are also several tales to inspire images: Aesop’s Fox and the Hedgehog ( a title that was adapted by Isaiah Berlin for his classic essay on types of thinkers, inspired by the observation of Archilochus that the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing), the Grimm brothers’ Hans-my-Hedgehog and The Hare and the Hedgehog, and a host of other hedgehog stories penned (and drawn) more recently. There are hedgehogs in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Rabbit: they are a cute and easy addition to any illustrated story. So it was difficult to narrow down my collection of hedgehog images, but here goes.

Medieval Urchins (hence Sea Urchins!):

Hedgehog BL 2-001

Hedgehog Egerton-001

Add. 39636, f. 13.

Hedgehog and Ape-001

British Library MS Harley 3244 f. 49v (13th c.); MS Egerton 1121 f. 44v (15th c.–the hedgehog mocks the goat admiring his reflection in a stream); MS Additional 39636, ff. 13  (15th c.–St. Benedict and a hedgehog); Royal 15 E IV f. 180 (15th c.)

Some early modern hedgehogs: because of his voracious appetite and hibernation habit, the hedgehog often represented gluttony, as on the flag below, and his round silhouette was made for mockery:

Hedgehog vices BM-001

Hedgehog and Hare BM-001

Hedgehog 1777 BM-001

British Museum engraving of the Vices by Heinrich Aldegrever, 1552; engraving after Marcus Gheeraerts’ illustrations of Aesop’s Fables, c. 1630; satirical print of “Miss Hedgehog” published by Matthew Daly, 1777

Whimsical and utilitarian hedgehogs, 19th-21st centuries:

V0049518 A crowned fairy king seated on a hedgehog drawn by a young g Hedgehog Bulb Pot Wedgwood V and A 1820-001

Hedgehog Pincushion-001

Hedgehog May-001

The King of the Fairies rides his hedgehog, 19th c., Wellcome Library Images; Bulb Pot by Josiah Wedgwood, 1820, Victoria & Albert Museum; Hedgehog pincushion (there’s a long tradition of these!), Tatjana Ceramics; Calendar Page for May, Catherine Bradbury,© Catherine Bradbury, Bridgeman Art Library / Private Collection





Salem 1851

In the process of deciding which rare books we want to put up for “adoption” (conservation) at the Salem Athenaeum, our collections committee was looking at an 1851 map of Salem the other day. It was folded up in a special binder, and had probably not seen the light of day for quite some time. Unfolded and spread out on a table, it was striking: the reddish pink outlines encircling a vibrant city of little square buildings (with homeowners’ names) and several bodies of water that no longer exist. Salem was even more coastal than it is now! Surrounding this terrain are beautiful lithographs of the city’s most notable buildings, including the long-lost railroad depot. Away from the city center, in the north, south and west, there was open land now occupied by buildings, but downtown was just as “developed” as it is now, maybe more so (lots of wharves). The outline of my own house (on the second image below) looks like the original 1827 structure, without the sequential additions that would be added on later in the century. And I finally know where the Salem powderhouse stood! I couldn’t find much on Henry McIntyre, the civil engineer surveyed the city for this map–does anyone know more? There’s another copy of this map here, but it’s not nearly as nice as this one.

Railway map 002

Railway map 001

Railway map 006

Railway map 010

Railway map 003

Railway map 009

Railway map 013

Railway map 015

A Few Scraps of Shakespeare

  They have been at a great feast of languages, and stolen the scraps.

Love’s Labour’s Lost, 1594

April 23 is a big day for Anglophiles, marking the birth (and death) of William Shakespeare and the Feast of St. George, the patron saint of England. I have never really understood how St. George became the patron saint of England, so I’m going with Shakespeare. And as I’m not a literary scholar, I’m going for scraps, bit of ephemera that were quite the rage in the nineteenth century, when scrap-booking became a popular leisure activity, and scrap screens began appearing in parlors on both sides of the Atlantic.


