December 2007 Archives

How to Make Writing Ink 1659

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Edward Cocker, The Pen’s Triumph: being a copy-book, containing variety of examples of all hands practised in this nation according to the present mode, adorned with incompatable knots and flourishes… (to be sold with other of the authors works, by John Dowse Stationer, at the great north door of St. Pauls Church London, 1659). 23 (of 27) engraved plates.

This new year’s eve, instead of drinking three pints of wine, why not use it to make your own batch of writing ink? Here’s a recipe written by Edward Cocker (1631-1675). Cocker was a London mathematician and engraver, who taught writing and arithmetic. His extraordinary talent as a calligrapher enabled him to create over 20 copy books, which included alphabets in “German”, “Italian”, “Roman”, and “Print” hands. In addition, his manuals offered instruction in cutting pen nibs, holding the pen, and the making of ink. These actual recipes are rare and Cocker’s continues to be a resource to contemporary artists and historians.

A slightly earlier recipe can be found in the online text A Booke of Secrets: shewing diuers waies to make and prepare all sorts of inke, and colours … Also to write with gold and siluer, or any kind of mettall out of the pen … newly translated into English, by W.P. (London: Printed by Adam Islip for Edward White, and are to be sold at his shop at the little north dore of Pouls, at the signe of the Gun, 1596). Search the title in the main catalog or use your Princeton ID to log into

Cocker is perhaps best-known for his manuals on basic arithmetic, reissued in dozens of editions over several centuries. Graphic Arts holds: Cocker’s Tutor to Arithmetick: being a new and most easie method, so easie that the meanest capacity may understand it at first sight, written and invented by Edward Cocker master in writing; there is also sold with this book that excellent copy-book called The tutor to writing. (London: Printed by R. D. and are to be sold by Tho. Rooks stationer at the Lamb and Ink-bottle at the East-end of S. Paul’s Church, where is also sold all sorts of blanck bonds, [1664]). GAX 2004.3217N

The Natural History of the Lion

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Wood-engraved block by John S. Horton, for John J. Harrod, The Introduction to the Academical Reader (Baltimore: Harrod, 1830). Hamilton 1742. Woodblock is a gift of David B. Long in honor of Gillett Griffin.

This engraved wood block is signed in the block ‘Horton’. It was produced by the New England wood-engraver John S. Horton to head the chapter “The Natural History of the Lion” in publisher John J. Harrod’s 1830 The Introduction to the Academical Reader. A history of the lion is just one essay in this compilation of “pleasing and instructive pieces … intended to induce and promote the love of learning, virtue, and piety in the minds of juvenile classes of readers.”

The title page offers the inspirational text: “By reading we learn not only the actions and sentiments of different nations and ages, but we transfer to ourselves the knowledge and improvements of the wisest and best of mankind.” Credited to Watts on the Mind, the actual source is The Improvement of the Mind: Containing a Variety of Remarks and Rules for the Attainment and Communication of Useful Knowledge, in Religion, the Sciences, and in Common Life, by Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

Harrod’s book is one of several thousand American imprints illustrated with wood-engravings, identified in the Sinclair Hamilton collection within the graphic arts division. The collection is searchable online as well as in the published catalogue: Early American Book Illustrators and Wood Engravers, 1670-1870 (GA Z1023 .P9 1968).

The process of wood engraving involves the cutting of an image in relief on a hard, end-grain block of wood. The engraver cuts away the parts of the block that are to remain white in the finished image. The hardness of the wood allows the engraver to cut multiple thin lines, creating a more complex image than was possible with the soft matrix used for woodcuts. Wood engraving was the technique of choice for book illustration in the early nineteenth century.

Early Cut-Paper Silhouettes

Long before Kara Walker, there were many folk artists practicing the tradition of cut-paper silhouettes. Pictured above is one page from an album of black paper scenes created by a young girl in memory of her visit to Yverdon in Switzerland. The book is dated Londres 3 Mai 1832 and includes 15 elaborate silhouettes cut from waxed black paper to fit the size of the page. The wax provides a shine that catches the light and adds depth and dimension, not often found in American cut paper work.

Most images are captioned, presumably by the artist, with one entry reading "A ma chere petite Elise en souvenir de son affcte LR." The album has one ownership insciption on the marbled pastedown of P. Atkinson, Belmont, Shipley, with a blindstamp on the free endpaper of the same address.

