Category Archives: Museum object collection

Automatons and Anamorphics

Nicolas and Alexis Kugel are the fifth generation of a family of antiques dealers founded in Russia at the end of the 18th century by their great-great-grandfather Elie Kugel, a collector of clocks and watches. In 1985, the Kugels took over the family business and in 2004, relocated the gallery to Hôtel Collot, 25 quai Anatole France, built in 1840 by Louis Visconti for Jean-Pierre Collot, director of La Monnaie (the French Mint).

Galerie J. Kugel is unique in its specialties and the eclecticism of the works of art it offers, including silver, sculpture, Kunstkammer objects, automatons, scientific instruments, and much more.

While visiting Galerie J. Kugel, we had the pleasure of viewing some of the unique treasures featured in Alexis Kugel’s most recent catalogue A Mechanical Bestiary: Automaton Clocks of the Renaissance, 1580-1640 (Marquand (SA) Oversize NK7495.G4 K8413 2016q).

Some pieces came from the Kugel family collection, which Mr. Kugel recalls playing with as a child: “I probably broke one or two, forcing the needle so it would animate,” he told Jake Cigainerosept of the New York Times.

Cigainerosept notes that the technology for automaton clocks dates to Heron of Alexandria, the ancient Greek mathematician who wrote extensively about mechanics. Their popularity surged during the Renaissance, when many were made in Augsburg, Germany, the artistic center of Bavaria at the time.

There is a pug dog whose eyes spin and tail wags; a monkey that beats his drum; and an elephant with dancing soldiers. “If you couldn’t afford a real elephant or lion for your menagerie,” noted Mr. Kugel, “then you could compromise with one of these.”

In another remarkable room are 18th-century anamorphic panel paintings, meant to be viewed in the reflection of a mirrored cylinder. We have several anamorphic prints in Princeton’s graphic arts collection, although not as rare or historic.




A true blew Priest, ca. 1689

[Copper plate digitally laterally reversed, note the Book of Common Prayer on the floor]

“A true blew Priest, a Lincey Woolsey Brother.
One Legg a Pulpitt holds, a Tubb the other,
An Orthodox, grave, moderate, Prestbyterian.
Half Surplice, Cloake, half Priest, half Puritan;
Made up of all these halfes, hee cannot pass,
For anything; intirely, but an Ass.”

–altered slightly from Hudibras, p. 1, c. iii. l. 1224.

Unidentified artist, A Trimmer, ca. 1689. Graphic Arts Collection Block collection.

The British Museum holds a mezzotint by “W.H.” called  A Trimmer, ca. 1689. They also hold a line engraving of the same figure dressed “half like a Puritan standing in a tub, and half like a clergyman standing in a pulpit, at the side of which is fixed an hourglass upon its stand, such as was used in the sixteenth century.” Falling out of a bag are a broken scepter, divided crown, miter, tiara, an archiepiscopal crosier and orb.

The Graphic Arts Collection has a copperplate engraved with the scene as in the BM’s line engraving. It might be a practice plate because it has been used a second time for another engraving on the verso.

According to Dorothy George, of the BM, this is supposed to be a satirical representation of Bishop Burnet, of whom it has been said that he was “in profession a prelate, a dissenter in sentiment.”  Gilbert Burnet, Bishop of Salisbury (1643-1715) became Bishop of Salisbury and Chancellor of the Order of the Garter in 1689. He was also the author of The History of the Reformation in England.

On the verso of this copper plate is a very warn engraving, possibly of a wedding. No signature or chop can be seen on either side.


See also: Samuel Butler (1612-1680), Hudibras. The first part (London: Printed by J.G. for Richard Marriot …, 1663). Rare Books (Ex) 3660.5.34.115

The First Princeton Tiger

Woodblock for tiger used in The Princeton Tiger, ca. 1881. Graphic Arts Collection. Gift of W.R. Deemes, Class of 1891.

