Category Archives: prints and drawings

prints and drawings

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

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.

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


Visit to the INHA

The only original facade remaining at the Site Richelieu de la Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF). Below are personifications of two departments, manuscripts on the left and prints & drawings on the right.

This morning a small group visited the Library of the Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA), at 58 rue de Richelieu, where INHA offers its services and its collections in the Labrouste Reading Room within the BnF Richelieu. Built for the national library by the architect Henri Labrouste between 1860 and 1866, these prestigious spaces have been under renovation since 2011 and only reopened at the end of 2016. Note the use of delicate cast iron columns and enormous windows to provide natural light, as Labrouste would not allow gas light in the room.

Created in 2001, the INHA revived the project of the fashion designer and patron Jacques Doucet (1853-1929) who, by founding the Library of Art and Archaeology in Paris in 1908, dreamed of building an institute dedicated to resources and to research. The INHA is responsible for developing academic activity and contributing to international academic cooperation in the fields of art history and heritage.

INHA now includes collections of the Bibliothèque centrale des musées nationaux and a selection of the print collections from the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, totaling more than 1,800,000 documents, 230,000 open-access books, and the compacity to welcome up to 411 readers. The library of the École nationale des Chartes and the special collections of the Bibliothèque nationale de France remain on site. The INHA also works in collaboration with Parisian establishments such as the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée des Arts décoratifs and the École du Louvre.

This is the small area of the Labrouste room used by the collection of prints and photographs for general researchers while its permanent rooms are being renovated. For restricted materials, arrangements are made in a part-time shared space under staff supervision. Prints and photographs should be complete and reopen in another two years.

For our visit, an amazing selection of treasures were shown, including drawings by Albrecht Dürer, a Victor Hugo family photography album, and a selection of the thematic albums the BnF created to classify its early collections.

22 Kupferstiche

Born in 1943, the Germany printmaker Baldwin Zettl studied from 1964 to 1969 at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig (The Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig), one of the oldest art colleges in Germany.

Zettl’s limited edition portfolio of engravings inspired by Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle was recently moved from the Mendel Music Library to the Graphic Arts Collection. This, as with most of Zettl’s work, is designed entirely in black and white.

Richard Wagner (1813-1883), Richard Wagner, Der Ring des Nibelungen: 22 Originalkupferstiche; mit einem Text des Künstlers und einem Geleitwort von Wolfgang Wagner (Leipzig: Sisyphos-Presse, 2001). Limited edition of 100 copies, printed at Elmar Faber’s Sisyphos Press in Leipzig. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2017- in process

See Zettl’s work also in: Volker Braun (1939- ), Das Mittagsmahl; mit Kupferstichen von Baldwin Zettl (Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag, 2007). Firestone Library (F) PT2662.R34 .M58 2007

The Shakespeare that almost didn’t happen

The newspaper headline read: “Spruce Street fire, Monday night, set accidentally by a porter in the basement of the building owned by Newell and Company, were insured.”

In the fall of 1845, the wood engraver and manager of the printing office at Spruce Street Nathaniel Orr wrote to his fiancé, “Here I am, not dead but alive and kicking . . . I had a pretty narrow escape last night. But thanks to my “guardian angel” I made my exit from the burning [building] with scarcely a bruise. Just my luck. My loss will be but trifling. Though [Henry W.] Hewet paid me twenty dollars per week. I have already had offers equally as lucrative.”

“The Harpers tell me all will be right as soon as Hewet returns. I wrote to him last night and shall expect him tomorrow morning. When I found my passage completely cut off by the falling of the stairs I most assuredly thought my time had come. Oh, a thousand thoughts rushed upon my mind in a moment. I thought of you, of my bright hopes, of the horror of perishing in the flames. It was life or death, so I made the leap and here I am your own.”

A week later, Nathaniel wrote again to say that “Every article in our office was entirely destroyed and when I think of my own narrow escape I can but attribute it to a most merciful providence . . . I passed three windows (four stories from the ground) on the outside that I might get in a position for jumping on a small outhouse, two stories from the window. Had I [fallen] there I should not only have been killed but burned to ashes in the ruin. . . . The first John [Orr] knew of my adventures was on his way home, some four or five hours after I had astonished the natives, he met an acquaintance who inquired if I had been found! When he called on me I was asleep, preparing to repeat my leap to the tenor of the spectators.”

By mid-November, Nathaniel wrote to say “the cloud that hung over me for a few days after my late exit from the third story window . . . has entirely disappeared, and I now find myself most delightfully situated in splendid rooms at 289 Broadway under the patronage of Hewet, or more properly, Harper and Brothers, for they have concluded to have all the plates that were destroyed at the late fire reengraved forthwith. It will probably take us eighteen or twenty months to complete the work. So, you see, Phoenix-like I rise again . . . .”


