Category Archives: Exhibitions

The Princeton Print Club Scrapbooks Online


The first page of the Princeton Print Club scrapbook, now available online at, holds a small card that reads “Friends of the Princeton Library invite your presence at the opening of the house Forty Mercer Street Thursday, October seventeen, 1940 from four to six, R.S.V.P.”

The letterpress text is neatly set inside a decorative cartouche copied from a type specimen catalogue of Binny and Ronaldson owned by Elmer Adler (1884-1962). Around it on the page are placed no less than six articles announcing the opening of Alder’s printing library at Princeton along with a program of instruction in the graphic arts.

Writing in the Princeton Alumni Weekly, John F. Peckham, Class of 1940, noted that Princeton was not alone in recognizing a need for such a program. In 1938, the newly appointed librarian of Harvard University’s library, William Jackson (1905-1964), asked Philip Hofer (1998-1984) to head the Department of Printing and Graphic Arts, the first such department in the country. That same year, Massachusetts Institute of Technology established the Dard Hunter Paper Museum and hired Hunter (1883-1966) as its curator.

Adler’s earliest Princeton supporters and collaborators in this venture were Lawrance Thompson (1906-1973), professor of English and American Literature, and curator of the Library’s Treasure Room, along with Francis Adams Comstock, Class of 1919 (1897-1981) professor of architecture and a talented visual artist. Thompson introduced Adler to the other Friends of the Princeton University Library (FPUL) in a long piece for the Princeton University Library Chronicle, published in November 1940. “Those of us who have admired the adventurous spirit with which Mr. Adler has embarked on a variety of uncharted seas, in the past, feel confident that his voyage to Princeton is the beginning of another equally successful saga.”

Thanks to Robert Cresswell, Class of 1919, chairman of the FPUL, and a grant from the Carnegie Foundation, Adler was invited to Princeton for a period of three years with the understanding that the total cost of the program, budgeted at $18,000, would be covered by the FPUL, while the “University would not bear any of the responsibility for financing or continuance of the program; and while Mr. Adler would be attached to the staff of the library as research associate in the graphic arts, he would not be given faculty rank and students taking his courses would not be given curriculum credit.”

Once the contract was signed, an early suggestion was to locate Adler in one of the eating clubs along Prospect Avenue. Lawrence approached the Cottage Club in 1939 but wrote Adler of his disappointment when, “They voted against the housing of the collection in the library . . . [since] the library room and particularly the room beyond was needed for football weekends when the house overflows with luncheon and cocktail guests.”

Another plot would have placed the collection in the damp basement of 20 Nassau Street, with Adler residing at the Nassau Club. It was only after Adler had “worn to a frazzle several real-estate agents, who showed him practically every available house to rent in Princeton, did he settle on the dignified, hundred year old and vacant Miller house at Forty Mercer Street.”

Within the first year of his tenure, Adler transformed the modest frame building on Mercer Street into a vibrant nucleus teeming with activities, displays, celebrated guests, and giveaways. Its most consuming project was The Princeton Print Club and 40 Mercer became known as its clubhouse. By the end of the 1940-1941 school year, the student’s monthly The Nassau Sovereign proclaimed Elmer Adler “an amazing man and his brilliant house—each a new nerve center of campus activity.”

With the fall semester quickly approaching, Adler swung into action and had University carpenters, painters, electricians, plumbers, and others renovate the building into a series of small meeting rooms and galleries, along with an apartment where he would live during the week. The three floors included a working print shop, a library, an exhibition gallery, print room, and in the basement, a smoking room where the anti-smoking, anti-drinking Adler rarely appeared.


By October, the doors on Mercer Street opened with a selection of Adler’s personal collection of prints and printed books on view. “Faculty members, students, and Princeton residents yesterday turned out for the first formal showing of a collection of over 8,000 books and 4,000 prints belonging to Elmer Adler, a research associate on the staff of the University Library,” announced the Daily Princetonian.

“The collection which will provide the basis for informal courses on various aspects of the graphic arts is located at 40 Mercer St. and is open to the public. . . Individuals wishing to use the collection for study and research should obtain admission cards from Lawrance Thompson in the University Library Treasure Room. However, those interested in the collection as an exhibit may take advantage of the open invitations, which will be arranged serially by the Friends of the Princeton Library.”

To learn more about the Princeton Print Club, visit the digital scrapbook at:

Although the book is inscribed: “Delivered August 14, 1947. Pasting through September 14, 1947 by Wm. G. McLaughlin Jr [Club President],” someone has added several more pages, including information on the new graphic arts curator Gillett Griffin in 1953.

See also:

The Boxes

rowlandson boxes3The 7s on the owl’s collars indicates the increase in theater prices to 7 shillings for these seats, the ‘pigeon holes’ at the top of the boxes.

rowlandson boxes2The only one quietly paying attention to the play is the dog.
rowlandson boxes
rowlandson boxes5Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), after a design by John Opie (1761-1807), The Boxes, 1809. Hand colored etching. Inscribed “Opie invt/ Pubd Decr 12 1809 by T. Rowlandson No 1 James St Adelphi.” Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2014.00113. Gift of Dickson Q. Brown, Class of 1895.

