Author Archives: Julie Mellby

Pickwick Papers Iconography

The image of Samuel Pickwick, the protagonist of The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, drawn and etched by Robert Seymour (1798-1836) had an immediate and lasting impact, reaching beyond the pages of Dickens’ novel. Seymour committed suicide shortly after the creation of this character and the iconography of the series—19 issues over 20 months between March 1836 and October 1837—went through several visual adaptations before it was completed. As new editions continued to appear, variant designs were used to present the words to the reading public, although none has yet to improve on Seymour’s original character.

No one understood the power of the visual image better than the advertising executive Samuel William Meek (1895-1981), Vice President at the J. Walter Thompson Company, who along with his wife Priscilla Mitchell Meek (1899-1999), collected Dickens. Mr. Meek helped build a worldwide advertising empire for the Thompson Company while manager of Thompson’s London office. He handled campaigns for the General Motors Corporation, Pan American World Airways, and Reader’s Digest among many others.

Meek assembled a collection of Pickwick iconography, including a unique binding proof, title pages, advertising designs, and subsequent promotional use of the Pickwick figures outside the world of literature. Thanks to the discerning eye of our generous donor Bruce Willsie, Class of 1986, two volumes of this valuable material have come to the Graphic Arts Collection. Here is a quick list (Pickwick Papers iconography ) and are a few samples:

The Independent Gold Hunter

New York lithographer and print seller Nathaniel Currier (1813-1888) published the hand colored lithograph The Independent Gold Hunter on His Way to California with no date but we assume it was made at the time of gold rush mania between 1848 and 1850.

His gold hunter is shown confidently walking to California, carrying with him all the things he might need including pans, scales, flask, kettle, shovel, sausages, fish, and other equipment.

Currier may have used as inspiration Nicolas de Larmessin’s fantastical engraving Habit de chaudronnier from the late-seventeenth-century series Costumes grotesques et habits de Métiers. Larmessin created representations of nearly 100 different occupations dressed in iconographic costumes, most walking in outdoor settings.


Within a short period, Currier’s chief competitor, the Hartford firm of Kelloggs and Comstock published a variant lithograph, equipping the gold hunter with a more practical suitcase and adding a decorative vignette at the top. Both prints sold well but the Kellogg brothers–Jarvis, Daniel, Edmund, and Elijah–marketed their image to commercial companies, leading to further variants on cigar boxes and other products cashing in on gold rush mania.


The verse in each of these prints comes from Jeremiah 15:10, 16-21:
Woe to me, mother, that you gave me birth!
a man of strife and contention to all the land!
I neither borrow nor lend,
yet all curse me.

George Schlegel, The Independent Gold Hunter On His Way To Klondike, ca. 1897. Embossed chromolithograph for the Gold Hunter Cigar company showing a prospector walking on railroad tracks at Horse Shoe Bend.

[Top] Nathaniel Currier (1813-1888), The Independent Gold Hunter on His Way to California, [ca. 1848-1850]. Hand colored lithograph. Published by Currier, Nassau Street, NY. Purchased with funds from the Western Americana and the Graphic Arts Collections. GAX 2017- in process

[Center] After Nathaniel Currier (1813-1888), The Independent Gold Hunter on His Way to California, [ca. 1848-1850]. Hand colored lithograph. Published by Kelloggs & Comstock, Hartford, CT. and Ensign & Thayer, Buffalo, NY. Posted by Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Kidnapped and the Ransomed

A great deal of research has been done on the book-length slave narratives published in the 1840s and 1850s. See in particular the chronology at

Yet few sources note that many, if not most, of the volumes are illustrated with plates engraved by Nathaniel Orr (1822-1908) and his firm at 52 John Street. Even after Orr moved to New York City in 1843, he maintained contact with the upstate New York publishing firm of Derby and Miller (later Miller, Orton, and Mulligan), “the largest miscellaneous book publishers of any in the State out of the city of New York.” Orr was their preferred wood engraver, only going to others when Orr was too busy to take on additional work.

Despite the success of these books, each selling thousands of copies, the bulk of Orr’s correspondence during these years are letters begging the publishers for payment. The work was always completed and returned to each firm along with an invoice, which often went months before the bank deposit was made. Pledges to do better were often effusive, such as Thurber W. Brown’s letter in 1851 responded to Orr’s request for money. “Your note came to hand this evening [concerning] bills . . . When you dread bankruptcy, send me by telegraph and if I owe you anything I will pledge my clothes for your benefit and come to New York on foot to bring the money.” (George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida).