William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Shakespeare’s Plays. With his life. Illustrated with many hundred wood-cuts, executed by H.W. Hewet, [and Nathaniel and John Orr], after designs by Kenny Meadows, Harvey, and others. Ed. by Gulian C. Verplanck, LL. D. (New York: Harper & brothers, 1847). RECAP 3925.1847

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


Geography of the Heavens

A missing section of the southern sky from Elijah Hinsdale Burritt’s 1833 Atlas, Designed to Illustrate the Geography of the Heavens, was recently found and returned to its portfolio. Each map is delicately hand colored in pastel shades of yellow, pink, and blue. Curiously, some of the sections are square, some oval, and some round. It is possible that the engraved plates from the various editions (Princeton has 7 paper copies) have been mixed over the years.

Geographicus Rare & Antique Maps posted a nice biography of the original engraver Thomas Illman, repeated in part here: Thomas Illman (died 1858) attended Trinity College, Oxford, where he received a degree in theology but never pursued it as a career, turning instead to the art of engraving. His first professional work was illustrating Thomas Carlyle’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater.

Illman emmigrated to New York City in 1828, almost immediately partnering with Edward Pilbrow, advertised as Illman and Pilbrow. David H. Burr used them to engrave maps for his Universal Atlas and when Burr took a position as topographer and cartographer for the United States Post Office, the project was finished by their firm.

Outside the parnership, Illman pursued his own art, which included engraved portraits and landscapes. At some point he may have relocated to Philadelphia where his sons, H. Illman and G. Illman joined the business in 1845 as Illman & Sons.

Elijah Hinsdale Burritt (1794-1838), Atlas, designed to illustrate the geography of the heavens … (Hartford: Published by F.J. Huntington, 1833). 1 atlas (VII leaves of plates): all ill. (some col.); 39 cm. Maps are hand colored engravings by Illman & Pilbrow after the author’s drawings. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize 2006-0162F

Elijah Hinsdale Burritt (1794-1838), Atlas designed to illustrate the geography of the heavens … Edition New edition. (New York: Published by Huntington and Savage, 216 Pearl Street, [1835?]). VIII leaves of plates (2 double-page): ill., star charts (col.); 42 cm. Engraved by W.G. Evans. Rare Books: Historic Maps Collection (MAP) Oversize 2015-0036F

Elijah Hinsdale Burritt (1794-1838), Atlas, designed to illustrate the geography of the heavens…
Edition New edition (New York: Published by F.J. Huntington and Co, 174 Pearl Street, [1835?]). Engraved by W.G. Evans. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize 2006-0163F

Elijah Hinsdale Burritt (1794-1838), The geography of the heavens and class book of astronomy: accompanied by a celestial atlas. Edition 5th ed. with an introduction by Thomas Dick (New York: Huntington & Savage, 1843, c1833). RECAP 8407.229.11

Elijah Hinsdale Burritt (1794-1838), Atlas: designed to illustrate the geography of the heavens.
Edition New ed., rev. and corr. by Hiram Mattison (New York: F. J. Huntington, 1850). RECAP 8456.228.11f

Elijah Hinsdale Burritt (1794-1838), 1794-1838. Atlas designed to illustrate Burritt’s Geography of the heavens: comprising the following maps or plates …Edition New ed., rev. and corr. / by Hiram Mattison (New York: Mason Brothers, c1856). RECAP 8456.228f

Elijah Hinsdale Burritt (1794-1838), The geography of the heavens, and class-book of astronomy: accompanied by a celestial atlas. Greatly enlarged, revised, and illustrated by H. Mattison, A.M. Edition New and rev. ed., cor. in 1873 (New York, Sheldon & company [c1873]). RECAP 8407.229

To Trenton, in search of the picturesque

As children, John William Orr (1815-1887, top right) and Nathaniel Orr (1822-1908, top left sitting upright) moved every few years from New York to Belfont, Pennsylvania; London Canada; Detroit, Michigan; and Perrysburg, Ohio. Their father died in Ohio and the family moved once more to live with relatives in Buffalo, New York. John was fourteen, Nathaniel was seven, and both dreamed of becoming artists.

To help support the family, John spent his teenage years working as a clerk in the Buffalo Post Office. This mundane work ended only a few days after his twenty-first birthday, when John left for New York City to study under the artist William C. Redfield, brother of the publisher Julius S. Redfield. At the end of the year, John returned to Buffalo and became a leading force in the local arts community, elected president of the Society of Fine Arts in 1839.