In 2002, the contemporary artist Kara Walker combined her own black paper silhouettes with the poetry of Toni Morrison for a limited-edition book entitled Five Poems (Las Vegas: Rainmaker Editions, 2002). The book is designed by Peter Rutledge Koch, and printed letterpress from digital imaging and photo-polymer plates at Peter Koch, Printers in Berkeley, California, in a signed edition of 399 numbered and 26 lettered copies. The graphic arts division holds no. 128 (GAX Oversize 2006-0733Q). More of Walker's art can be seen in a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art through February 3, 2008.

The Great Mirror of Folly

Het groote tafereel der dwaasheid, vertoonende de opkomst, voortgang en ondergang der actie, bubbel en windnegotie, in Vrankryk, Engeland, en de Nederlanden, gepleegt in den jaare MDCCXX. Zynde een verzameling van alle de conditien en projecten van de opgeregte compagnien van assurantie, navigatie, commercie, &c. in Nederland, zo wel die in gebruik zyn gebragt, als die door de h. staten van eenige provintien zyn verworpen: als meede konst-plaaten, comedien en gedigten, door verscheide liefhebbers uytgegeeven tot beschimpinge deezer verfoeijelyke en bedrieglyke handel, waar door in dit jaar, verscheide familien en persoonen van hooge en lage stand zyn geruineerd, en in haar middelen verdorven, en de opregte negotie gestremt, zo in Vrankryk, Engeland als Nederland…
(The Great Mirror of Folly, showing the rise, progress, and downfall of the bubble in stocks and windy speculation, especially in France, England and the Netherlands in the year 1720, being a collection of all the terms and proposals of the incorporated companies for insurance, navigation, trade, &c. in the Netherlands, both those of which have gone into actual operation and those which have been rejected by the legislatures in various provinces. With prints, comedies, and poems, published by various amateurs, scoffing at this terrible and deceitful trade, by which various families and persons of high and low condition were ruined in this year, and possessions lost, and honest trade stopped, not only in France and England but in the Netherlands…).
[Amsterdam?] 1720. 131 p. in various pagings: 73 plates (part fold., incl. ports., maps, plans) 40 cm. Various pieces in prose and verse on the financial transactions of John Law and others, brought together under a general title-page. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize 2006-0014F

Here are only 3 of the 73 engraved plates from The Great Mirror of Folly, offering satirical scenes in the rise, progress, and downfall of stocks in France, England and the Netherlands during 1720. The volume is also informally known as The Great Bubble Book after the speculator’s bubbles that burst, causing the first great stock market crash in September of that year. This is an unusual book for many reasons. It was issued without an author or publisher or even city of origin identified. Each individual volume appears to be a unique compilation of prints and texts, holding between 49 and 74 images from up to 56 different engravers.

To see more, Harvard University’s South Sea Bubble site, has a complete index, including digital images of their edition:

Hokusai's Ama

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The print on the left has no signature or title within the design as is common with Japanese woodblock prints. It has been attributed to Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), whose career spanned sixty years, producing more than 30,000 prints. He was not only a master of Ukiyo-e (pictures of the floating world), but actively studied Chinese and Western techniques, in the last years of the Edo period.

The image is of an Ama, or fisher-woman who specialized in diving for abalone (awabi). I have not been able to find this work in any of the several dozens of volumes on Hokusai in Marquand Art library, nor was it included in the Smithsonian’s extensive retrospective of the artist’s prints and books. Their website is a wonderful source of biographical and stylistic information: If anyone has information we would be interested in hearing from you.

Hokusai, a child prodigy, is best-known for a series of views of Mount Fuji, including 46 unique scenes at different times of day and seasons of the year. Both Hokusai’s Ama and selections of the Mt. Fuji series will be on view in our gallery next year when we exhibit the Gillett Griffin collection of Japanese prints on deposit in the Graphic Arts division, Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University.

The Temple of the Muses

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William Wallis (fl.1816-1855) after Thomas Hosmer Shepherd (1793-1864), Temple of the Muses, Finsbury Square. London: Jones & Co., 1828. Etching and aquatint with added hand-coloring.