An alumnus in another column asks when the Princeton cheer came to be known as the “Princeton Tiger.” It was but natural that when first adopted by the College the cheer should lie known as the “rocket.” It is descriptive of the explosion of a rocket and was everywhere called by that name lief ore its adoption here; and it is even now occasionally spoken of in the College as the “rocket.” But while the “Princeton Tiger” has largely supplanted “rocket” as the name of Princeton’s cheer, the public are responsible for this rather than the students themselves. The now name has come into use only during the last few years. The inter-collegiate contests, in which Princeton has so largely figured, gradually engaged the interest and attention of the public until the rocket cheer had become so repeatedly associated with Princeton, that when the press called it Princeton’s Tiger. The “Princeton Tiger” it became. It is interesting to note in this connection that the fourth word of the cheer not only gave to the Princeton cheer its name, but suggested the Tiger as the emblem of the college. And when the undergraduates some four years ago started an illustrated magazine and christened it “The Tiger,” and that magazine represented Athletic Princeton as a Bengal Tiger, the “orange and black” lord of the jungle became Princeton’s emblem forever. And this has reacted not a little on Princeton’s devotion to her cheer.
Daily Princetonian, Volume 10, Number 61, December 11, 1885

Digitally inverted

Sequential Magic Lantern Slides

On a recent visit from Fia Backström’s class VIS 311 The Photographic Apparatus, one of the things we looked at were sequential magic lantern slides. Here are a few examples together with our French magic lantern.


Soldiers going off to war / Soldiers returning from the war

Playing a joke on grandfather.

Prof. Backström’s class is described: “Since its inception, the technical development of photography has arisen out of specific historical and political circumstances that have “naturalized” its practice and ideologically coded its apparatus. Through critical discussions, material examinations, and studio projects, this seminar will take a reflexive approach to photographic technology past, present, and future. What can earlier periods of photography reveal about our current condition? How do lens-based technologies relate to determinations of race, class, and gender? What does it mean to be a photographer, to take photographs, and to agree or disagree with its apparatus?”

Disappearing apples below.


How Many Nippers Does It Take To Bind A Book?

Nineteenth-century nipping press from Leonard Bailey and Company, Hartford Connecticut.

Black and red cast iron book press, labeled World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago 1893, The Cotton State’s Exposition, Atlanta 1895.

On a recent visit to our preservation lab, Mick LeTourneaux, Rare Books Conservator, pointed out the wide variety of nipping, standing, and other book presses they used. Although some are beautiful 19th-century originals, many others were purchased in the last twenty years specifically for our shop.

According to the Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology of Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books, the nipping press is “a small press consisting essentially of a fixed, horizontal iron base plate, and an upper, movable platen that is raised and lowered by means of a relatively long, vertical screw. The nipping press is used to apply quick and uniform pressure in a variety of bookbinding operations.”

“While the nipping press does not have the available daylight or the pressing power of the standing press, it is relatively easy to open and close which makes it very useful for a quick pressing operations. The true nipping press does not release its pressure until released by the turning of the screw; however, substitute ‘nipping presses,’ which are really ‘letter-presses’ or ‘copying presses,’ once used in business offices for ‘copying’ letters, are limited in their ability to apply pressure because they have a tendency to ease the pressure when the handle is released.”

Here are a few more, along with some of the standing presses in Princeton’s lab.

Standing wood press manufactured by Hampson Bettridge & Company Ltd., 2 & 4 Fann Street, London EC1 Great Britain


Several of our presses come from the W. O. Hickok Manufacturing Company, located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It is one of the oldest remaining industrial plants in South Central Pennsylvania.

“In 1844, William Orville Hickok established the Eagle Works and became a manufacturer of bookbinders’ specialties. His brilliant inventions would soon revolutionize the paper ruling industry. Sometime between 1844 and 1850, Hickok’s ideas began to click. He invented an “Improved Ruling Machine” and his Eagle Works plant grew quickly. By 1853, the Ruling Machines were in constant use in every state of the Union.”

Rugs, Blankets, and Tapestries

For many years, we have known that the collection of Navajo rugs, blankets, and various other tapestries should not be folded and stacked but there was no alternative in our old vaults. Now there is.

Sixteen blankets have already been rolled and stored in the new dark, cool vault. More will follow.

Here are a few of the patterns.

