Category Archives: Books


Things Japanese, 1742

The Graphic Arts Collection holds a complete 10 volume set of the rare Illustrated Book of Comparable Things in Yamato (Japan), also called Illustrated Study of Things Japanese, written and published in 1742. Each book is bound in black paper with unique floral decoration painted in gold.

Nine of the ten volumes are filled with illustrations by Nishikawa Sukenobu (1671-1751) of Kyoto, compiled by Ban Yūsa of Naniwa of Osaka. The cutting of the blocks was done by Fujimura Zenyemon and Murakami Genyemon.

Each volume is dedicated to one genre or subject matter, including 1. Preface, landscapes, animals.–2. Historical figures of poets and painters.–3. Historical figures of women.–4. Historical subjects.–5, 6. Historical figures in literature.–7. Miscellaneous historical figures.–8. Historical figures in anecdotes.–9. Illustrations of poems.–10. Contents, text and notes.


Nishikawa Sukenobu (1671-1751), Ehon Yamato hiji / Naniwa Ban Yūsa sanshū · Heian Nishikawa Sukenobu gazu = 繪本和比事 / 浪華伴祐佐纂輯·平安西川祐信畫圖 = Illustrated Book of Comparable Things in Yamato (Japan) (Ōsaka: Kanseidō Kawauchiya Uhezō ban, Kanpō 2 [1742]) 10 volumes. Graphic Arts Collection 2017- in process

The Graphic Arts Collection also includes Nishikawa Sukenobu’s Ehon mitsuwagusa ([Japan]: [publisher not identified], [between 1750 and 1760]) and his Ehon fudetsubana [ge] (Kyōtō: Kikuya Kihē, Enkyō 4 [1747]).

Ancient Textile Patterns

Shinsen kodai moyō kagami. ten / Kodama Eisei hen = 新撰古代模様鑑. 天 / 児玉永成編 = Collection of Newly Selected Ancient Patterns, volume 1. (Tōkyō: Ōkura Magobe, Meiji 18 [1885]. 48 unnumbered pages. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) 2017- in process

This is the first of a two-volume set of ancient textile patterns. Each small textile sample is labeled by its source. The preface was written in 1885 by classical scholar and member of the Meiji government’s office of Shinto worship, Fukuba Bisei (1831-1907). His seal is stamped near his signature. The editor provides introductory remarks. –research and cataloguing by Tara McGowan, PhD

“Fukuba Bisei was Under-Secretary in the Office of Rites in 1868, and instructor to the Meiji Emperor in matters of Shinto ceremonial. Along with Vice-Minister of Rites Kamei Koremi, he was among the chief officials responsible for the shinbutsu bunri (“separation of Buddhism and Shinto”) policies. He was an adherent of the kokugaku (Nativist) teachings of Okuni Takamasa.” –James Ketelaar, Of Heretics and Martyrs in Meiji Japan, Princeton University Press (1991)

Alcott to Billings: Oh, Please change em!


The Graphic Arts Collection holds a proof of a wood engraving after a drawing by Hammatt Billings (1818-1874), which Billings intended as the frontispiece to the Second Part of Little Women. As the collector Sinclair Hamilton notes, Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) disliked it intensely, as is made evident by her letter to Elizabeth B. Greene:

“Oh, Betsy! Such trials as I have had with that Billings no mortal creter [sic] knows! He went & drew Amy a fat girl with a pug of hair, sitting among weedy shrubbery with a lighthouse under her nose, & a mile or two off a scrubby little boy on his stomach in the grass looking cross, towzly, & about 14 years old! It was a blow, for that picture was to be the gem of the lot. I bundled it right back & blew Niles [of Roberts Brothers] up to such an extent that I thought he’d never come down again. But he did, oh bless you, yes, as brisk & bland as ever, & set Billings to work again. You will shout when you see the new one for the man followed my directions & made (or tried to) Laurie ‘a mixture of Apollo, Byron, Tito & Will Green.’ Such a baa Lamb! Hair parted in the middle, big eyes, sweet nose, lovely mustache & cunning hands; straight out of a bandbox & no more like the real Teddy than Ben Franklin. I wailed but let go for the girls are clamoring & the book can’t be delayed. Amy is pretty & the scenery good but—my Teddy, oh my Teddy!”

