Category Archives: Illustrated books

illustrated books

The War of the Worlds

In 1904, Henrique Alvim Corrêa (1876-1910), a relatively unknown Brazilian artist living and working in Belgium, took a group of drawings to London and showed them to H.G. Wells (1866-1900). Alvim Corrêa’s work was inspired by the author’s 1897 story entitled “The War of the Worlds” and with no further information or persuasion, Wells commissioned him to illustrate a deluxe, limited edition of the novel. Over the next two years, Alvim Corrêa completed 32 drawing for the book published in 1906. The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired one of the 500 rare copies of this illustrated book.

“The War of the Worlds” first appeared in Pearson’s Magazine [seen above] serialized from April to December 1897, together with illustrations by Warwick Goble (1862-1943), best known today for his fairy tales and other children’s books. The two versions are quite similar.

Eighty years ago, Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre radio hour performed a Halloween adaptation of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, which many listeners took as fact and panicked. A reporter (Orson Welles) told the audience that something had fallen or landed in Grover’s Mill (just east of the Princeton Junction train station) and over the next hour it was discovered that giant Martian war machines were attacking the United States. Today, a carved stone marks the site of the fictional landing.

H. G. Wells (1866-1946), La guerre des mondes. Traduit de l’anglais par Henry-D. Davray. édition illustreé par Alvim-Corrêa (Bruxelles: Vandamme & Co., 1906). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2018- in process


Ellsworth Kelly’s Un Coup de dés

When publisher Sidney Shiff commissioned Ellsworth Kelly to select a text and create prints for a Limited Editions Club book, Kelly chose to match his black and white lithographs with Un coup de dés by Stéphane Mallarmé, one of the most famous poems of the 19th century. In its 63rd year, the Club was publishing only three or four titles each year in editions of 300, unlike the earlier runs of 2,000 under George Macy. This allowed Shiff to work with outstanding artists and create some of the most beautiful books of the late 20th and early 21st century.

Published in the original French and the original page design, Kelly integrated his eleven lithographs with the text, accentuating the open white space of both text and images. A separate booklet with Daisy Aldan’s English language translation is included: mallarme

“A throw of the dice never even when cast in eternal circumstances at the heart of a shipwreck let it be that the Abyss whitened slack raging under an incline desperately soars by its own wing…”


Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) and Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015), Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard ([New York]: Limited Editions Club, 1992). Text printed at Wild Carrot Letterpress and lithographs printed at Trestle Editions. Copy 71 of 300. Original black goatskin, in black solander box. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2018- in process.

The Dark Plates of Phiz

Preparing for a visit from ART 561/ENG 549/FRE 561 “Painting and Literature in Nineteenth-Century France and England,” the prints of Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz) for Charles Dickens’ Bleak House have been pulled. Phiz completed forty plates, etched on steel, for Dickens’ ninth novel published in monthly parts from March 1852 to September 1853.


Both for the added mystery and to thwart the lithographers who made copies of Browne’s superb etchings, the artist developed a technique for what we refer to as the ‘dark plates.’

In ten of the forty illustrations, Browne merged the meticulous engraved lines made by an engraving- or ruling-machine with the hand drawn lines of his etching needle to create the look of a mezzotint with the detail and freedom of a drypoint.
Engraving on steel had only recently been perfected. In 1895, C. W. Dickinson wrote an easy to understand description of “Copper, steel and bank-note engraving,” quoted here:

“Previous to the year 1830 only copper plate was used by engravers, because up to that time it was not thought possible to make steel soft enough to cut easily and smoothly. The first plate produced—that could be used—was called “silver steel.” Later there was manufactured the “Prussian steel” plate, which was a slight improvement in fineness of grain. Other and greater improvements followed, until now steel has almost entirely superseded copper.