Decoupage screen decorated by Jane Carlyle in 1849, in the Drawing Room at Carlyle's House , London

Title Page of Shakespeare’s First Folio, 1623, British Library; Jane Carlyle’s Scrap Screen, 1849, at the Carlyle House in London, Treasure Hunt.

There’s nothing particularly novel about pasting images in a book or on a wall, but printing and paper technologies in the nineteenth century commercialized the activity, like everything else. Scraps for sale first appeared as black and white engravings at the beginning of the century, and by the latter half they were colored by chromolithography, embossed, die-cut and sold as sheets at the local stationer. Mrs. Carlyle’s screen above is made of more “found” examples, but many people seem to have  preferred the more glossy materials that could be found at the shop. In the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, there are some wonderful scraps of Shakespearean characters, vividly bringing them to life for those that could not see them on the stage. Sigmund Hildesheimer & Company’s Characters from Shakespeare. A Series of Twelve Relief Scraps depicted characters played by popular actors, and were sold in packs costing one shilling in the 1890s. My favorites are below:  Romeo and Juliet, Richard III and the two “princes in the tower”, Ophelia and Hamlet, and Cromwell and Wolsey from Henry VIII.

Shakespeare Scrap RJ

Shakespeare Scrap Richard

Shakespeare Scrap Hamlet

Shakespeare Scrap Henry VIII

Shakespearean Scraps by Siegmund Hildesheimer & Co., c. 1890, Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Matrimonial Maps

Consider this post a follow-up to last year’s Maps of the Human Heart, the most popular post of my blog so far, by far. I’m not tooting my own horn, but merely acknowledging how very popular maps are in general, and allegorical maps in particular. The other posts I have written about maps have been popular too, but artistic and metaphorical maps much more so than straightforward representations, historic or otherwise. The best allegorical maps fall in the period from the French Revolution to World War One; I think it’s really interesting that once the world was mapped scientifically there was a desire to distort and play with its representation for a variety of purposes, both political and personal.

Matrimonial maps fall right into this period; they are, for the most part, a nineteenth-century phenomenon. While I was searching through the archives of sold lots at Skinner’s site the other day, looking for recent prices fetched by fancy chairs, I came across a matrimonial map that I had not seen before, and that led to today’s post. This watercolor map was apparently painted in 1824, and its $400-$600 estimate was exceeded by a selling price of over $2000. People like maps.

Matrimony Skinner 1824 framed

Matrimony map Skinner

matrimony-map HBCA

The recently-sold Skinner 1824 map in its frame and close-up, and a similar hand-drawn Map of Matrimony from a nineteenth-century Canadian autograph book, Hudson’s Bay Company Archives.

United States of Agitation! Kingdom of Suspense! Land of Expectation and the Isles of Envy and Spinsters: the often-dangerous terrain and waters of matrimony. Let’s compare these early nineteenth-century matrimonial maps with those that came before and after. Everyone seems to agree that the first matrimonial map, or at least the first published matrimonial map was “A New Map of the Land of Matrimony”, dated 1772. The image below is from Katherine Harmon’s great book You are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination (2004), which is a fount of information, imagery and inspiration, but the original map is in the collection of Yale University Library. The matrimonial fan-map was published in London about a decade later: less treacherous waters here, though there is a desert on one border of the “Land of Matrimony”.

A New Map of the Land of Matrimony 1772 Yale

Matrimony Fan

Also from Great Britain is the “Island of Matrimony” charted and published by John Thompson around 1810. I’m not really getting all of the (classical) regional references on this particular map, but the various water bodies have pretty straightforward designations: the Lake Content, Disappointment Harbor, Turbulent Ocean in the south, Ocean of Delights in the north. Everything is measured on the scale of “80 love links to the mile”.

Matrimony Island 1810

A Map of the Island of Matrimony by John Thompson, Edinburgh (?), 1810. Jonathan Potter, Ltd.

