Category Archives: Ephemera

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

The Art of Noises in a silent gallery

There is nothing so wonderful as having a museum to yourself.

Colleagues in the Kandinsky Library at the Georges Pompidou Center, also known as the Musée National d’Art Moderne (MNAM), not only welcomed a few visitors by pulling treasures from their vaults but also led a tour of the stunning, newly hung galleries of the museum’s permanent collection.


One feature of the museum’s new interpretation of their collection are the works on paper interspersed throughout, this year highlighting the relationship between art and music in the 1900s.

Paintings, books, sound, and documents are intertwined in cases and on the wall, such as the work of Arnold Schönberg (1874-1951), who was both a painter and a composer, and that of painter and philosopher Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944).

Their books are seen side by side, with the proofs marked up by Schönberg.

Another section explores the many artists’ balls held regularly in Paris, including invitations, posters, paintings, photographs, and this pochoir program from one evening’s entertainment.


In another corner is Luigi Russolo’s Futurist manifesto The Art of Noises, written in a 1913 letter to Francesco Balilla Pratella and published in 1916. Russolo argues that we have become accustomed to urban industrial sounds and so, they should be incorporated into our music. The museum presents both the visual and the audio documents of the movement. See an English translation here:

Luigi Russolo, L’arte dei rumori (Milan: Edizioni futuriste di Poesia, 1916). Marquand Library (SAX): Rare Books ML3877 .R87 1916


Cabinet d’arts graphiques at the Musée d’Orsay

The collection of the Musée d’Orsay on Rue de la Légion d’Honneur focuses on arts from the second half of the 19th century. François Mitterrand inaugurated the new museum in December of 1986 but the archive and the library were created before the museum opened to the public. Extensive resources are freely accessible to researchers working on the period working between 1848 and 1914.

One of the highlights in the Cabinet d’arts graphiques is the record of the kickstarter-type campaign to acquire Gustave Courbet’s enormous painting The Artist’s Studio, one of his most mysterious composition.

“It’s the whole world coming to me to be painted,” he declared. “On the right, all the shareholders, by that I mean friends, fellow workers, art lovers. On the left is the other world of everyday life, the masses, wretchedness, poverty, wealth, the exploited and the exploiters, people who make a living from death.”

Many patrons, artists, writers, and other friends contributed funds and recorded their own name on the subscription list (seen to the left). Happily the campaign was successful.
Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), The Artist’s Studio, a real allegory summing up seven years of my artistic and moral life, between 1854 and 1855. Oil on canvas. Paris, musée d’Orsay© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay)

It was good to see the rooms in the museum before the curators, registrars, archivists, and others move down the block in approximately two years to a beautiful townhouse along the Seine.

How to Become a Part-Owner in Firmin-Didot, 1885

The French printer and type founder Firmin Didot (1764-1836) was a member of the Didot legacy of printers, punch-cutters, publishers, and paper manufacturers. Thanks to his significant contributions to French printing and modern type design, Napoleon appointed Didot the director of the Imprimerie Impériale typefoundry. When he retired in 1827, his sons Ambroise-Firmin Didot (1790-1876) and Hyacinthe Didot (1794-1880) took the management of the publishing business.

In April of 1885, ownership of the Paris firm of Firmin-Didot, 56 Rue Jacob, was divided into 1000 shares at 4000 francs each. The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired one of the rare certificates giving the owner 1,000th of the prestigious bookseller-publisher. Note the certificate has yet to be filled in, meaning that all the shares were not sold. It also specifies: “This share is transmissible,” and the transfer forms are also included here.


In the name of Mr. ____ following declaration in the transfer book. The Managers

See also: André Jammes, Spécimens de caractères de Firmin et Jules Didot ([Paris]: Librairie Paul Jammes: Editions des Cendres, 2002). Copy no. 21 of 275 exemplaires, in portfolio box; prospectus and sample pages laid in. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize Z232.D53 J36 2002e

Eugène Piton, Famille Firmin-Didot, imprimeurs, libraires, fondeurs, graveurs, papetiers, inventeurs et littérateurs (Paris: Se trouve chez l’éditeur [Impr. de H. Carion] 1856). Rare Books (Ex) 2004-1687N

Early Bookplates

Bookplate for Jacobus Maximilianus, count of Collalto and San Salvatore and count of the Holy Roman Empire, engraved in 1771 by Teodoro Viero (Italian, 1740–1819)

While searching our collections for Piranesi’s bookplate, other interesting prints turned up.
Here are a few.

Hand colored bookplate of the French politician Pierre de Maridat (1613-1689), Councillor at the Grand Conseil (1640), inscribed “Curae numen habet justu move 40 Eneid. / Inde cruce hinc trutina armatus regique deoque milito disco meis hcec duo nempe libris / ex libris Petri Maridat in magno Regis consilio Senatoris.”