Decarbonated cast steel is used for general engraving purposes and must be of very fine grain, and very soft as compared with natural cast steel. The plates are rolled out from bars of steel in its natural state, then decarbonated and cut to about the size desired, leaving enough margin to square the edges, which are finished with a wide bevel. After the plate has been cut to size, it is flattened by laying it upon a copper anvil and hammering with a wooden mallet until it is as flat as is possible to get it by that process. A uniform thickness and perfectly flat surface are then given to the plate by grinding—sometimes by hand, usually by machine—the latter process being the better, as it is the more perfect in its results.”,_Steel,_and_Bank-Note_Engraving

Also in the early 19th-century ruling machines for engravers were being up-graded, in particular to accommodate  enormous publishing project such as Napoleon’s Description de l’Égypte. As improved and enhanced by Nicolas Conté, the French engraving machine was invaluable for the thousands of lines incorporated into the skies and landscapes within his designs. Here’s an image:

A diamond was often used as the stylist on the engraving machines, hard enough to cut but thin enough to draw the slender marks that left the impression of a tint or tone rather than line. Here are a few close ups that make it easier to see the hundreds of tiny straight lines behind Browne’s linear picture.



The Pencil of Nature

Princeton has just added our superb copy of William Henry Fox Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature, a gift of David H. McAlpin, class of 1920, to our other Talbot prints included in the William Henry Fox Talbot Catalogue Raisonné, begun by Larry Schaaf and now based at Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries. The entire volume,, can be viewed and downloaded for study around the world. This copy has the bookplate of William Twopeny, and the property stamp of the New York City Camera Club Library (catalogued & indexed 1930 by Hal. D. Bernstein, librarian), which was purchased and given to Princeton University by McAlpin.

William Twopeny (printmaker; painter/draughtsman; British; Male; 1797-1873). Twopeny, not Twopenny. Lawyer; amateur antiquarian draughtsman and printmaker, specialising in architectural subjects. A very large collection of his drawings was given to the BM in 1874 by Edward Twopeny, his son: see 1874,0214.104 to 1937 and Binyon IV pp.214-43. For Twopeny’s own catalogue see two volumes in the P&D library. See also a letter dated March 10th 1845 from Albert Way (q.v.) in which he refers to Mr Twopenny of [Lambs] building living at Inner Temple (archives of Department of Britain, Europe and Prehistory)–British Museum

Johann Ehrenfried Weishaupt, ten years a slave in Tunisia

On the title page of this 1812 ballad is a woodcut depicting six Germans pulling a plough while turbaned slave owners harass them. In the top right, a nobleman pays for their release, including Johann Ehrenfried Weishaupt who might be the one slave with a different hat.

Beschreibung der sechs deutschen Sklaven oder Handwerksburschen welche in der Tunischen Sklaverey über 10 Jahr am Pfluge haben ziehen muessen, worunter auch Johann Ehrenfried Weishaupt ein Schornsteingfegers-Gesell aus Lygnitz, dessen ganzer Lebenlauf allhier in einem Lied von 25 Versen … [The Description of Six German Slaves or Craftsmen Who Had to Pull on the Plow in Tunisian Slavery For Over 10 Years, Among Them Johann Ehrenfried Weishaupt a [?Schornsteingfegers-Gesell] from Lygnitz, Whose Whole Life Is Told Here in a Song With 25 Verses …] Reutlingen, bey Christoph Philipp Fischer, 1812. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2018- in process

The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired a very rare first edition of this ballad, which we are told was performed at fairs singing to the tune of Als einstens Herr Merkurius. The anonymous author used as his source text the self-published story of the apprentice chimney sweep Johann Ehrenfried Weishaupt who was abducted and spent ten years as a slave in Tunisia before being freed by a Maltese nobleman, returning to his native village in Silesia. The source text is also very rare: Beweinungswürdige Schicksale Johann Ehrenfried Weishaupt aus Liegnitz in Schlesien. Von ihm selbst aufgesetzt, first published 1789, with a second edition in 1795. No copies can be found in the United States.

