Grant Strudwick’s Black Power ABC’s and much more

The Graphic Arts Collection has acquired a small selection from Tia Blassingame’s collection of modern prints, artist’s books, and zines by Black artists. As the director of Primrose Press (and a member of Princeton Class of 1993), Blassingame is intimately acquainted with many of the Black artists, printers, writers, and authors producing work in the United States. Through her assistance and scholarship, we hope to fill Princeton’s rare book vault with important limited editions by these talented artists.

It is our goal to make this the first of a continuing, perhaps annual, acquisition program. Most titles discuss the experience of being Black or explore some aspect of African American history, while others are brimming with bold, beautiful images.

The 2021 collection includes 41 artists’ books and zines, along with 7 prints/broadsides. Some of the artists represented are Antonio Benjamin, Maya Beverly, Lukaza Branfman-Verussimo, Brianna Rose Brooks, Diasporan Savant Press, Kimberly Enjoli, Jen White Johnson, William Lofton, Arial Robinson, Clarissa Sligh, Grant Strudwick, and of course, Tia Blassingame.

Highlighted here, just for fun, are two of the alphabets: Grant Strudwick’s Black Power ABC’s Card Set [above] and [below] Arial Robinson’s Modern Day Black Alphabet.

All these new acquisition will be catalogued and available for classes beginning in a few weeks. Our sincere thanks to Tia.

Vivicolor inserts for college yearbooks 1930

Berté Water Colour Printing. Vivicolor Inserts (Buffalo: Vivicolor Company, 1930). Also acquired 1929 edition and Jean Berté Water Colour Inks (Belleville, NJ: Wallace & Tiernan Products, ca. 1929). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2021- in process

Pochoir (stencil) printing makes beautiful color images but is expensive and difficult to master. To get the same look in less time Jean Berté (1883-1981) patented an innovative process that used rubber plates and water-based inks printed letterpress. Beginning in 1926, he sold dozens of licenses in the United States along with equipment, inks, and presses specifically designed for this process. In Europe, where pochoir was still preferred, few printers even tried the new method.

It is difficult to know which companies bought a license to the process for their own use and which Berté himself directed. The Vivicolor Company in Buffalo began producing Berté color plates for various uses, including inserts or sectional title pages for college yearbooks. Each sheet has a one-word heading such as Activities; Administration; Advertising; etc., along with an image designed around a particular theme. In 1930 you could choose from 13 different series such as Colonial American, Indian, Modernistic, Ultra-Modern, Moorish, Grecian, Alma Mater, Medieval, and Louis XIV.

Some of the artists hired to design these series included John Held Jr., Bertram Glover, Ellsworth Jaeger, and Norman Kent among others. Vivicolor guaranteed that “no two schools within 25 miles of each other would have the same inserts.”

Here are some details from John Held Jr.’s series with the full plate and text cropped to focus on the printed image.




Engravings by Suor Isabella Piccini (1644–1734)

For several years, the Graphic Arts Collection has been adding Venetian books with engravings by Isabella Puccini. Adding them one at a time.

Thanks to the extended collecting of David Rueger, Antiquariat INLIBRIS, Vienna, Princeton now holds 60 titles containing engravings signed and identified as Piccini’s, the vast majority from her lifetime. As the picture above illustrates they represent a wide variety of physical formats, as well as subject matter. There are both secular and religious commissions including medicine, history, law, and pageantry as well as theology and devotion.

Rueger mentions he took particular care to select items poorly represented in institutional holdings; 22 of our new acquisitions were not currently recorded in any American library. Here is a brief list by author and an annotated list by chronology. All scholarship goes to Rueger.
Piccini inventory short by name

Piccini inventory chronological

Within these books are approximately 257 engravings attributable to Piccini, plus one unbound sheet. It is our hope that Princeton University Library will become a destination collection for the study of female engravers, as well as Venetian illustrated books. Perhaps this acquisition will even inspire someone to write the definitive catalogue raisonné of this important artist’s work.