Solomon Northup (1808-1863?), Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northup, a Citizen of New-York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and Rescued in 1853, from a Cotton Plantation Near the Red River in Louisiana (London: S. Low, Son & Co.; Auburn: Derby & Miller, 1853). Rare Books: John Shaw Pierson Civil War Collection (W) W91.687

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), My Bondage and My Freedom … With an introduction by Dr. James M’Cune Smith (New York: Miller, Orton & Mulligan, 1855). Rare Books: John Shaw Pierson Civil War Collection (W) W96.308.5

Kate E. R. Pickard, The Kidnapped and the Ransomed. Being the Personal Recollections of Peter Still and His Wife “Vina,” After Forty Years of Slavery, With an introd. by Rev. Samuel J. May; and an appendix by William H. Furness, D.D. (Syracuse: W. T. Hamilton; New York [etc.] Miller, Orton and Mulligan, 1856). With 3 full page illustrations by Charles A. Barry, engraved on wood by N. Orr-Co. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Hamilton 1489

Japanese Sketchbooks

After nearly seventy years, the printed and published Japanese books in the Graphic Arts Collection collected by former curators Elmer Adler and Gillett Griffin, have all be catalogued and processed.

They can be searched along with other materials in the online catalogue:

Our next step is to describe the collection of anonymous sketchbooks, copy books, and scrapbooks that have been donated over the years. These volumes vary enormously, from elaborate finished paintings to quick ink sketches. Here’s one example.

Where to study wall paper design

If you are in Paris and want to borrow an art book, one of the only options is the Bibliothèque Forney on rue du Figuier in the Marais. Inaugurated in 1886, the library bears the name of the industrialist Samuel-Aimé Forney, who gave the City of Paris a legacy for the education of craftsmen. Today, it remains a free lending library.

Originally located in the heart of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, the Forney became so successful that in 1961, it was transferred to the renovated Hotel de Sens, one of the few examples of medieval civil architecture still found in Paris. Built from 1475 to 1519 on the order of Tristan de Salazar, Archbishop of Sens, the building has had many residents over the years. In the 19th century, for instance, there was a rolling company, a laundry, a canning factory, a hair hairdresser, and so on. In 1911, the city of Paris bought the building, which was extremely dilapidated. Restoration work begun in 1929 did not end until 1961, when the library moved in.

The restoration was very sympathetic. Architectural ornaments throughout the building honor of the draftsmen, bronziers, cabinetmakers, and other craftsmen who came to work here and borrow books.

The wall paper collection at the Forney is extensive, both woodblock printed and hand painted. This case holds samples that not only show the final design but also the colors and the sequence of the woodblocks used to create that design.

Rare and modern source material is available to the general public, but to artists and artisans in particular. Workshops and demonstrations are held on a regular basis, with an exhibition gallery on the first floor.

If you can’t get to the Forney itself, you can read about it:
Jacqueline Viaux, Bibliographie du meuble: (mobilier civil français) (Paris: Société des amis de la Bibliothèque Forney, 1966). Marquand (SA) Z5995.3.F7 V5
Bibliothèque Forney. Catalogue matières: arts-décoratifs, beaux-arts, métiers, techniques (Paris: Sociéte des amis de la Bibliothèque Forney, 1970-75). Marquand (SA) Oversize Z5939 .P225q
Bibliotheque Forney. Hôtel de Sens, Bibliothèque Forney (Paris: La Bibliothèque, 19830. Marquand (SA) Z798.B54 B53 1983

Automatons and Anamorphics

Nicolas and Alexis Kugel are the fifth generation of a family of antiques dealers founded in Russia at the end of the 18th century by their great-great-grandfather Elie Kugel, a collector of clocks and watches. In 1985, the Kugels took over the family business and in 2004, relocated the gallery to Hôtel Collot, 25 quai Anatole France, built in 1840 by Louis Visconti for Jean-Pierre Collot, director of La Monnaie (the French Mint).

Galerie J. Kugel is unique in its specialties and the eclecticism of the works of art it offers, including silver, sculpture, Kunstkammer objects, automatons, scientific instruments, and much more.

While visiting Galerie J. Kugel, we had the pleasure of viewing some of the unique treasures featured in Alexis Kugel’s most recent catalogue A Mechanical Bestiary: Automaton Clocks of the Renaissance, 1580-1640 (Marquand (SA) Oversize NK7495.G4 K8413 2016q).

Some pieces came from the Kugel family collection, which Mr. Kugel recalls playing with as a child: “I probably broke one or two, forcing the needle so it would animate,” he told Jake Cigainerosept of the New York Times.