Meanwhile, his younger brother Nathaniel finished a Buffalo apprenticeship and was accepted as a student of John H. Hall, one of only five students of the earliest and best American engraver Alexander Anderson (1775-1870). Nathaniel moved to Albany where Hall lived and John soon followed.

Between 1838 and 1846, John Orr illustrated part or all of a series of guidebooks to Niagara Falls and upstate New York, including Settlement in the West: Sketches of Rochester (1838); The Falls of Niagara, or Tourist’s Guide to This Wonder of Nature (1839); The Travellers’ Own Book to Saratoga Springs, Niagara Falls and Canada (1842); Pictorial Guide to the Falls of Niagara (1842); The Picturesque Tourist: Being a Guide Through the Northern and Eastern States and Canada (1844); Peck’s Tourist’s Companion to Niagara Falls, Saratoga Springs, the Lakes, Canada, etc. (1845); A Picture of New-York in 1846 (1846); and Sketches of Niagara Falls and River (1846).

Little by little, Nathaniel took over the work being offered to J. H. Hall, including the wood engraving for J. A. Adams (1803-1880) and Harper’s Illuminated Bible (1846). Adams was impressed with Nathaniel’s work and encouraged the young artist to move to New York City, where he became the shop manager for Henry W. Hewet and his multi-volume edition of Shakespeare’s Plays (1847). Once again, John followed his younger brother, setting up a studio at 75 Nassau Street.

In 1851, Nathaniel received a commission to engrave the cuts for Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806-1867), Trenton Falls: Picturesque and Descriptive and became acquainted with the wilderness across the Hudson River in New Jersey. At the same time, John engraved the blocks for George William Curtis (1824-1892), Lotus-Eating…, with chapters on the Hudson and the Rhine; Catskill; Catskill Falls; Trenton; Niagara; Saratoga; Lake George; Nahant; and Newport (1852).

As time allowed, Nathaniel and John, both ardent hunters and fishermen, journeyed out of Manhattan to explore the neighboring state. Fellow Harper’s artist John R. Chapin (1827-1907) who lived in Rahway, must have accompanied the men, finally recording and publishing their adventures in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine as “Artist-Life in the Highlands,” in April 1860 and “Among the Nail-Makers,” in July 1860.

In Chapin’s stories, John is called Neutral Tint, “a tired artist in search of relaxation from a period of close application.” Nathaniel is called “Snell,” and described as a bit of an artist as well as a follower of Izaak Walton (author of The Compleat Angler). The stories are good but even better are the visual portraits drawn of the two brothers, giving us insight into their physical character and relationship.

Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806-1867), editor. Trenton Falls, picturesque and descriptive, The principal illustrations from original designs by Heine, Kummer and Müller. Engraved on wood by N. Orr (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1851). (F) F129.T7 W7 1851


Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (New York: Harper & Brothers, [1850-1900]). Recap 0901.H295



Liber Bilibaldi Pirckheimer

Early in the 16th century, the Renaissance humanist Willibald Pirckheimer (1470-1530) convinced his good friend Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) to design a bookplate for his extensive library. Although it is not signed, the woodcut holds the words “Sibi et amicis P[ositus]. Liber Bilibaldi Pirckheimer” (Bilibald Pirckheimer’s book. [Placed on?] oneself and one’s friends). The Graphic Arts Collection holds a metal relief plate reproducing Dürer’s woodcut (similar to other metal plates produced by Elmer Adler).

The design includes Pirckheimer’s coat of arms on the right (a birch tree) and the arms of his wife Margretha Rieterin on the left (the double-tailed mermaid). Above them are two angels holding a helmet and scepter, along with garlands and other decoration. At the top is inscribed in Latin, Greek and Hebrew: “Inicium Sapientice Timor Domini” (The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, Psalm 111.10).

Digitally inverted and laterally reversed.

Princeton has a copy of Dürer woodcut in this book originally in Adler’s library:

Junianus Maius, De priscorum proprietate verborum (Venice: Joannes Rubeus Vercellensis, 1490). Bookplate of Willibald Pirckheimer, designed by Dürer. In 1636 Thomas Howard, 2d Earl of Arundel, bought Pirckheimer’s library in Nuremberg. In 1667, through John Evelyn’s efforts the library was presented to the Royal Society by the Earl’s grandson, Henry Howard, 6th Duke of Norfolk. In 1925 the Royal Society sold its duplicates at auction. Also has the bookplate of the Royal Society below Pirckheimer’s. ExI copy is from the printing collection of Elmer Adler. Evidently purchased by Adler in 1925 (lot 122, Sotheby’s [London], May 4, 1925 sale). (RB) EXI Oversize 2529.611q