Not with frail chisels, brushes, or pens
Does she work, who lives in a humble convent,
But in pure metal creates immortal works,
She paints with a skilled hand, she engraves, and she writes.


Princeton’s collection begins in 1663 when, at the age of 19, Piccini pulled her first known engraving. In her early twenties, she became a novitiate of a Franciscan convent and took the nom de religion Isabella. Note, our collection does not include the work with the signature ‘I. Piccini’ which belonged to her father, Jacopo Piccini. Rueger comments:

Other nuances also become apparent: for example, the frontispiece to the 1669 La Ricreatione Del Savio In Discorso Con La Natura is signed simply ‘Piccini f.’ However, we know that Isabella was professed as a nun in 1666, and subsequently (as illustrated in the present collection) shifted her signature to reflect her religiosity. Instead, the 1669 frontispiece of the Ricreatione del Savio must be the work of Jacopo Piccini. Nevertheless, this frontispiece is commonly attributed in institutional records to Isabella, based solely on the ‘Piccini’ signature. Such indications start to become clear only when a critical mass of examples can be gathered in one place, as we hope to have done with the present collection.

One of the most exciting inclusions in the present collection is a book fully illustrated by Piccini relatively early in her career: “Memorie Funeste de’ Fatti Dolorosi occorsi nella Passione amarissima dell’ Unigenito Figlio di Dio” (1682) [seen above] which was subsequently ordered to be burned. Although recorded as such in the Index, we have been unable to trace another surviving copy. Needless to say, the book’s engravings have never been acknowledged as Piccini’s work before, but shed remarkable light on the nun’s willingness to undertake projects with notoriously suspect publishers like Giovanni Giacomo Hertz and authors like Michele Cicogna.




See also:
Luisa Di Vaio, “Suor Isabella Piccini,” in Grafica d’arte. Milano, 2003.

Anna Francesca Valcanover, “Contributi ad una storia del libro illustrato veneto: suor Isabella Piccini,” in Biblioteche venete. Abamo Terme, 1985.

Bellarmino Bagatti, “Un’ artista francescana del bulino: Suor Isabella Piccini,” in Studi francescani. Firenze, 1931.

For more biography, see the entry in the Enciclopedia delle donne:

The Forgotten John Gast

John Gast, “A New Jersey Landscape,” Photo-Stigmograph in The Philadelphia Photographer August 6, 1887. Graphic Arts Collection


John Gast (1842–1896) was brought to the United States from Berlin at the age of six and went on to forged a substantial career as a painter, lithographer, and photomechanical printer. He is primarily remembered for one oil painting, “American Progress” (1872) but more importantly, filed seven new printing patents and was instrumental in establishing several businesses including the Gast Banknote and Lithograph Company (St. Louis); The New York Daily Graphic newspaper; Gast and Company Lithographers (Brooklyn), and the Photochrome Company (also called the Heliochrome Company), which was later purchased in part by Alfred Stieglitz’s father to give his son a stable job.

During the late 1870s, Gast worked with William Kurtz, a master of photomechanical printing and the first American to successfully demonstrate the use of three-color photoengraving. Gast developed his own variant processes and began his own company, publishing New Approved Method of Zinc Etching or Photo-zinc-engraving: A Practical Instructor, How to Make Relief Plates, Adapted Especially for Half Tone Reproductions or Photo-nature Engraving in Connection with the Photo-Stigmographic Apparatus in 1886.

This brought him to the attention of Edward Wilson, editor of The Philadelphia Photographer, who first mentioned Gast’s work in the August 6, 1887 issue. “Much has been written about the steady growth of Photo-engraving and Heliography in general,” commented Wilson, “but this growth, considering the benefit to be derived from these processes, is very slow.” Although he mentions an international group of innovators, it was Gast’s “A New Jersey Landscape” that Wilson used to illustrate his article, noting that the magazine was also advertising the company’s Photo-Stigmography [above].