New Western Americana acquisitions:

See the issue of the Princeton University Library Chronicle dedicated to the Western Americana collection: chronicle

Turning still images into moving pictures

We were pleased to welcome Austrian filmmakers Gustav Deutsch and Hanna Schimek to RBSC today to view our collection of pre-cinema devices. Their first live-action film, “Shirley: Visions of Reality,” is showing at Princeton’s Garden Theater this evening. You should jump online and see if there are any tickets still available:

Taken from the website: “The film is one of those rare gems of artistic endeavour that defy categorization. Recreating 13 of Edward Hopper’s paintings, the movie charts over three decades of American history through the unfolding life of its protagonist, Shirley, a fictional red-haired actress who tackles the socio-political changes happening around her with the same fervour she handles her own personal affairs. Filtering history though the double lens of a contemporary painter’s viewpoint and a filmmaker’s re-interpretation of that viewpoint, in essence, Deutsch’s creation is a unique interdisciplinary art project presented as a feature film.
The film’s 13 scenes, each corresponding to a Hopper painting and extending to a period of six minutes either before or after the moment captured on that painting, are featured in chronological order from 1931 till 1963 with an introductory snapshot based on Hopper’s 1965 “Chair Car”. In these scenes—static tableaux vivants with little action or dialogue that take place on the 28th of August in the year the picture was painted—we glimpse through Shirley’s inner monologues and sparse lines to her partner, who remains silent throughout the movie, and the minor and major events in her life, we witness her playing the role of a bored blonde usherette in a movie, taking up menial jobs to secure her livelihood, retiring to the countryside and so on. In order to place each scene within a historical context, a radio news-broadcast precedes each scene depicting the Depression, WWII, the Cold War, Korea, JFK and Martin Luther King, all the way to Vietnam.” opticals

Sibyl Holding a Book

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A wood figure of a woman holding an open book has been with the department for many years, with little provenance or information. The back is not finished, indicating she was to be place or hung against a wall. The words on the book are no longer visible, if they ever were. The label on the back is below and slightly readable: “Statue [?] 16 = siecle [?]” Any help you might offer would be appreciated.


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Class of 1877 Plaque

class of 1877 plaque

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This site was occupied for sixty years by the class of 1877 Biological Laboratory. Here were nurtured generations of students in biology. The plaque at the left was situated above the entrance to the Laboratory.

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Princeton’s biology laboratory, donated by the Class of 1877 at its tenth reunion, was demolished in the summer of 1946. This terra cotta plaque from the second floor was saved and embedded in Firestone Library’s south wall. Harry Osborn is quoted in Fifty Years of Princeton ’77, describing the Greek quote on the plaque:

The motto of our Class was “Panta Kinomen Petron.” We have always laughed at that motto, and it has been paraphrased by such a learned and godless man as Billy Dunning. Some part of our success, the great keynote of movement in this world, is to turn over a stone and see what is under it — what we can do. In other words, education stands for a great many different things, but the keystone of education is construction, is to build up, is to build something new, and that has been the spirit of 1877. Construction is the idea — building up, not tearing down. That is the great secret of human progress. Our Class motto enjoins us to leave no stone unturned, but to build, in everything in which we are engaged — to build for truth, to build for science, to build in politics, to build in literature, to build in philosophy, and to build especially for old Princeton.

αφήνουν καμία πέτρα (leave no stone unturned)
πάντα κινηθεί πέτρες (always moving stones)

For more, see

Flying an umbrella plane to Washington DC

umbrella plane5For many years, the model of the McCormick “Umbrella Plane,” ca. 1910, lived in the tower at Firestone library under difficult physical and environmental conditions. Recently, it was transported to a secure location but remained unique among our object holdings.

towerIt has never been fully studied, conserved, or appreciated, until now…

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The model of the McCormick umbrella plane has been accepted into The National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.  Their collection holds in trust over 60,000 artifacts and more than 20,000 cubic feet of archival materials. Historic aircraft and space artifacts, such as the 1903 Wright Flyer and the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, highlight the National Collection. Thousands of additional artifacts—including engines, rockets, uniforms, spacesuits, balloons, artwork, documents, manuscripts, and photographs—document the richness of the history of flight.


umbrella plane packed

The National Air and Space Museum is perhaps best known for their collection of rare and historically significant aircraft and spacecraft. The object collection also includes engines, medals, trophies, instruments, and equipment, models, artwork, spacesuits, uniforms, and much more. Altogether, the collection includes more than 30,000 aviation and 9,000 space objects.

Under their care, the Umbrella Plane model will receive the conservation, research, and interpretation it deserves, ultimately making it available to an international  public within the whole context of world aviation.
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