This print gives you an idea of the rioting audience members at London’s Covent Garden Theatre during the Old Price Riots of 1809 (also referred to as the OP riots). A devastating fire had leveled the theatre the previous year and rebuilding lasted through the summer. Finally, on Thursday September 14, 1809, the Morning Post confirmed that the newly built Theatre Royal would open the following Monday with the tragedy Macbeth, starring Mrs Sarah Siddons.

To subsidized the new theater, ticket prices were raised from 6 shillings to 7 for the boxes and from 3 shillings and sixpence to 4 shillings for the pit. On the opening night, riots broke out during the performance and continued all night. In fact, the riots lasted another 64 days.

Happily, the audience won the fight and the prices were reduced.

rowlandson boxes4
Note on the second tier the insignia “from N to O Jack you must go,” meaning: change the prices from the new to the old cost; and the owner, Jack Kemble, must go.

The print is inscribed at the bottom: “O woe is me, t’ have seen what I have seen / Seeing what I see.” Shakespear’ [Hamlet, III. ii]. 12 December 1809. Etching

The Boxes will be on view at the Princeton University Art Museum next fall when we celebrate the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with a small exhibit entitled “Remember Me: Shakespeare and His Legacy.”

Thank You Thank You Thank You

ding7One more day to see Jaime Ding’s senior show in the Lucas Gallery at 185 Nassau, which is closing March 4, 2016. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU, a show about things bags are, from Jaime Ding ’16.



The Game of the Goose

“The Royal Game of the Goose–400 Years of Printed Board Games” will open on February 24, 2016, at the Grolier Club in New York. The exhibition is organized by and based on the collection of British historian Adrian Sevelle. “Dating from medieval times,” Sevelle writes, “The Royal Game of the Goose is the simplest of games: throw the dice to race to the end of the spiral track. No choice of move, no demonstration of skill. Yet this game has spawned thousands of variants, has influenced early American board games, and is still going strong in Europe.”

“Some Beautiful Board Games” is a half-day symposium on the art and history of printed board games on April 5, chaired by Andrea Immel, Princeton University curator of the Cotsen Childrens Library.

Although most of the games of the goose in our collections are found in the Cotsen Childrens Library, the Graphic Arts Collection has a few adult versions.
J. A. Grozier, Game of Round the World: a Novel and Fascinating Game with Plenty of Excitement by Land and Sea: with Nellie Bly (1864-1922), the World’s Globe Circler (New York: McLoughlin Brothers, 1890).

prix de sagesse-thumb-440x338-9784Le prix de sagesse ou La Fontaine en jeu (The Price of Wisdom or A Game of La Fontaine), 1810. Etching. Paris: Chez Demonville Imprimeur Libraire.

Combat Paper Exhibition in Robertson Hall


Separate from this exhibit, the Graphic Arts Collection holds one portfolio prepared by Combat Paper, which can be viewed in the RBSC reading room. Drew Cameron, You Are Not My Enemy: Combat Paper Portfolio Volume IV (Burlington, Vt.: People’s Republic of Paper, 2008). Copy 8 of 8, accompanied by 18 uniform fragments (including seven embroidered patches, names, emblems, etc.), seven buttons, and a ribbon. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize 2009-0009E

A Walk through Wordplay

jay2The curators of the exhibition Wordplay: Matthias Buchinger’s Drawings from the Collection of Ricky Jay, gave a few Grolier Club members the rare treat of a personal gallery tour last night. Seen here are collector and co-curator Ricky Jay; Freyda Spira, Associate Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Nadine Orenstein, Drue Heinz Curator in Charge of the Department of Drawings and Prints (apologies for the poor quality of my photo).


Welcome Collection because my camera failed to capture Mr. Jay’s copy

As their website explains, “This installation of drawings, prints, and related ephemera by the German artist and performer Matthias Buchinger (1674–1739) explores for the first time the oeuvre of the so-called Little Man of Nuremberg. Standing only twenty-nine inches high, and born without hands or feet, Buchinger was celebrated in his own time as a draftsman and calligrapher as well as a magician and musician. He boasted a clientele that included noblemen, kings, and emperors, along with members of the public who visited him at inns and fairs from Leipzig to Paris and from London to Belfast.”


Of particular interest to visitors from Princeton was an enormous broadside for another physically challenged artist of the nineteenth century named Sarah Biffin (also spelled Beffin or Biffen, 1784-1850). The Graphic Arts Collection holds several of Biffin’s miniature portrait paintings but none the ephemeral publicity for her performances, such as the one seen at the MET.1812 Broadside for Sarah Biffen

Born with no arms or hands or legs or feet, Biffin taught herself to perform a variety of everyday tasks using her mouth and shoulders. She developed a talent for drawing and painting; became an expert seamstress; and performed these abilities before a crowd of spectators.