Bookplate for David Garrick (1717-1779), engraved around 1755. Above is a bust of Shakespeare and below the inscription “La premiere chose qu’on doit faire quand on a emprunte un Livre, c’est de la lire afin de pouvoir le rendre plutot. Menagiana. Vol. IV.” = “The first thing one must do when one borrows a book is to read it in order to be able to give it back. Menagiana. Vol. 4.”


Bookplate of the booksellers C.S. Jordani and Associates, with their motto “Dulces ante omnia musae” (Sweet before all muses) at the top and below “Deus nobis haec otia fecit” (God has given us this tranquility, Virgil, Eclogues I, l.6).


Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) bookplate engraved by Francesco Bartolozzi (1727-1815).


Liebig Company’s Trade Cards

Times of the day


If you have been to the south bank arts complex in London and seen the tower labeled OXO, you were enjoying the Art Deco design of architect Albert Moore, who reconstructed the complex in the late 1920s for the Liebig Extract of Meat Company, manufacturers of Oxo beef stock cubes.

The company was founded and named for the chemist Justus von Liebig (1803-1873) who developed a beef extract in 1847, which was consumed in great quantities throughout Europe.

Almost as popular as Liebig’s extract were the chromolithographic trade cards he produced and distributed. From 1872 into the 1970s, the company printed cards featuring every imaginable profession and genre. Collectors number the cards at 11,000 distributed in 14 countries and languages.

Princeton has a small group, not all complete sets but in beautiful condition. Here are a few examples.

From the Life of a famous painter
Painters and sculptors

Justus von Liebig, Introduction à l’étude de la chimie (Paris: L. Mathias, 1837). Recap 8306.584.1837

Carlo Paoloni, Justus von Liebig; eine Bibliographie sämtlicher Verőffentlichungen mit biographischen Anmerkunge (Heidelberg: C. Winter, 1968) Z8504.52.P365 1968

Justus von Liebig, Experimental Chemie ([Darmstadt?], 1848). QD43.B75 1848

Justus von Liebig, Liebig’s Complete Works on Chemistry (Philadelphia: T.B. Peterson, 1852). QD28.L54 1852

A Letter to Bailey and His Elephant, part 3

Thanks to the help of Jennifer Lemmer Posey, Associate Curator of the Circus Museum at The Ringling and Editor of Bandwagon, The Journal of the Circus Historical Society, we have the identity of the gentlemen seated above, drawn on an envelope by Henry Herman Cross (1837-1918) and mailed June 30, 1884, to James Anthony Bailey (1847-1906).

He is the entrepreneur and circus owner Adam John Forepaugh (1831-1890), once called ‘the Nobelist Roman of them all.’ From 1865 through 1890, Forepaugh owned and operated a circus under various names including Forepaugh’s Circus, The Great Forepaugh Show, The Adam Forepaugh Circus, and Forepaugh & The Wild West. His operations were at least equal to or larger than those of P. T. Barnum.

Forepaugh’s outfit “even claimed forty elephants for the 1883 season in response to the birth of P. T. Barnum’s ‘baby elephant’ at his winter quarters barns in Bridgeport the year before. The ‘Elephant wars’ of the 1880s were a result of a generation of gambling management tactics that many people understood as bluster.” — Susan Nance, “Entertaining Elephants: Animal Agency and the Business of the American Circus,” JHU Press, Jan 14, 2013.

A Letter to Bailey and His Elephant, part 2

In 1880, as James Anthony Bailey (1847-1906) was negotiating with P.T. Barnum (18101-1891) for the purchase of the baby elephant named Columbia, owned and exhibited in the “Cooper, Bailey & Company Great London Circus,” the artist Henry Herman Cross (1837-1918) wrote to Bailey. The envelope is beautifully illustrated with a drawing of Cooper and Bailey on the right and Barnum on the left.

The portrait of Bailey’s baby that Cross discusses in his letter is not a family portrait but the painting of his elephant. Bailey writes that it is “a magnificent production and when finished you will do me the honor and credit to acknowledge the fact, that it is no conceit, or egotistical boast of mine—but an actual fact, for it delights every one who has witnessed it in its yet incomplete state.” Cross confirms he will bring it to Boston so he can finish it by placing a portrait of Bailey alongside the elephant.

(This letter cost 12 cents to mail in 1880)

Cross worked on a drawing for Harper’s Weekly but only this article was published, announcing “A Baby Elephant.”

A very interesting event—the birth of a baby elephant—took place at the circus stables of Cooper & Bailey, Philadelphia, early in the morning of March 10. The importance of the affair to the world of science will be realized when it is stated that it is the first authenticated instance of the kind that has ever taken place among these animals in a state of captivity. It is said that a similar event occurred in London some time during the last century, but there is no positive proof in regard to it.