While Gast had been working in the same field as Wilson for many years, he is incorrectly listed as T. H. Gast, possibly due to the hand-drawn logo. Similarly, when the artist died at the young age of 55, obituaries in multiple papers including the New York Tribune and the Brooklyn Standard print several mistakes. Several credit him as the inventor of the three-colour printing process rather than Kurtz and still others list Gast as establishing the New York Graphic instead of one of their innovative artist/printers. It is not surprising that today, details of his many contributions to the history of printing are misunderstood.

Here is one obituary:

John Gast, a pioneer of the “three-colour” process, died in Brooklyn, N.Y., July 26th, aged fifty-five years. He was born in Berlin, but the family settled in St. Louis. Young Gast returned to Berlin to complete his education. He was graduated from the Royal Academy in Berlin, and returned to St. Louis, where he formed the Gast Lithographic Co. (now Gast-Paul). In three years Gast sold out his interest and went to Paris, where he studied chromo-art under Thürwanger. On returning, he established The New York Daily Graphic in New York in 1871. The Graphic was run successfully for about five years. One of its main features was a page devoted to lithographs made by a special process invented by Mr. Gast. Later on he started the lithographing firm of Gast & Co., now known as Grey & Co. After five years with this company he sold out his interest and started the Photochrome Company. This company used several processes which were invented by Mr. Gast, and soon gained a wide reputation in the lithographic world. He held seven patents on different fine processes for lithographing, but his process which is most widely known is a “three-colour” process. About two years ago Mr. Gast left the Photochrome Company on account of failing health….

“Death of John Gast: He Was a Well-Known Lithographer and Inventor of the Three Color Process,” New-York Tribune July 28, 1896



American Stationer 1886, reprinted in various magazines



Reminder: Don’t miss Dante 21

“2021 marks the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri, author of the Divine Comedy and universally considered the father of the Italian language, who passed away on the night between the 13th and the 14th of September 1321″ = Dante 21. Don’t miss the opportunity to view Bronzino’s Allegorical Portrait of Dante at the Metropolitan Museum through October 11, 2021.

Se mai continga che ’l poema sacro
al quale ha posto mano e cielo e terra,
sì che m’ha fatto per molti anni macro,
vinca la crudeltà che fuor mi serra
del bello ovile ov’io dormi’ agnello,
nimico ai lupi che li danno guerra;
con altra voce omai, con altro vello
ritornerò poeta, e in sul fonte
del mio battesmo prenderò ’l cappello . . .
(Par. 25.1-9)

If it should happen . . . If this sacred poem—
this work so shared by heaven and by earth
that it has made me lean through these long years—
can ever overcome the cruelty
that bars me from the fair fold where I slept,
a lamb opposed to wolves that war on it,
by then with other voice, with other fleece,
I shall return as poet and put on,
at my baptismal font, the laurel crown . . .

Read more:
Read more:
Listen Dante 21 BBC:

A copy on wooden panel is preserved in the Kress Collection at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. This text is easier to read.

The history of this lunette is recounted in Giorgio Vasari’s Life of Bronzino. According to Vasari’s reconstruction, in fact, the portrait of Dante that will be exhibited at Palazzo Vecchio is an oil on canvas dating to 1532-1533. The painter was commissioned to make it along with portraits of Petrarch and Boccaccio, to decorate a room in the home of the cultivated Florentine banker Bartolomeo Bettini, with “Tuscan poets who have written verses about love” in the lunettes of the walls. At the centre was a panel depicting “Venus and Cupid” painted by Pontormo after a cartoon by Michelangelo Buonarroti, today preserved in the Galleria dell’Accademia. The ambitious project, which remained unfinished, involved the most important painters working in the city in that period, and dealt with themes cherished by writers of the future Accademia Fiorentina (which Bronzino himself belonged to until 1547), such as the superiority of the Tuscan language and the relationship between art and poetry.

See also:

Why Miriam changed her name to Frank

Mrs. Frank Leslie top center

Henry Carter (1821-1880) worked occasionally as an artist for the Illustrated London News under the pen name Frank Leslie before moving to New York City, where he began publishing his own paper, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. In 1857, he had his name legally changed to Frank Leslie.