Th printed ballad is also a type of acrostic, with the first letter of each of the 25 verses spelling out Johann Ehrenfried Weishaupt’s name, the subject of the narrative.


The pamphlet has a long printed note at end, which tells the reader that when he returned, Weishaupt set up a small cabinet in his father’s house with the curiosities from his time in the Middle East: an ostrich egg; a large sea shell; a large spider crab; a ‘Tunisian’ nut from which the Turks derive color; a basket woven from sugar cane; the shell of a large scorpion; the curiously shaped spoon from which he ate while in captivity; and the curiously shaped metal hat he was forced to wear. I’m told the curiosity cabinet can still be inspected but I haven’t been able to find a reference online.

Gospels for Sundays and Saints Days

Louis Barbat ( 1795-1870), Évangiles de Dimanches et fêtes. Illustrés par Barbat père et fils (Chalons-S-Marne: Imprimerie Lithographique Barbat, 1844). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2018- in process


OCLC lists fewer than a dozen copies of Barbat’s masterpiece of early lithographic printing in libraries worldwide and so, it is a treat to have acquired a copy for the Graphic Arts Collection. In his discussion of 19th-century printing on coated or enameled papers, Michael Twyman mentions two reasons for using “carton porcelaine” as Barbat does with this volume: First because when powdered colors were used, its smooth surface made it easier to brush away the powder from unwanted areas and second, because the coating limited the amount of water that was absorbed in the course of printing. The two notable publications he sites that made use of such paper are Midolle’s Recueil, ou, alphabet de lettres initials historiques (1846) and Barbat’s Évangiles seen here.

Louis Barbat and his son Pierre-Michael opened their shop in 1833 after several years experimenting with lithography. On January 3, 1834, they received a patent to adapt a printing press to print several colors simultaneously. Barbat’s entry for the 1839 Paris exposition, which included some of the title pages for the Évangiles, was praised for his color printing and at the 1844 Paris exposition the completed Évangiles was awarded a silver medal.

Twyman notes that Évangiles “was very much a family undertaking and, in addition to a prominent reference to the Barbat name on both the imprint page and title-page, Barbat, P. Barbat, and Barbat fils are acknowledged as designers at the foot of many borders. This suggests that, like many other lithographic establishments of the day, the ‘Imprimerie lithographique Barbat’ was very much artist-driven.” Interesting to note this on the eve of the artist’s book fair where the artists’ book are frequently defined as beginning in 1965.

Although our collection holds a number of printed labels and Belgian “carton porcelaine” trade cards, we do not have any of Barbat’s metallic wine labels for the Champagne merchants. This would be a wonderful addition, if anyone has any left-over bottles.

See also:

Michael Twyman, A History of Chromolithography, Graphic Arts: Reference Collection Oversize NE2500.T8 2013, pp. 166, 180-81, 191, 275-77, 432, 521; plates 136 & 355.

Sorbonne on-line Dictionnaire des Imprimeurs-lithographes du XIXe siècle.

History of the Werner Book Publishers

A recent acquisition of a small, ephemeral booklet from 1894 chronicling The Werner Company, a book publishing firm, led to a wonderful sequence of 42 illustrations depicting the bookmaking process at that time. Here are a few in no particular order:

Life Begins

Everyone agrees that publisher Henry Luce launched Life magazine on November 23, 1936, his third magazine after Time (1923) and Fortune (1930). The first issue sold for ten cents and featured a cover photograph of Fort Peck Dam in Montana by Margaret Bourke-White, five pages of Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photographs, and dozens of other photo-essays. The magazine’s circulation went from 380,000 the first week to more than one million four months later, lasting until 1972. Paper issues can be seen at: ReCAP Oversize 0901.L724q

What no one seems to agree on is why someone made a miniature facsimile edition of the first issue, seen here along with the bound original. Some collections call is a salesman’s sample but it seems unlikely Luce would reproduce the entire issue in miniature when he was pushing the large format image.