Cigainerosept notes that the technology for automaton clocks dates to Heron of Alexandria, the ancient Greek mathematician who wrote extensively about mechanics. Their popularity surged during the Renaissance, when many were made in Augsburg, Germany, the artistic center of Bavaria at the time.

There is a pug dog whose eyes spin and tail wags; a monkey that beats his drum; and an elephant with dancing soldiers. “If you couldn’t afford a real elephant or lion for your menagerie,” noted Mr. Kugel, “then you could compromise with one of these.”

In another remarkable room are 18th-century anamorphic panel paintings, meant to be viewed in the reflection of a mirrored cylinder. We have several anamorphic prints in Princeton’s graphic arts collection, although not as rare or historic.




Les vapeurs ou le jour des memoires

Les Arts Décoratifs has three locations in Paris, but we chose to visit the collections and documentation at 107, rue de Rivoli. Windows there offer a view of the Louvre on one side and the Eiffel tower on the other.

The collections of the decorative arts are among the largest in France, comprised of thousands of pieces from the various fields of the decorative and applied arts. Many new donations, purchases and bequests are added to the collections every year.

The library and documentation center house a wide range of materials including books, manuscripts, prints, engravings, photographs, archives of artists and professionals, and ephemera. Established in 1864 by the founding members of the UCAD (Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs), it was their hope to provide artists with a store of forms and images for their inspiration. One of the most extraordinary resource is the volumes of the Maciet collection, a bound selection of reproductions and original works on paper organized by topic. In these volumes, one might find a 19th-century photograph by Henri Le Secq (1818-1882) documenting a Paris street pasted next to a printed menu of a restaurant on that street.

The organization’s documentation notes, “When art lover and collector Jules Maciet (1846-1911) crossed the threshold of the library of decorative arts in 1885, he understood that books alone could not satisfy the demands of artists and artisans: It would take images, lots of images. …Thus, from 1885 to 1911, the date of his death, Jules Maciet became an image hunter, bringing together hundreds of thousands of prints, photographs, documents from all sources from catalogs, books and magazines. He slices, sorts, and sticks them in great albums and imagines a methodical classification in the encyclopaedic spirit of the nineteenth century.”

We pulled the volume on Japanese pochoir and found a complete rare book reproducing stencil color disbound and pasted in. Happily, a box of original Katagami (Japanese paper) stencils were brought out to compliment the research.

Also on the table was a stunning volume of pochoir colored caricatures from the series Le Bon Genre, which we recognized from Princeton’s Charles Rahn Fry Pochoir Collection. Here’s a plate that seems to fit the visit: “Les vapeurs ou le jour des memoires” (The Vapors or the Day of Memories).

Le Bon genre; réimpression du recueil de 1827; comprenant les “Observations…” et les 115 gravures. Préface de Leon Moussinac (Paris: Les Éditions Albert Lévy [1931]). “Les planches ont étés gravées par E. Doistau, imprimées par R. Tanburro, et coloriées par J. Saudé … Il en a été tiré 750 exemplaires”–Verso of p. preceding t.p. Princeton’s copy is no. 444, from the Charles Rahn Fry Pochoir Collection. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize 2004-0020F


Frits Lugt’s collection

In 1947, Frits Lugt (1884-1970) established the Fondation Custodia in the historic hôtel Lévis-Mirepoix at 121 rue de Lille and endowed it with his entire of collection of paintings, drawings, prints, rare books, artists’ letters, and much more.

In 2015, the Terra Foundation for America Art opened a Center & Library upstairs from the Fondation, including a joint exhibition space and reading room. It appears to be a good collaboration. We were very fortunate to be allowed to tour both, including the Lugt art collection, housed in adjoining rooms in the eighteenth-century Hôtel Turgot.

Lugt, who began collecting in 1915, was a self-taught art historian and author whose books remain standard works to this day. The famous ‘L’ followed by the number Lugt assigned to sale catalogues and collector’s marks is recognized by all art historians.

Princeton University faculty and students have online access to Lugt’s Répertoire des catalogues de ventes publiques, which lists more than 100,000 art sales catalogues of the period 1600 to 1925 from libraries in Europe and the USA, both in French and in English. It can be searched on Lugt number, date, place, provenance, auction house and existing copies.

At the front door, you are greeted by a terra-cotta bust of Jacques Turgot, Baron de l’Aulne (1727-1781), which may have been sculpted by Jean-Antoine Houdon. All along the 18th-century staircase, the walls are filled with Lugt’s collection of painted landscapes.