As a boy, James Lackington (1746-1815) worked as a meat pieman. As an adult, he became one of the most successful booksellers in all of London. If you were looking for literature in the late 18th-century, you would have made your way to No. 32 Finsbury Place South in the southeast corner of Finsbury Square. At that corner, you would check to see if the flag on the huge circular dome of the Temple of the Muses was flying. That way, you knew if Lackington was in residence inside his remarkable bookshop. Books were sold for cash, at prices listed in Lackington’s annual printed catalogues, such as A Catalogue of Books, for the Year 1803, Containing Eight Hundred Thousand Volumes in all Languages and Classes of Learning, the Whole of which are Marked at Low Prices, for Ready Money, and are Warrented Complete. (Rare Books, Ex 2005-0187N). After Lackington’s death, his son continued the business until the shop burned down in 1841.

A sketch of Lackington’s bookshop was originally created by Thomas Shepherd as an illustration to James Elmes, Metropolitan Improvements; or London in the Nineteenth Century: Displayed in a Series of Engravings… by Mr. Thos. H. Shepherd (London: Jones and Co., 1828). (Rare Books (Ex) 1465.323.11). Shepherd’s original is now in the collection of the Guildhall Library. William Wallis reproduced that scene in an etching, which can be found in several formats, with and without color. The print was published in The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics. London: R. Ackermann, 1809-1815 (Graphic Arts Collection 2006-3077N)

Wharton Esherick's Graphic Novels

Walt Whitman, As I Watch’d the plovghman plovghing; mvsic by Philip Dalmas, woodcvts by Wharton Esherick (Philadelphia, 1927). Gift of David B. Long in honor of Gillett Griffin.

As I Watch’d the Ploughman Ploughing is one of ten books designed and printed by the arts and crafts inspired artist Wharton Esherick. A look at the museum that has been established in his honor can be found at

Trained as a traditional painter, Esherick had a brief career as an illustrator before he bought a Washington hand press and in 1920, began cutting and printing limited edition woodcuts. Around this time, he met Harold Mason, owner of the Centaur Book Shop in Philadelphia, who was interested in publishing fine press books. It was a good match. In 1924, the Centaur Press published its first book, Walt Whitman’s poem, Song of the Broad-Axe, with woodcuts by Esherick.

This led the artist to other commissions and other book projects, all printed with large-format woodcuts. In 1928, Esherick made a sequence of nine woodcuts for As I Watched the Ploughman Ploughing, a poem by Walt Whitman set to music by Philip Damas. The Franklin Printing Company issued in an edition of 200 copies and four of the woodcuts were reprinted in the February 1929 issue of Vanity Fair.

More information on Esherick can be found in an article by Henry Wessells, published in the February 22, 1999, issue of AB Bookman’s Weekly. A checklist of Esherick’s books can be found at:

Here is the complete text of the Walt Whitman’s poem:

As I watch’d the ploughman ploughing,
Or the sower sowing in the fields - or the harvester harvesting,
I saw there too, O life and death, your analogies:
(Life, life is the tillage, and Death is the harvest according.)

Paul Éluard (1895-1952). À toute
épreuve. Gravures sur bois de
Joan Miró
. Première édition
illustrée. Geneva: Gérald Cramer,
[1958]. 79 woodcuts by Joan Miró,
printed in Paris at Atelier
Lacourière; text printed by Marthe Fequet and Pierre Baudier. Image copyright Artists Rights Society (ARS)
The Princeton University Library is pleased to announce the acquisition of one of the most beautiful books created in the twentieth-century, À toute épreuve, with text by the French poet Paul Éluard and 79 original woodcuts by the Catalan artist Joan Miró.
The entire volume can be seen in the upcoming exhibition entitled, Notre Livre: À toute épreuve. A Collaboration between Joan Miró and Paul Éluard, in the Milberg Gallery for the Graphic Arts, Firestone Library, from February 22 to June 29, 2008.

To create this book, Miró cut over 233 woodblocks working over the better part of eleven years. He used planks of wood collaged with plastic, wire, old engravings and bark paper to achieve images that practically dance across the page. "I am completely absorbed by the damn book," wrote Miró to his publisher, Gerald Cramer, "I hope to create something sensational. . . ." The final volume has a brilliance of invention and a vitality of form and color, rarely found inside the cover of a book.

The exhibition opening will be celebrated on Sunday, March 9, 2008, with Elza Adamowicz, Professor of French and Visual Culture, School of Modern Languages, Queen Mary, University of London, presenting the talk "The Surrealist Artist's Book: Beyond the Page" in the Betts Auditorium, School of Architecture, at 3:00. A reception will follow at 4:00, in the Leonard L. Milberg Gallery for the Graphic Arts on the second floor of Firestone Library.