Miriam Florence Folline (1836-1914) married four times and had many names, with and without her husbands. She was Baroness de Bazus, Miriam Peacock, Miriam F. Squier (see also, Miriam Leslie, and Miriam Wilde (sister-in-law to Oscar). In 1881, she also became Frank Leslie.

The Frank Leslie Building

At Mr. Leslie’s death, his company was heavily in debt and Miriam took over the running of the business, with the title of President. To stop any legal questions as to her leadership with the firm, she had her name changed to Frank. *Unfortunately, she continues to be listed in libraries around the world as Leslie, Frank, Mrs.

Author(s): Leslie, Frank,; 1821-1880.
Leslie, Frank,; Mrs.,; 1836-1914. 


As part of her reorganization, she moved the company’s 300 employees and 13 massive printing presses uptown to the cheaper 42-44 Bond Street [above], naming the building after herself: The Frank Leslie Building. Leslie successfully brought the company out of bankruptcy and worked until 1902, when she sold the business, using her capital to fund the Leslie Woman Suffrage Commission.



One of her many books:

Frank Leslie, Are we all deceivers? : the lover’s blue book (London ; New York : F.T. Neely, 1892-96)

My Rolodex, no password needed


The Wheeldex (also called the Simplawheel), with its one central hole, did not hold the cards securely and so, Danish engineer Hildaur Neilson revised and improved it, rebranding his device the Rolodex (rolling index). First marketed in 1958 by his boss Arnold Neustadter (1910-1996) through their company Zephyr American, it was just one of many inventions Neustadter sold, along with the Autodex for phone numbers, the Swivodex [left] an inkwell that did not spill, the Punchodex, and the Clipodex for stenographers. These are all copyrighted brands and so, written with a capital letter.


There were a number of “card filing systems” applying for and receiving U.S. copyrights including Scholfield 2,046,655 July 7, 1936; Scholfield 2,205,932 June 25, 1940; Scholfield 2,231,029 February 11, 1941; Hayes 2,286,911 June 16, 1942; Scholfield 2,316,489 April 13, 1943; Scholfield 2,332,606 October 26, 1943; Scholfield 2,413,078 December 24, 1946; Scholfield Re.22,765 June 11, 1946; Scholfield 2,493,167 January 3, 1950; Houghtaling 2,484,033 October 11, 1949; and Scholfield 2,500,709 March 14, 1950. The “Wheeldex card file for all hand posted records” is dated in one source November 28, 1940.


New York Times April 19, 1996


No password needed, gloves not included

Happy 200th Birthday Napoleon Sarony

The Irish American actress Ada Rehan (born Bidelia Crehan, 1857-1916) first appeared on stage as a last minute stand-in for another actress and went on to become one of this country’s best loved Shakespearean actresses with Augustin Daly’s 5th Avenue Theater Company. She was photographed dozens of times in the posh New York gallery of Napoleon Sarony, including this pose from her role as Katherine in the 1887/88 Taming of the Shrew, which ran in New York for 121 performances.

During the last decades of the 19th century, Canadian-born Napoleon Sarony (1821-1896) was the premier portrait photographer of the United States. From his two studios at 680 Broadway (later 256 Fifth Avenue) and 37 Union Square, a staff of over 30 technicians and artists were well-situated for their primary focus: the actors and actresses of New York City.

Sarony’s photographic prints were featured as the frontispiece for 6 issues of The Philadelphia Photographer (later called Wilson’s Photographic Magazine), including March 1867, February 1884, October 1887, May 1892, January 1893, and February 1897. For most, the meticulous Sarony provided the full edition of several thousand prints from his own studio rather than have Wilson’s team reproduce his negatives. One except to this was the final print in 1897, for the issue commemorating Sarony’s death the previous year. All the magazine’s frontispiece in 1897 were printed on glossy Velox paper, many with a full-bleed, and the shiny surface is very difficult to rephotograph or even to view in person. Earlier photogravure and albumen prints made from the 1888 negative are better.