At the top of the proof is a penciled note from the publishers: “If Miss A. will return this Friday A.M. Mr. Niles will be obliged.” Under this, in ink, in Miss Alcott’s handwriting is written “Oh, please change em!” and, on the sides of the engraving, also in her handwriting, are the words: “Amy too old & no curls. Amy is 17, slender & picturesque. Teddy much too young and no mustache. He is 21 in the story & very handsome.”

At the bottom of the engraving Miss Alcott has written “Lazy Laurence.”
Hamilton’s second attempt is the one found as the frontispiece to “Part Second” of Little Women.

Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888), Little Women, or, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Part second (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1869). Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Hamilton 206(2)


Thanks to Ananya A. Malhotra, Class of 2020, for her help in locating this on her last day in RBSC.

Description of the Poets

Fabricious’s Description of the Poets. Vide:Gil Blas—“People think that we often dine with Democritus and there they are mistaken. There is not one of my fraternity, not even excepting the makers of Almanacs, who is not welcome to some good table. As for my own part, there are two families where I am received with pleasure. I have two covers laid for me every day, one at the house of a fat director of the farms, to whom I have dedicated a romance, and the other at the house of a rich citizen, who has the disease of being thought to entertain wits every day at his table; luckily he is not very delicate in his choice, and the city furnishes him with great plenty.” Print by Thomas Rowlandson, text from: Alain René Le Sage, The History and Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane (London, 1716).

The Miseries of Human Life, written in 1806 by James Beresford, a Fellow at Merton College, Oxford, had extraordinary success and became a minor classic in the satirical literature of the day. Dozens of editions were published and printmakers rushed to illustrate their own versions of life’s miseries.

Thomas Rowlandson (1756/57–1827) began drawing scenes based on Beresford’s book as soon as it was published and after two years, the luxury print dealer Rudolph Ackermann selected fifty Miseries in hand colored etchings for a new edition of the Beresford work. Fabricious’s Description of the Poets (1807) is one of Rowlandson’s interpretations of the miseries of social life.

Thomas Rowlandson, Miseries of Human Life. Fifty etchings after James Beresford’s book of the same title. London: R. Ackermann, 1808.

The exhibition The Miseries of Human Life and other Amusements: Drawings by Thomas Rowlandson opens at the Princeton University Art Museum July 1, 2017.

First American Detective Novel

In 1860, Nathaniel Orr (1822-1908) began designing and cutting the wood engravings for the female author Metta Victoria Fuller Victor (1831-1885). Writing under the pseudonym Seeley Regester (as well as Corinne Cushman, Eleanor Lee Edwards, Metta Fuller, Walter T. Gray, Mrs. Orrin James, Rose Kennedy, Louis LeGrand, Mrs. Mark Peabody, The Singing Sybil, and Mrs. Henry Thomas), Victor created some of the earliest and most popular dime novels, beginning in 1860 with Alice Wilde, The Raftsman’s Daughter, and The Backwoods Bride.

Although Orr’s name is often left out of descriptions, his wrappers, frontispieces, and interior plates helped enormously to promote and endear these books to the American public.

Their best seller, Maum Guinea, and Her Plantation “Children,” was published in 1861 and received compliments from no less than President Abraham Lincoln for its abolitionist message. Perhaps even better remembered is The Dead Letter, serialized in 1866 and then published in 1867, with plates by Orr. The work is often credited as the first American full-length detective novel, by a male or female author.

Victor wrote and Orr engraved many different genres, including mysteries, Westerns, romances, temperance novels, and rags-to-riches tales. These cheap little books brought tremendous financial success for both their author and illustrator, allowing Orr to move his family into a palatial estate along the Palisades, just west of present day Hoboken, with a view of the Manhattan skyline. Later, the Orrs and the Victors both moved to neighboring homes in Ho-ho-kus, New Jersey, and both families are buried in the nearby Valleau Cemetery.

Metta Victoria Fuller Victor (1831-1885), Maum Guinea, and Her Plantation Children (New York: Beadle and Company, 1861). F PS 3129.V58 M386 1861
Metta Victoria Fuller Victor (1831-1885), The Dead Letter, an American Romance (New York: Beadle and Company, 1867). F PS 3129.V58 D433 1867

Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Highlights

On Friday, May 5, Martin Heijdra, Director of the East Asian Library and Setsuko Noguchi, Japanese Studies Librarian in the East Asian Library presented a general introduction to the rare books in the East Asian Collections for students, faculty, and staff.  They welcomed special requests and tried to select titles based upon the audience. New Japanese acquisitions were a particular focus.