Beware of Divorce Island on the undated Matrimonial Map below, which features a “Lake of Contempt” rather then a “Lake of Content”. The routes toward happy and unhappy marriages are indicated on Philadelphia lithographer John Dainty’s novel & interesting game of matrimony, a more original take on cartographical matrimony.


Matrimonial Map Dainty 1845

Nineteenth-century Matrimonial Map, National Library of Ireland; The Novel & Interesting Game of Matrimony, lithographed and published by John Dainty of Philadelphia, Library of Congress.

In the later nineteenth century chromolithography is going to make everything more vivid, including matrimonial maps. The “Map of Matrimony” below, published by C.S. Beeching in London about 1870, retains the regions, references and tone of maps from a century earlier: the island of matrimony lies halfway between the Land of Spinsters and the Country of Single Men, surrounded by wavering waters of introduction, admiration, doubt, and felicity.

Victorian Map of Matrimony circa 1870

Paste Paper and Poison

I spent last Saturday morning at the Salem Athenaeum helping to choose this year’s candidates for our adopt-a-book program,very gently examining amazing books from the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There were first-edition volumes by such diverse and esteemed authors as Sir Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne (of course) and Jack London to examine, but surprisingly the works which really captured my fancy were lesser-know works on guns, robbers, and poison. Don’t be concerned; I have my reasons.

I was captivated by the Athenaeum’s copy of the classic eighteenth-century artillery manual, John Müller’s Treatise of Artillery (first published in 1768 and in America in 1779) not because of its subject matter but its bindingThis manual was not covered in leather but rather in less costly paste paper, a process devised by sixteenth-century bookbinders where a colored paste is brushed onto wet paper and then carved, combed, brushed, etc. with a variety of tools to create patterns and designs. The cover of Müller’s Treatise struck me not only as beautiful, but also rather modern.

Mullers Treatise

Paste Paper Cover 1779

Paste Paper Muller 2

Obviously the cover is a little worse for wear as it was made in 1779, and officers and soldiers carried this book around with them during the Revolutionary War, but I think the design is amazing. I’ve got a new obsession, as this is an art which is alive and well as you can see by these examples here, here, and elsewhere.

Paste Paper on Etsy

Paste Paper Book

Henry Fielding’s Enquiry into the Causes of the Late Increase of Robbers &c. with Some Proposals for Remedying this Growing Evil (1751) did interest me because of its content rather than its presentation, which was rather pedestrian.  I did not know that the novelist was such an advocate for law and order and justice (he was also a magistrate), and his analysis of the causes of escalating crime in mid-eighteenth-century England (which you can read for yourself here) was interesting, particularly the last part where he discusses (and blames) the spectacle of public executions.

Fielding 1

Fielding 2

The last book that really stood out, among the array that was before me, is another eighteenth-century text:  Richard Mead’s Mechanical Account of Poisons in Several Essays, first published in 1702 and then reprinted several times over the century (you can read the second edition here).  I don’t really work on or with the eighteenth century very much, which might be one reason these books are capturing my curiosity. Dr. Mead was a pretty eminent London physician, who counted King George II among his patients, as you can see on the title page below. The essays cover the usual suspects associated with poison and then some:  the viper, tarantula, and “mad dog”, poisonous minerals and plants, opium, and “venomous exhalations from the earth:  poisonous airs and waters” (assorted noxious fumes). I suppose the “mechanical” in the title refers to the empirical methodology of Dr. Mead; he does refer to various experiments (on pigeons and dogs) but he also seems to rely a lot on ancient unverified information.  This was surprising to me–I thought the Scientific Revolution had triumphed in the eighteenth century.

Mead Poisons

I loved the illustrations of poisonous insects in the back of the book, and as this post seems to be crying out for a skull-and-crossbones image, I am concluding with an illustration from a 1742 printed eulogy for Peter Faneuil (of Faneuil Hall in Boston fame), yet another unassuming volume in the Athenaeum’s collection.