One of the treasures pulled for us was a 1596 copy of Ludolf van Ceulen (1539-1610), Van den circkel: daer in gheleert werdt te vinden de naeste proportie des circkels-diameter tegen synen omloop, with a portrait of the author on the title page, engraved by Jacques de Gheyn II (1565-1629). Lugt also acquired a proof without lettering and a rare variant. See all three below.

“In the late sixteenth century, especially in the Netherlands, there was a revival of interest in the works of Archimedes. Van Ceulen was a part of this Archimedean renaissance, and early in his career, he read a translation of Archimedes’ treatise, Measuring the Circle. In this work, Archimedes estimated the value of pi by calculating the circumferences of polygons that just fit inside and outside the circle, reasoning (correctly) that the circumference of the circle must lie between those two values. Using polygons of up to 128 sides, Archimedes found that pi must lie between (using modern notation) 3.141 and 3.142. Van Ceulen found a way to increase the number of sides of the inscribed polygons from 128 to well into the millions, and he initially found a value of pi accurate to 20 decimal places. This number was engraved just below his portrait on the title page of his first book, Van den Circkel (1596).”

Musée du quai Branly

The Musée du quai Branly holds almost 370,000 works of art and 700,000 iconographical images (photographs) originating in Africa, the Near East, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. The work is considered for its aesthetic value, not its ethnographic appeal (that work is currently at the Musée de l’Homme). The walk up to the front door is made through a dense forest of trees and grasses, with the Eiffel Tower seen around the corner of the building.
The Jacques Kerchache Reading Room on the top floor of the museum holds over 100 researchers at one time, tempting them with a view as far as the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Public spaces throughout the building are decorated with pieces from the museum collection.

The collection offers examples of printing and drawing on many different surfaces, including this piece of Masi or Tapa cloth from the Bismarck archipelago, off New Guinea in the southwest Pacific Ocean. The work of art was made in the early twentieth century and is shown in comparison with Pablo Picasso’s painting made around the same time.

“Generally, to make bark cloth, a woman would harvest the inner bark of the paper mulberry (a flowering tree). The inner bark is then pounded flat, with a wooden beater or ike, on an anvil, usually made of wood. In Eastern Polynesia (Hawai’i), bark cloth was created with a felting technique and designs were pounded into the cloth with a carved beater. In Samoa, designs were sometimes stained or rubbed on with wooden or fiber design tablets. In Hawai’i patterns could be applied with stamps made out of bamboo, whereas stencils of banana leaves or other suitable materials were used in Fiji. Bark cloth can also be undecorated, hand decorated, or smoked as is seen in Fiji. Design illustrations involved geometric motifs in an overall ordered and abstract patterns.”–Dr. Caroline Klarr

See an example: Sara Featherstone Robinson, Hina-Malama, moon-goddess of the Polynesian Islands: a tapa story woven from ravelings of old Polynesian myths and chants (Berkeley, Calif. [1926]). Binding note:    Illus tapa cloth wrap. Brown title and illus. Cotsen Children’s Library (CTSN) Pams / Eng 20 / Box 37 31533

Edison turns up in Paris

New Jersey’s Thomas Edison (1847-1931) is one of the 110 identified figures included the immense painting by Raoul Dufy, commissioned by the Paris Electric Company for the Pavilion of Light and Electricity at the 1937 Paris International Exposition. Painted in only ten months, the mural presents historic and contemporary persons who may have had some role in the development of electricity.

Archimedes is present along with Benjamin Franklin and Marie Curie (the only woman) among many others. Each portrait was completed individually and then, images projected using a magic lantern onto an enormous wall to be painted.

The artist took his inspiration from Lucretius’ De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things), which expounds the Epicurean view of the natural origins of the universe. Dufy sought to complete Lucretius’ poem by bringing it up to the present world, creating a temple of Electricity, the goddess of modern times.

A huge power station takes a central position in the mural, with bolts of crackling electricity. The lower level features philosophers, scholars and engineers from antiquity to the present, while the upper register presents images of their discoveries—from mathematics to the light bulb—and its uses.

Originally shown on the concave wall of the Palais de la Lumière et de l’Electricité, built by Mallet Stevens on the Champs-de-Mars, the mural is now permanently installed at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, where it can be viewed for free.

Raoul Dufy (1877-1953), La Fée Électricité (The Spirit of Electricity), 1937. Oil on plywood. 10 x 60 m. Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

See also: Titus Lucretius Carus, T. Lucreti Cari, poetæ philosophici antiquissimi de rerum natura liber primus incipit fœliciter ([Verona: Paulus Fridenperger, 28 September 1486]). Rare Books EXKA Incunabula 1486 Lucretius