Friday, December 23, 2016
Friday, December 2, 2016
Monday, October 31, 2016
Friday, June 10, 2016
In the last few weeks, we have come across several new illustrators and artists, most of them women, who also contributed to the world of binding design. Most of the books involved are volumes aimed at children—readers, introductions to geography, and tomes of fairy tales or familiar legends, like Robin Hood. Although these designs may not always have the elegance of other covers [see http://libcdm1.uncg.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/tb1/id/2042/rec/1], they do show us artists heretofore unknown as book designers.
Charlotte Harding (1873-1951), a student of Howard Pyle at the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia, worked as an illustrator for several popular magazines in the early 20th century, and was a member of The Plastic Club, an organization for female artists, also in Philadelphia. She also worked with Alice Barber Stephens (1853-1932). Her cover for Eva March Tappan’s Robin Hood, his book (1903) reflects the style of her illustrations for the volume. The illustrations won a Silver Medal at the International Exposition in Saint Louis in 1904! A 1982 exhibit of her works included eight books and scores of magazine illustrations.
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
To celebrate those covers that either of us just like, our Binding of the Month Club begins this month”
Detail of clouds (from spine).
The last feature I’d like to highlight is the binding’s beveled edges. This is the first instance of beveled boards seen on this blog, and is a feature most often used on gift books, special editions, or on what we might call coffee table books. Here's a close up of the bevels on the rear board.
We use all of this information when describing a book, and particularly welcome publisher supplied information on the binder or, very rarely, the binding designer. W.B. Conkey Company was founded by Walter B. Conkey in 1877. At the age of nineteen, Walter first set up a small bindery in a Chicago basement. He later added printing work, and by the late 1890s was a large and successful publisher and manufacturer. In 1897, Conkey built an enormous plant in Hammond, Indiana, a town close to the southern edge of Chicago on the Indiana/Illinois border. Conkey was widely known for high quality and craftsmanship in all aspects of his company’s work, while maintaining affordable prices. Among his competitors’ products, his were known for “their durability and their attractive bindings and design.” (3) His son, Henry, took over the business after Walter’s death in 1923, and the firm was sold in 1949 to Rand McNally.
Engraving of the Hammond plant, from the Lucille Project website (4)
Postcard with another view of the plant from the early 1900s (5)
General location of the W.B. Conkey Hammond, Indiana plant at 617 Conkey Street today (Google Earth view).
The Illustrated New Testament. New York and Chicago: Goodspeed, 1871.
Salesman's sample. Front cover in panelled calf over bevelled boards with gilt stamped vignettes and ornaments, spine in gilt calf; back cover in dark blue (C183) pebble grain cloth over panelled and bevelled boards, gilt stamped central panel; plain calf cover mounted on front pastedown; gilt blue cloth spine stamped in gilt and calf spine sample mounted on rear pastedown.
And now, as promised, on to our "May flower!"
Elwyn Barron. Manders. Boston: L.C. Page and Company, 1899. With cover design by Amy M. Sacker.
This is the first time we’ve featured a binding design by Amy Maria Sacker (1872-1965), although one of her designs appeared in Callie’s post from last July (“Going out”). Sacker was one of the major artists in the second generation of cover designers (along with other luminaries such as Margaret Armstrong, Alice Morse, Frank Hazenplug, etc.) A lifelong Bostonian, she produced designs chiefly for a number of major Boston publishers, but also did some work for other publishers outside of Boston including the New York firms of A. Wessels, Thomas Y. Crowell, Cupples & Leon, and Silver, Burdett & Company. She was also a teacher and worked in a variety of art media. For much more information and an illustrated catalog of her bookwork (including not only cover designs, but illustrations and bookplates) you should head to our colleague’s, Mark Schumacher’s, Amy Sacker website ( http://www.amysacker.net/ ) where you can see well over 300 of Sacker’s covers. Our American Trade Bindings site contains 224 cover images.
But wait! I almost didn't remember the question posed in the title of the post. I know this creaks with age and I shouldn't go there, but I must...
What do May flowers bring?
(1) Gullans, Charles, and John Espey. Margaret Armstrong and American Trade Bindings. Los Angeles: Department of Special Collections, UCLA, 1991, p. 22-23.
(2) Obituary from Oberlin Alumni Magazine, v. 12, no. 1, Oct. 1915, p. 29, viewed online May 26, 2016.