More likely is that a facsimile was made as a souvenir or keepsake, either at the moment or for a later anniversary. There is nothing in the issue to indicate why or when it was produced, and no information online to settle the question. A call to Time, Inc. did not add any useful information. Happily for us, the facsimile includes the back cover [above], which was removed from our paper issues.

Color printing by Jean Robert, assistant to J. C. Le Blon

For those who study the history of printed color, the German printer Jacob Christoph Le Blon (1667-1741) is celebrated for his development of three and four color prints. We usually think of the deluxe editions he produced but forget his three-color system was also used on simple, utilitarian volumes.

Thanks go to Charles B. Wood III, who found this work on obstetrics by Angélique Marguerite Le Boursier Du Coudray (1712-1789). the pioneering midwife who published the manual on childbirth, developed from the lectures and classes she gave throughout Europe. The illustrations are beautifully printed in colors by Le Blon’s assistant Jean Robert (active 1746-1782) and the frontispiece portrait of Du Coudray is also engraved by Robert.

Angélique Marguerite Le Boursier du Coudray (1715-1794), Abbrégé de l’art des accouchemens, dans lequel on donne les préceptes nécessaires pour le mettre heureusement en pratique. On y a joint plusieurs observations intéressantes sur des cas singuliers. Ouvrage très-utile aux jeunes Sages-Femmes, & généralement à tous les éléves en cet art, qui désirent de s’y rendre habiles. Nouvelle édition, enrichie de figures en taille-douce enluminées. Par Madame Le Boursier du Coudray, ancienne maîtresse sage-femme de Paris (Saintes: Pierre Toussaints. Libraire, imprimeur du Roi, rue Saint Maur. M. DCC. LXIX [1769]). Rare Books and Special Collections RG93 .xD8

See also the 1756 book engraved by Pierre François Tardieu (1711–1771) and Jean Robert (active 1746–1782), and printed by Pierre Gilles Le Mercier (active 1735–1766): “Coloritto or the Harmony of Colouring in Painting” in Antoine Gautier de Montdorge (1701-1768), L’art d’imprimer les tableaux, traité d’après les écrits, les opérations & les instructions verbales, de J. C. Le Blon (Paris: Chés P. G. Le Mercier … Jean-Luc Nyon … Michel Lambert … 1756). Graphic Arts Collection 2004-3391N.

Nattini bindings

Volume 3 front cover
The question yesterday was, What is on the back of the Nattini binding?

As first posted in 2011, the Graphic Arts Collection is fortunate to hold one complete bound set of Dante’s Divine Comedy imagined by the artist Amos Nattini (1892-1985), along with one partially unbound set. At 82 cm long and perhaps 20 pound each, these do not move from the shelf often.

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), La Divina Commedia, Imagini di Amos Nattini (Milano: Istituto nazionale dantesco, [1923-1941]). GAX Oversize PQ4302 .F23e. Three volumes; 82 cm. each. 100 color lithographs by Amos Nattini (1892-1985).

In 1921, on the occasion of the 600th anniversary of Dante Alighieri’s death, the Istituto nazionale dantesco in Milan commissioned a new, illustrated edition of the poet’s Divine Comedy. The artist chosen for the project was Amos Nattini, who was charged with creating one plate for each canto. For the next twenty years, Nattini worked on his Dante, releasing each of the three volumes are they were completed in 1928, 1936, and finally 1941.

Perhaps because of the length of time between volumes, the first and second are bound with similar designs while the third volume has its own design. Here are the front and back, along with this lovely design for the screws. The books are now heading to conservation for a good cleaning.

Detail of volume 3 back cover.

Volume 3

We are extra fortunate in Princeton, since both the Princeton Theological Seminary and the Institute for Advanced Study Library are listed as also having sets of Nattini’s Dante. This has not been confirmed in person.

Detail of volume 1 back cover.

Volume 1 back cover

Volume 1 front cover


Special thanks go to Mike Siravo who helped to lift volumes.