Mead 2

Faneul Funeral Oration

Selling the Psalms

There’s been a lot of discussion here in the Boston area over the last week or so about the decision of the Old South Church to sell one of their copies of the Bay Psalm Book, the first book to be printed in North America.  There are only eleven copies of this 1640 hymnal; each is precious (and worth about 10 million dollars, at the very least), and the Old South Church has two:  hence the decision to sell one to support its mission. I am certain that it was not an easy decision; deaccessioning an institutional legacy never is.  I’ve been on several boards of venerable institutions here in Salem which had to undertake similar considerations, and it was painful:  how do you honor the past while meet the demands of the present?

Bay Psalm Book LCp

The Library of Congress copy of the Bay Psalm Book (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1640), more formally known The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre. Whereunto is prefixed a discourse declaring not only the lawfullness, but also the necessity of the heavenly Ordinance of singing Scripture Psalmes in the Churches of God.

Everything about the Bay Psalm Book was imported:  paper, press, printer. The Puritans had brought several books of psalms with them, but their quest for the true word of God was essential and ongoing. The connection between printing and the Reformation was almost as well-known then as it is now, so the desire to have a press here in the New World must have been strong. The man with the plan was the Reverend Jose Glover, an English Puritan minister and shareholder in the Massachusetts Bay Company, who financed the purchase of the press (most likely Dutch, as was the type), the paper (most likely French), and the hiring of a “printer” named Stephen Daye in London. Glover died on the voyage to the New World, but his printer set up a press in Cambridge upon his arrival (with the aid of Glover’s widow, Elizabeth, who later married the first president of Harvard College, Stephen Dunster). There’s a lot of speculation about Daye; he was not a member of the Stationers’ Company, the printers’ and booksellers’ guild in London, rather he seems to have been trained as a locksmith and was barely literate. Nevertheless he is recognized as America’s first printer.

Bay Psalm Printing Press Stephen Daye

Bay Psalm First Printer restaurant

Daye’s Cambridge Press, Cambridge Historical Society; the First Printer restaurant at 15 Dunster Street, Cambridge, the site of Daye’s press.

The Bay Psalm Book went through several editions and remained in print through the seventeenth century. Even before the American Revolution, it was recognized as a foundational American text and included in the Prince Collection, the 2000 + rare texts collected by the Reverend Thomas Prince, the Pastor of the Old South Church in the 1740s and 1750s. These texts were stored in the steeple of the Church when it was transformed into a stable by the British during the Revolution (as I wrote about in an earlier post, the British stole Bradford’s Plymouth Plantation from the Church at this time but apparently felt the Bay Psalm Book was less valuable). In the later nineteenth century, the Church deposited the Prince Collection in the Boston Public Library for safekeeping. Of its two copies of the Bay Psalm Book, only one belongs to the Prince Collection so I assume that it’s the other that will go on the market, for the first time since 1947. All of the other 1640 copies (including one that was owned by Salem’s Federal-era chronicler, the Reverend William Bentley) are owned by institutions (you can see a great census here), so this is a rare opportunity for an individual to scoop one up.

Bay Psalm book title

Bay Psalm Book Singing Morgan

Title page of the Bay Psalm Book; Monks singing psalms in an earlier age: Pierpont Morgan Library MS M.193 fol. 277v (French, 13th century).

The Power of the Printed Image

Most of the courses that I teach focus on the period in which printing technology first emerges, so I am constantly assessing the influence of print on the Renaissance, the Reformation, and nearly every aspect of early modern society and culture. Consequently I have a particular and professional appreciation for the Smithsonian Institution Libraries’ digital exhibition Picturing Words:  the Power of Book Illustration, which began its life as a “real”exhibition at the Smithsonian and on the road and then evolved into a virtual one. Ironically, I think most exhibitions that feature texts work better online than in rooms, and I bet this one does too:  you can get closer to the images, for longer, and come to appreciate the influence they must have had in their own time, and their continuing power in ours. The images in the exhibition are organized into three categories, inspiration, information, and influence, with an additional section of pictures which illustrate the process of printing illustrations from Gutenberg’s time to ours. I think that all the images are well-chosen, but for the purposes of this post I am limiting myself to just five illustrations, with a few more for context.