Martin Heijdra showed an early example of four color printing.

Setsuko Noguchi shared the epic multi-volume Heike Monogatari (The Tale of the Heike) with elaborate gold endpapers and illumination.


We were given a small clue to identifying Korean, Chinese, and Japanese books. The Korean, on the bottom, often has five equidistant holes sewn around the spine. The Chinese book, in the middle, often has four hole sewing at uneven intervals. The Japanese volume at the top is stab sewn through four equidistant holes.


Learn the history of silver mining in Japan told through an elegant Japanese scroll.


This working manuscript for Pei wen yun fu is dated between 1662 and 1722 (and might be called a Chinese Webster’s Dictionary).


Shaka Hasso Monogatari (The Eight Lives of the Buddha) with the original woodblock for two leaves, image and text. The block is double-sided with another image and text printed from the verso.



Printers’ Marks on Eighth Avenue

The next time you are running to Penn Station on your way back to Princeton, look up.

On August 8, 1915, The New-York Tribune announced plans “To erect printing crafts building: Plans provide for a 21 story structure costing $2,500,000 site at 34th Street and Eighth Avenue much space already has been leased from the plans by big concerns as the proposed printing crafts building will look.”


One of the first to rent space and move into the building was Louis H. Orr (1857-1916), director of the Bartlet Orr Press and son of the wood engraver John William Orr (1815-1887). Louis Orr grew up surrounded by members of the printing trade. As the new building was being conceived and designed, Orr suggested including printers’ marks on the façade in honor of the many presses that had come before. His own firm’s design was, of course, included.

Around the same time, the Bartlet Orr Press published a brochure giving a little history of printers’ marks, which was collected by Elmer Adler when he opened his own press Pynson Printers. Happily, Adler’s copy made its way into the Graphic Arts Collection at Princeton University Library.



Horace Townsend (1859-1922), Printers marks: being a brief consideration of some marks used by printers in the XV century with special reference to a XX century mark (New York: Bartlett Orr Press, 1913). From the library of Elmer Adler (1884-1962). Graphic Arts Collection (GA) Oversize 2009-0109Q



Nathaniel Orr and Company

Orr Family Papers, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

“If you would like,” wrote J. A. Adams, “I can give you constant work on these drawings for 18 or 20 months. I would rather you would come to this city, as it would be more convenient. Please let me know whether you can devote your whole time to them or how many you can do.” The offer was made in the summer of 1843 to Nathaniel Orr (1822-1908). Engraver Joseph Alexander Adams (103-1880) and in turn, the artist of the original designs John Gadsby Chapman (1808-1889), were both exceedingly pleased with the young artist’s work and thanks to this offer, Orr moved to New York City to work full-time on an Harper and Brother’s Illustrated Bible.

In the 1850s, Orr established his own firm and needed a logo. Various drawings survive leading to several wood engravings used in advertising, stationery, and other N. Orr and Company information. Two of his engraved blocks are held in the Orr Family Papers, collected by his daughter and donated to the University of Florida.

Woodblock seen above, at an angle with raked light and below, straight on from the top.

A second version of Nathaniel Orr’s company logo can be seen below. If it looks familiar, it was the logo borrowed by Sinclair Hamilton, Class of 1906, and stamped on the cover of his book: Early American Book Illustrators and Wood Engravers 1670-1870 (with the inner text changed to present his own information). It would have been kinder if Hamilton had included an entry on Nathaniel Orr either in his first volume or the supplement.


The earliest version of this design was printed in 1843 [seen below], when Nathaniel Orr first moved from Albany to New York City.


A third design was created for the head of Orr’s stationery near the end of his career. After several tries, seen below, the final design was printed.

Orr Family Papers, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

The Valise

Latin American Studies and the Graphic Arts Collection are collaborating on the purchase of the limited edition publication La valija (The Valise), which was unveiled Tuesday night at the Museum of Modern Art. The collective artists’ project unites seven South American artists—Johanna Calle (Bogotá, Colombia), Matías Duville (Buenos Aires, Argentina), Maria Laet (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Mateo López (Bogotá, Colombia), Nicolás Paris (Bogota, Colombia), Rosângela Rennó (Belo Horizonte, Brazil), and Christian Vinck Henriquez (Maracaibo, Venezuela)—with the Argentine writer César Aria.