Biffin’s family contracted with Emmanuel Dukes, a traveling showman, to make her one of his sideshow attractions. She traveled from town to town, painting or writing for the public’s entertainment. Dukes publicized her as “The Eighth Wonder!” and pocketed all the proceeds from the sale of her watercolors.

Thanks to the patronage from George Douglas, the sixteenth Earl of Morton (1761-1827), Biffin was finally released from her contract and established a studio in the Strand, London, where she painted miniature portraits.

biffinSarah Biffin (1784-1850), Capt. James West, 1844. Watercolor on paper. Signed, l.c.: “Painted by Miss Biffin – without hands, 1844”. Gift of W. Allen Scheuch II, Princeton Class of 1976, given in honor of Meg Whitman, Princeton Class of 1977. Graphic Arts Collection GA 2011.01448


Pastures Green and Dark Satanic Mills


William Blake, Milton a Poem (London, 1804-1811). Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery

With the exhibition Pastures Green and Dark Satanic Mills: The British Passion for Landscape opening this weekend at the Princeton University Art Museum, we were looking for the exact origin of the title phrase.

As curator Betsy Rosasco writes, “In his preface to Milton (ca. 1804–10), the poet William Blake praises England’s “mountains green” and “pleasant pastures” and alludes to the legendary sanctification of British soil through a visit by the child Jesus with Joseph of Arimathea, said to have been a tin merchant by trade, to Glastonbury. This poem ends with a challenge to create a New Jerusalem, or ideal paradise, among the “dark Satanic mills” that already loomed in Blake’s day.”
milton.a.p2.100According to the Blake archive, there are only two copies of Milton a Poem, with this preface: copy A, c. 1811 (British Museum, seen above) and copy B, c. 1811 (Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, seen below).
Here’s the transcription:

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.

Would to God that all the Lords people
were Prophets. Numbers XI. Ch 29. v.

The Princeton University Library holds the pochoir facsimile of copy D (Rosenwald Collection): William Blake (1757-1827). Milton: a poem in 12 [i.e. 2] books (Boissa, Clairvaux, Jura, France: Trianon Press; London: Distributed by B. Quaritch, [1967]. Rare Books: Oversize (Exov) 3631.3.364

To hear the version by Billy Bragg:

Henry Martin exhibit

henry martin show2

The work of cartoonist Henry Martin, Class of 1948, will be on display at Pennswood Village in Newtown, PA, beginning this Sunday, 10 January 2016. Titled “Through the Years at The Inquirer: An Extensive Collection of Cartoons by Hank Martin,” the show features work that Martin published at the Philadelphia Inquirer. There will be an  opening reception in Pennswood’s Passmore Lounge from 3:00 to 5:00 pm. Refreshments will be served

Martin’s cartoon posted above and below with the caption, “That’s Harry Phillipston and his wild imaginings,” was published in Punch on 25 August 1982.

“Work Outstanding among the Tiger’s features is the art-work. Bernie Peyton, Bill Brown and Henry Martin are three excellent cartoonists who can transplant ideas from brain to paper with considerable finesse. Their composite work outranks that of any of their predecessors, with the possible exception of Henry Toll, originator of the little sloe-eyed Princeton tiger, and A. M. Barbieri, both of whom toiled on the magazine in the past decade.”–Daily Princetonian, 71, no. 156, 20 November 1947

The Pennswood Art Gallery is located in Pennswood Village, a continuing care retirement community, at 1382 Newtown-Langhorne Road, Newtown PA. All are welcome.

henry martin show

Henry Martin, Class of 1948, “That’s Harry Phillipston and his wild imaginings,” 1982. Pen and ink on paper. Published in Punch on 25 August 1982. Graphic Arts collection

William Hole

mural4The Scottish National Portrait Gallery is housed in a neo-gothic building in red sandstone. Statues of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce guard the entrance. “Once inside the building, the Main Hall proves a breathtaking introduction to Scottish history.”

“Along the first-floor balustrade runs a processional or pageant frieze that depicts many famous Scots in reverse chronological order. Starting with Thomas Carlyle, it was designed as a ‘visual encyclopaedia’ and includes figures such as David Livingstone, James Watt, Robert Burns, Adam Smith, David Hume, the Stuart monarchs, Robert the Bruce and Saint Ninian. The artist, William Hole, also painted a series of large-scale murals on the first floor.”


William Hole (1846-1917) was also the illustrator of many novels, including James Barrie (1860-1937), A Window in Thrums; with twelve illustrations from etchings by William Hole … Sixteenth edition (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1898). Rare Books: Morris L. Parrish Collection (ExParrish) PR4074 .W56 1898

Installing Joan of Arc

joan of arc13

Joan is brought up from the vault.

joan of arc12

Tools are collected.

joan of arc1

Angles are discussed and adjusted.

joan of arc14

Holes are drilled.

joan of arc25Success!
Gerome Brush (1888–1954), Joan of Arc, 1915. Bronze. Gift of Lydia Richmond Poe (w Cl’ 1922). Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.