In the gallery, we will offer English language translations of the poetry, some by the Irish writer Samuel Beckett, who was a great admirer of Eluard's work. Here is a sample:

Villages de la lassitude
Où les filles ont les bras nus
Comme des jets d'eau
La jeunesse grandit en elles
Et rit sur la pointe des pieds.

Villages de la lassitude
Où tous les êtres sont pareils.

Paul Eluard
Villages of weariness
Where the arms of girls are bare
As jets of water
Where their youth increasing in them
Laughs and laughs and laughs on tiptoe.

Villages of weariness
Where everybody is the same

Translation by Samuel Beckett

Illustrated with Original Photographs

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During the nineteenth century, when photography was still a new art form, book publishers would cut and paste individual, original photographs into their books as illustrations. It was an expensive, time-consuming process and so, you might think it was only very limited-edition publications that were illustrated in this way. This is not the case. One reason we know this is is by looking at the Princeton University Library, where there are hundreds of examples of books—novels, textbooks, government documents—that include original, now historic, photographs.

H. Beaumont Small (1832-1919). The Canadian Handbook and Tourist’s Guide; Giving a Description of Canadian Lake and River Scenery and Places of Historical Interest with the Best Spots for Fishing and Shooting. Montreal, M. Longmoore & Co., 1867. Frontispiece by William Notman (1826-1891). Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) 2004-1110N

We are now adding a special subject heading to books with original photographs in them to make them searchable in the main online catalogue. If you would like to try this search, go to and type: Photographs, Original—Illustrations in books into the search box. If you find books with photographs that has not yet been noted, please sent me the information and we will add the heading.

If you would like to browse a list of the titles we have been able to locate so far, continue with this posting below:

Contest Closes

Rockwell Kent, designer. Bookplate for Elnita Strauss Library, Council House. 1936.

Although the collecting continues, the entries are in and the 2007/2008 Elmer Adler Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize is closed. I would like to thank all the students who entered and wish them the best of luck. The judges are reading the essays and will select the winners before the end of the calendar year. These names will be announced at the Winter Banquet of the Friends of the Princeton University Library on Saturday, February 2, 2008 and to the general public on February 4.

Our first place essay will be entered into the National Collegiate Book Collecting Championship, established and sponsored by Fine Books & Collections Magazine.

For a list of past Princeton University contest winners and their topics, continue with this posting below:

Pochoir on Exhibit

Several portfolios from our Charles Rahn Fry Collection of Pochoir are now on loan to the exhibition, Fashioning the Modern French Interior: Pochoir Portfolios in the 1920s at the Wolfsonian at Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida through May 11, 2008.

The official press release for the exhibition sets the stage:

In order to market the moderne interior design aesthetic on the rise in the 1920s, French publishers produced limited-edition portfolios using a traditional technique--known in France as pochoir. The technique, which involved the hand application of color to a print using a series of carefully cut stencils (pochoirs), produced luminous images ideal for promoting the new approaches to interior design. The exhibition brings to light the tensions between traditional and modern design that existed in the period, and provides design solutions that will delight today's audiences.

Dozens of books, portfolios, and journals printed in the pochoir technique remain available to Princeton University readers and can be seen in the reading room of rare books and special collection. Among these:

La Guirlande. Album Mensuel d'Art et de literature Sous la direction litteraire de Monsieur Jean Hermanovits. Sous la direction artistique de Monsieur Brunelleschi. Paris: s.l., 1919-1920.

La Guirlande is one of the rarest of the Art Deco magazines with pochoir plates by Barbier, Brunelleschi, Taquoy, Vallée, Bonotte, Domergue, and others, printed by Jean Saudé.

E.A. (Emile-Alain) Séguy (1889-1985). Papillons. Paris: Éditions Ducharte et Van Buggenhoudt, [ca. 1928].

The stunningly colorful Papillons holds 20 pochoir prints illustrating a total of 81 butterflies. The purpose of the volume, beyond creating something of astonishing beauty, was to record rare or exotic specimens from museums and privates collections that would inspire decorative arts designers. Séguy produced eleven albums of illustrations and pattern, offering examples of design for textiles, ceramics, wallpaper, advertisements, and other utilitarian applications.

Other images from our Pochoir collection can be seen at:

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