At the sides of the stable-room where this little creature was born were a number of large elephants chained to posts, while Hebe, the mother, was chained in the centre of the room, where she was safe from molestation. The moment the baby was born, the other elephants set up a tremendous bellowing, threw their trunks about, wheeled around, stood on their hind – legs, and cavorted and danced in the highest glee, as though they had gone mad. The excitement communicated itself to Hebe, and she became almost frantic. With a terrific plunge she broke the chains and ropes which held her, and grasping up the little baby elephant with her trunk, threw it about twenty yards across the room, letting it fall near a large hot stove—where a fire is always kept burning—then followed with a mad rush, bellowing and lashing her trunk as though she would carry everything before her. . .

A Letter to Bailey and His Elephant

If you have seen a 19th-century Barnum & Bailey circus wagon, you have seen the painting of Henry Herman Cross (1837-1918). Although trained in Paris to be a portrait painter, Cross ran away to join the circus and spent many years traveling with the shows as their graphic artist. He even made trips to Africa with Bailey to acquire animals. Cross’s work is also found on backdrops, posters, newspapers, and brochures for his friend ‘Buffalo’ Bill Cody.

The Graphic Arts Collection holds several envelopes decorated by Cross, which were mailed to James Anthony Bailey (1847-1906), the partner of P.T. Barnum (18101-1891). As everyone knows, Barnum and Bailey  (and Cooper) merged their individual circuses in 1881 to form “P.T. Barnum’s Greatest Show On Earth.”

Bailey and Cooper had been operating the “Cooper and Bailey Circus,” which featured a baby elephant known as Columbia, advertised as “the first elephant born in the United States.” Barnum wanted to buy the elephant for his circus but Bailey would not sell. Eventually, they agreed to combine the two operations, featuring the elephant now known as Jumbo.

One envelope is dated 1881 and another 1884. Although Barnum and Bailey were only together a few years, it was not a happy partnership and men separated in 1885. On the envelope seen above, Bailey is pictured on the right spoon feeding pap to a baby elephant while Barnum is seen on the left impersonating an elephant in an exhibition case. A proclamation claims this to be “the only baby elephant ever born on wheels.”


Today, the largest collection of Cross’s paintings can be seen at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Buffalo Bill Historic Center in Cody, Wyoming, also houses many canvases. See the exhibition catalogue: H.H. Cross (1837-1918), The T.B. Walker collection of Indian portraits; 125 reproductions of paintings by Henry H. Cross, of which 22 are in color (Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1948). Western Americana (WA) 2009-2369N

H.H. Cross, Buffalo Bill, William Frederick Cody. ©Gilcrease Museum

Fine Press Book Fair

Despite the cold weather, a large crowd showed up for the 4th annual Manhattan Fine Press Book Fair on Saturday, March 11, in the basement of the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer.

Exhibitors included Abecedarian Gallery, Denver, CO; Alice Austin, Philadelphia, PA; Booklyn, Brooklyn, NY; Ken Botnick, St. Louis, MO; Bridge Press, Westmoreland, NH; Caliban Press, Canton, NY; Center for Book Arts, New York, NY; Gerald W. Cloud Rare Books, SF, CA; Edition Schwarze Seite, Scheer/Donau, Germany; Furious Day Press, New York, NY; Leslie Gerry Editions, Gloucestershire, UK; Harsimus Press, Jersey City, NJ; Intima Press, New York, NY; Lead Graffiti, Newark, DE; Leopard Studio Editions, Rochester, NY; Nancy Loeber, Brooklyn, NY; Luminice Press, Philadelphia, PA; Russell Maret, New York, NY; Midnight Paper Sales, Stockholm, WI; Mixolydian Editions, Petaluma, CA; Sarah Nicholls, Brooklyn, NY; Olchef Press, Newark, NJ; Otter Bookbinding, Woking, Surrey, UK; Pied Oxen Printers, Hopewell, NJ; Sarah Plimpton, New York, NY; Purgatory Pie Press, New York, NY; Robin Price Publisher, Middletown, CT; Maria Veronica San Martin, Brooklyn, NY and Santiago, Chile; Shanty Bay Press, Shanty Bay, Ontario, Canada; Sherwin Beach Press, Chicago, IL; Swamp Press, Northfield, MA; Tideline Press, West Sayville, NY; Traffic Street Press, New York, NY; Two Ponds Press, Rockport, ME; University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA; and Whittington Press, Gloucestershire, UK.

Ephemera collectors came early and stayed late, browsing through the bins.

Material varied enormously from old to new, small to large, unique and mass produced.

Enjoy the last day of the ABAA New York Antiquarian Book Fair at the Park Avenue Armory.