First up, from the Information column, a work I refer to often in all of my classes: the pioneering anatomical treatise by the Flemish physician Andreas Vesalius, De humani corporis fabrica libri septem, or “The Seven Books on the Structure of the Human Body” (1543).  In the Fabrica, Vesalius took on authoritative Galenism with the help of draftsmen from Titian’s workshop:  the result was a triumph for empiricism and a great example of the often-close relationship between art and science in the Renaissance. Several images are in the Picturing Words exhibition, but you can “turn the pages” of the entire text at the National Library of Medicine.  I love the title page, with Vesalius conducting a theatrical dissection, his face turned to us, the audience and readers, as well as the artfully placed skeletons and body parts.

As I am essentially materialistic at heart, the images from the exhibition that appeal to me the most are from the Influence category, as in influencing design and attracting consumers.  Asher Benjamin’s Practical House Carpenter has always been a favorite source for architectural images, and even though I’m about a century late for these particular products, I am quite drawn to these stoves and shoes. It’s important to remember in this digital age that print was at least as important to the Consumer Revolution as it was to the Scientific Revolution.

Columns, stoves and shoes:  images from Asher Benjamin’s The Architect; or, Practical House Carpenter, Boston: B.B. Mussey, 1853; Oriental and American Stove Works, Perry & Co., New York: The Van Benthuysen Printing House, 1874; Queen Quality Smart Shoes, Thomas Plant Co., Boston, 1910.

My last image is from the Inspiration section, but I have bypassed the medieval religious texts in favor of a page from David Pelletier’s The Graphic Alphabet (1996).  The link between the two is through the use of letterforms as illustration, an interesting feature of the exhibition:  ornamented capitals in the past, letters as ornaments in the present.

David Pelletier, The Graphic Alphabet.  New York: Orchard, c. 1996.

Pendleton Prints

I have long been fascinated with printing in all its forms, and became acquainted with the work of the Pendleton Brothers of Boston when I was researching a long-lost Derby house here in Salem.  The daughter of the house, Mary Jane Derby, entrusted her beautiful painting of it to William and John Pendleton, and they produced an equally beautiful lithograph with their cutting-edge process. This print led me to other prints, and explorations in the vast collections of the Boston Public Library and Boston Athenaeum.  There is something about the Pendleton’s work, particularly their images of buildings, that I find really captivating:  it’s almost photographic, but not quite; it is both realistic and romantic at the same time.  Here is the Derby House, now the site of the Masonic building on busy Washington Street, along with several other lost Salem houses, preserved forever by the Pendletons.

These prints of famous Salem houses, all from the collection of the Boston Athenaeum and all gone, were produced by the Pendleton shop in the 1830s, early days in the history of lithography.  The Derby house was taken down around 1915, after its Washington Street neighborhood had transitioned from residential to commercial. In the center, the Benjamin Pickman house was built around 1748 and taken down at the beginning of World War II, when it was in a dilapidated state.  The  “Lafayette Coffee House”, built after 1796 as a residence for the famous Salem merchant William “Billy” Gray, lasted until the 1970s, though it was unrecognizable at the end. The perennially-unsuccessful East India Mall/Museum Place/parking garage was built on its site.  This post isn’t really about these houses or their unfortunate destruction, but I can’t resist showing images of their later incarnations, strong contrasts to the Pendletons’ pristine structures.

Two Frank Cousins photographs of the Derby and Gray (Lafayette Coffee House & later the Essex House, a hotel) houses, Duke University Library, and in the  center, a HABS photograph from 1940 of the rear of the Pickman House, Library of Congress.