The artists created over 50 original artworks responding to Aria’s novel Un episodio en la vida del pintor viajero (An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter), which follows the German painter Johann Moritz Rugendas’s 1837 journey through South America.

Designed to fit in a special valise, the works include original prints, maps, artist’s books, airmail envelopes, origami toys, posters, a sound recording, and a hand blown glass sculpture, all reflecting the artists’ shared affinity for geography, travel literature, and book-making.








To celebrate the publication of The Valise, Aria gave a private reading for members of the Library Council of The Museum of Modern Art. He told the audience that he had wanted to be a painter but now paints with his words. Rejecting computers, Aria said he prefers to write using a fountain pen (he has an extensive collection) on good heavy paper.







For more information on this project, see

The novelist was recently profiled in The New Yorker to mark the publication of Ema the Captive, his 13th novel in English. See: Alena Graedon, “César Aira’s Infinite Footnote to Borges,” The New Yorker, January 27, 2017

Cheap and Well-Illustrated

The Wild Woman: or, The Wrecked Heart: Being the True Autobiography of the “Wild Woman,” Who Was Recently Exhibited at Cincinnati, and Was Rescued from Her Persecutors by the Citizens of That City, and Sent to the Insane Asylum at Dayton, Ohio. The History of This Strange Woman Furnishes Incidents of the Most Thrilling Narrative Ever Written, and Is Now Offered for the First Time (Philadelphia : Barclay & Co., 1864). Designs by Charles F. Noble (born ca. 1833) and Nathaniel Orr (1822-1908). Sinclair Hamilton Collection of American Illustrated Books (GAX) Oversize Hamilton 1887q


Four years after the wood engraver Nathaniel Orr finished the plates for Twelve Years a Slave, he was asked to supply a few cuts for another captivity narrative. This time it was the autobiography of Alice Galon, a young woman who was (according to a very complex story) seduced by Clarence Withrow, a villain who became her lover and then killed their baby. When she suffered a nervous breakdown, he put her on exhibit as a wild mountain woman, charging 15 cent per view.

The actual woman at the center of this tragedy was named Ann Walter, an emotionally challenged girl held captive by Captain J. W. C. Northecote and his cohorts. For several months in 1856, they traveled the Midwest exhibiting Walton as a “Wild Woman of the Wachita Mountains of Missouri.”

When they got to Cincinnati, the police thankfully stopped the show and brought them all in for questioning. On July 16, 1856, an account of the trial was published locally and repeated in the New-York Tribune (see below). Walton spent a period of time at an asylum in Dayton, Ohio, before being released.


“The wild woman on a legal platform: lunatico inquirendo–interesting inquiry in the probate court–physicians and other witnesses examined–supposed imposition,” The Cincinnati Gasetic, New-York Daily Tribune, July 16, 1856: 6.

The first edition of the narrative was published in 1857 by the Cincinnati firm of E. E. Barclay & Company, whose lurid accounts of sex and murder were printed in both English and German.  Seven years later, after the firm moved to Philadelphia, the story was reprinted with only a new title page. This is the copy held in the Sinclair Hamilton collection at Princeton.

“What devilish impulse suggested to Clarence Withrow the thought of speculating upon his crazed and unhappy victim, is a mystery of wickedness too deep to comprehend. Arraying her in a manner suitable to his scheme, assisted by wily accomplices, he exhibited her as a wild woman, who had been captured in the mountains.” Page 80




[Alice Galon], Das wilde Weib; oder: Das gebrochene Herz: Eine selbstverfasste Lebensbeschreibung des wilden Weibes, das neulich in Cincinnati ausgestellt war, aber von den Bürgern dieser Stadt den Händen ihrer Verfolger entriffen und in das Irrenhaus in Dayton gebracht wurde (Cincinnati: Verlag von Barclay & Co., No. 6 West 4te Strasse, 1857). “Diese Geschichte des wilden Weibes, die Vorfälle der rührendsten Art enthält, die je geschrieben wurden, wird nun zum ersten Mal dem Publikum angeboten.”