(3) Murray, Timothy D. “W.B. Conkey Company.” In Dzwonkoski, Peter, ed. American Literary Publishing Houses, 1638-1899, pt. 1. Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research, 1986. Dictionary of Literary Biography, v. 49, p. 100-101.
(5) image from FamilyOldPhotos.com
(6) "Agents Wanted:" Subscription Publishing in America, can be seen at: https://www.library.upenn.edu/exhibits/rbm/agents/
(7) "Selections from L.C. Page and Company’s list of fiction." Catalog (15 p.) in back of Maurus Jokai, The Baron’s Sons. Boston: L.C. Page and Company, 1900.
(8) Review from The Literary World, v. xxx, no. 23, 11 Nov. 1899, p. 375. Boston: E.H. Hames Company, 1899.
(9) The Saturday review of politics, literature, science, and art, 28 Jan. 1899, p. 121, v. 87, no. 2,257. London: Saturday Review Office, 1899.
(10) Barron, Elwyn A. Papers, finding aid, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.
Thursday, April 7, 2016
Did you know that the University of North Carolina Greensboro digital projects website is not the only place to view our collection of American trade bindings? If you haven’t discovered them yet, let me encourage you to visit the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) (1). Headquartered at the Boston Public Library, the DPLA was launched in April 2013 after years of planning. Their website gives this summary of their purpose:
University of California copy
|From the November 25, 1871 issue of Harper's Weekly magazine|
The fire which climaxes The Legatee was “the worst recorded forest fire in North American history.” Coincidentally (or is it? There are theories, including aliens …), a much more famous fire broke out the same night, October 8th, in Chicago. Although the Great Chicago Fire is now part of our shared culture, the Peshtigo fire, which killed between 1500 and 2500 people (the devastation was so great that local records were destroyed and an accurate count was impossible), and burned 1.2 million acres, is little known today. The fires were caused by a prolonged drought coupled with high temperatures and sudden cyclonic western winds which turned small fires, set to clear forest land, into a firestorm, with “fire tornadoes,” winds over 100 miles per hour, and temperatures of 2,000 degrees. (5)
Little information about the author is readily
available. Alice Prescott Smith wrote
four novels in the early part of the twentieth century, The Legatee (1903)
being her first. The next two, Off the
Highway (1904) and Montlivet (1906), followed quickly, with her final book, Kindred,
appearing in 1925. The first three
novels were published by Houghton, Mifflin and Company and the last by Houghton
Mifflin Company, which took this new form of name after incorporating in
1908. A “List of United States citizens (for the
immigration authorities)” dated Dec. 14, 1927 (6), gives her name as a passenger on
the S.S. “President Van Buren”, sailing from Marseilles, France, Nov. 30, 1927
and arriving at the port of New York, Dec. 14, 1927. The same source gives her age as 58 years, 1
month, and her place and date of birth as St. Paul, Minn., Nov. 1, 1859. Her U.S. address was at 992 Green St., San
Francisco, Calif. The review of The
Legatee mentioned above tells us further that Alice grew up among the people
and scenes she described. Her father, a
Congregational missionary, had a large parish of widely scattered farms and
villages, and Alice accompanied her father on his many long drives from farm to
farm and “there was not a village she did not know.” During these visits she heard many stories of
the great fire of October 1871. The
review further states that before The Legatee, she had been “content to write
short stories,” and that she had been a resident of San Francisco for the past
thirteen years (i.e. since 1890, so she arrived in California at roughly age
The firm was unique in several ways, first of all because it was a firm. It was founded in 1895 by the architect Henry Thayer (1867-1940) who quickly hired Emma Reddington Lee (1874-1973), who was trained in the decorative arts. Emma later married Thayer (1909) and changed her name to Mrs. Lee Thayer. Two other artists were hired, Rome K. Richardson, (born 1877) and Adam Empie. Later Charles Buckles Falls (1874-1960) and Jay Chambers (1877-1929) were added. Most binding designers worked as individuals, whether by contract or commission by publishers, or as art directors for the publishers.
And their monograms
(1) Wikipedia article, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Public_Library_of_America for a brief overview.
(3) A nice site with brief biography, checklists of his artistic output and writings, timeline, etc. is at http://willbradley.com/
(9) Attributions by Lee Thayer as reported by Gullans and Espey in Collectible Books. The image for The Yellow Van is from the invaluable website Publishers Bindings Online (PBO) with my thanks. We have a copy in our collection but it's in poor condition.