The Pendleton Studio in Boston was not in operation for very long (1825-1836) but nevertheless it seems to have been quite influential, both in terms of technology and the fostering of a community of artists, most prominently Fitz Hugh Lane.  Their images of Boston–individual buildings, wharves, streetscapes–demand a dedicated post, but I’ve got to sneak this lithograph of the Jonathan Morse house in Boston in here, because it is so charming, beautiful, Bulfinch, and sadly, long gone.

Jonathan Mason House:  Mt. Vernon and Walnut Streets, Boston. House built 1802, razed 1827.  C. Bulfinch, arch. Boston Public Library.

The Pendleton brothers were businessmen, and they didn’t just produce single-commission images of the region’s notable houses. Their oeuvre includes advertisements, song sheets, portraits of the well-known and the well-heeled, and curiosities, for lack of a better word. But they were not job printers, by any means. Two more humanistic examples of their work (well, in a way), and images that they themselves submitted to the Library of Congress are a phrenological chart based on the popular theories of Dr. Johann Spurzheim, founder of the phrenology craze that spread across America in the nineteenth century, and a print of Rembrandt Peale’s portrait of George Washington.

Pendleton’s Lithography prints from the Library of Congress, 1832 and 1827.

Weather Witches

The witch trials in early modern Europe, which resulted in the execution of between 40,000 and 60,000 people and targeted double that figure, focused on devil worship more than anything else, but maleficia (harmful magic) was often the trigger, and the evidence, for the identification of conspiratorial witchcraft. And of the various types of harm that witches were accused of committing, nothing was more generic, and more harmful, than weather witchcraft. One of the earliest printed depiction of witches makes the connection concrete:  two hag witches are literally whipping up a storm in a cauldron.

Ulrich Molitor, (fl. 1470-1501), De lamiis et phitonicis mulieribus (Cologne, 1500).

Even if we can’t understand the fear of witchcraft in our rational era, we can understand the threat of weather witchcraft to a civilization that depended on the climate for food, and life. Our supposed mastery of nature leaves us a lot less vulnerable–at least we like to think so. But in the premodern past, a storm could bring hunger at best and starvation at worst. The source of evil is always a problem in Christianity, as it is in every culture:  why do bad things happen to good people?  The devil and his witches–the servants of Satan–provided an accessible explanation. And for these reasons, I think that the earliest disseminated images of the witch focused on weather witchery:  certainly those of the greatest printmakers of the day, Albrecht Dürer and his apprentice Hans Baldung (Grien) did: Dürer pictures a goat-riding witch attending by several putti and bringing forth rain, while Baldung’s more shapely weather witches are yielding their apple-capped flask to bring forth a storm with the aid of another demonic putto and of course, the demon-goat. This particular image is obviously a painting, but Baldung created several influential woodblock prints of witches depicted in an overtly sexual manner, intensifying interest in them even more in the early sixteenth century.

Albrecht Dürer, The Witch (1500-02), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Hans Baldung Grien, The Weather Witches  (1523), oil on panel, Städel Museum, Frankfurt.

As I am writing this, I keep checking for updates on Hurricane Sandy, and I just read about the abandonment at sea of the Canadian replica tall ship HMS Bounty (made for the 1962 Marlon Brando film), and the loss of several members of her crew.  This was the particular witchcraft fear in Scandinavian cultures:  witches stirred up storms at sea and sank ships. You can see this fear illustrated in the Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus of Olaus Magnus (1555), a grand compendium of Nordic popular culture and folklore, as well as in King James I and VI’s pamphlet about the famous North Berwick trials:  Newes from Scotlanddeclaring the damnable life and death of Dr. John Fian (1591). Upon his engagement to Anne of Denmark, James spent time in Scandinavia and became exposed to continental witchcraft beliefs: the stormy voyage he endured on his return trip home combined with his belief that as “God’s lieutenant” he was the target of demonic conspiracies inspired him to be a particularly zealous witch-hunter both in Scotland and England.

Magnus’s Historia and Newes from Scotland woodcuts:  Ferguson Collection, University of Glasgow Library Special Collections.

The contemporary record of one of the largest witch hunts in European history, occurring at Trier in western Germany from 1581 to 1593 and resulting in the death of over 360 people, is illustrated with a composite picture of all the activities of witches, including storm-making with a broomstick. In central Europe, hail seems to have been the most commonly-identified form of magical weather and could definitely provoke accusations. Hail does seem kind of magical, if you think about it.

Title page of Peter Binsfeld, Tractatus de confessionibus maleficorum et sagarum (1592).

You can see from the title page of one of the pamphlets reporting the Lancashire (Pendle) trials of 1612, the largest trials in England, that weather witching was one of the accusations, along with riding the wind. I am not certain if any specific weather charges were leveled at the accused witches here in Salem, although I do know that the intense cold, and the hardship it brought to this community, has been considered among several contributing factors in the background of the 1692 trials. This follows the European historiography, which has been considering the impact of the “Little Ice Age” on witch-hunting for some time.

A goat-riding witch brings down a storm:  from  the Compendium Maleficarum of  Francesco Maria Guazzo (1628).

Another Cartophilic Collection

I’ve posted on trade cards several times, and they remain a form of ephemera that I casually collect. It seems to me that these early business cards are among the least ephemeral of ephemera–so many survive.  And most of them are the standardized children/animals/flowers variety.  So I’m pretty picky:  my collection is full of Salem items, cards with unusual shapes, cards that advertise Sarsaparilla (for some reason, a new interest of mine; when sold as a medicinal tonic at the end of the nineteenth century it contained something like 18% alcohol) and apothecaries in general, and those put out by the home furnishings trades. Occasionally odd images catch my fancy, and I don’t care what they are selling. I really prefer the earliest trade cards, issued in western Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but I could never afford them and most of them are in rare book libraries anyway. It’s been a while since I featured any trade cards, so I thought that I’d showcase my most recent finds.

First, some Salem cards. Frank Cousins was an amazing photographer/entrepreneur who did much to capture and sell Salem a century ago:  the cards for his Essex Street shop, the Bee-Hive, were often issued in interesting shapes.  I always go for any view of the wharves and great examples of typography, and I love the font on Mr. Goodwillie’s card. The last card, presenting a western image of Chinese workers, is extremely interesting:  “others”, particularly Chinese, often appear on late nineteenth-century trade cards, and almost always in a stereotypical, racist and/or jingoistic way.  I’m not sure what’s going on with this card, issued by a Salem pharmacist; most likely it is part of a series.

As you can see, A.A. Smith is offering “petroleum remedies”:  even more unusual is the”magnetized food” on sale at a Brooklyn pharmacy.  I’ve included the back of the card so you can see the pitch:  using children to appeal to their mothers, obviously an age-old practice.  And then there are two cards issued by the Charles I. Hood Company of Lowell, Massachusetts, the leading manufacturer of the equally healthy Sarsaparilla.

Magnetized Food” trade card from the Library Company of Philadelphia Digital Exhibit: Nineteenth-Century Pharmacists’ Trade Cards from the William H. Helfand Collection.

I thought I was familiar with all the digital databases of works on paper but just recently I found the online collection of the Rothschild family’s Waddesdon Manor, which includes over 700 trade cards from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This is an amazing resource for all sorts of things. The Rothschilds were probably the greatest collectors of the nineteenth century, and I was surprised to see so many humble trade cards among their more luxurious acquisitions, but apparently Ferdinand von Rothschild, the builder of Waddesdon, was interested in every aspect of French life and culture in the eighteenth century. Here are three late-seventeenth-century cards from his collection, with which urban outfitters offered their services and wares:  the first one is from a hat-maker, the second from a vestment-maker, and the last one from a furrier. Mere slips of paper that survived all these many years.

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