“The negative from which our prints were made was kindly loaned by the Sarony Publishing Co., of this city, now the owners of Sarony’s collection of negatives of celebrities. We may mention, as of public interest, that an exhibition of the choicest pictures of this immense collection will shortly be held on one of our principal thoroughfares. It will be an artistic treat worthy of a visit to New York. …The Velox prints for our frontispiece were made by Mr. Frank Davies under our supervision. Apart from the excellence of the negative their quality is largely due to the special Velox paper manufactured for our edition by the Nepera Chemical Co., of Nepera Park, N.Y.”

Velox Paper was first manufactured by Dr. Leo H. Baekeland in 1894 by the Nepera Chemical Company in Nepera Park, Yonkers, NY. Five years later, George Eastman of the Kodak company bought the Velox process from Dr. Baekeland for one million dollars and started to manufacture its own brand, also called Solio paper.

Wilson’s Photographic Magazine, February 1897

In Medias Res


Was it fate that brought the package from Dublin to the Graphic Arts Collection at Princeton exactly on Bloomsday, June 16, 2021, or just good planning? In the midst of the annual celebration for James Joyce’s Ulysses, we acquired a special limited edition copy of In Medias Res, The Ulysses Maps, A Dublin Odyssey. The portfolio is comprised of seven drypoints by David Lilburn—Phoenix Park, The Quays, O’Connell St., Loop Bridge, Eccles Street, Coastline, Howth—which together form a map of a large part of Dublin and its environs. In particular, they include the areas of the city that feature prominently in Ulysses.


Hand-printed from zinc plates on Hahnemuhle paper, each sheet has additions of chine collé and watercolor applied by the artist. The publishers write:

“Constructed from a multiplicity of drawn marks and viewpoints, the work is packed with references to the topography of Dublin and plots fragments, characters, anecdotes, conversations, historical events and classical allusions all mentioned or implicit in the text. The work enables the viewer to orientate himself or herself within Dublin as it appears in Ulysses and as it is today and to follow the routes taken by various characters in Ulysses as they crisscross the city throughout 16th June 1904.”

While they can be exhibited in sequence, the artist composed each individual print so that it would also function as a completely self-contained image. All seven prints are reproduced on the artist’s website, so we are posting only a few spectacular details from this complex work. Special thanks to Stoney Road Press for their help in the acquisition.




It is with sadness that we learned the artist, David Lilburn, passed away on Wednesday last (July 28, 2021) after a brief period of illness. Lilburn studied history at Trinity College, University of Dublin, 1969-73; lithography at Scuole istituto statale d’arte, Urbino 1973; and art & design at Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD), Limerick Institute of Technology, 1980-83. Together with Jim Savage, he was also an occasional publisher. Here is a bibliography from his Occasional Press (apologies if I’m missing some):

A Connemara folio: a Ballynahinch sketchbook / Teskey, Donald, artist. Aghabullogue, Co. Cork: Occasional Press in collaboration with Ballynahinch Castle, 2011

An afterglow: a gallery of Connemara poems / Lally, Des.; Fallon, Peter, Aghabullogue, Co. Cork: Occasional Press in collaboration with Ballynahinch Castle, 2010

Ballynahinch postcards: poems / Fallon, Peter, 1951- Aghabullogue, Co. Cork, Ireland: Occasional Press in collaboration with Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, 2007

Being there: an introduction to the work of Joe Wilson / Wilson, Joe; Dunne, Aidan. [Aghabullogue, Co. Cork]: Occasional Press in association with the West Cork Arts Centre, 2006

Berger on drawing / Berger, John, author.; Savage, Jim. Aghabullogue, Co. Cork, Ireland: Occasional Press, 2005, 2007, 2008.

Fountainstown / Cross, Dorothy, 1956-; Cross, Dorothy, Aghabullogue, Co. Cork: Occasional Press, in collaboration with Ballynahinch Castle, 2012

In Connemara: O’Dea, Mick, 1958-; Savage, Jim. Aghabullogue, Co. Cork: Occasional Press in a collaboration with Ballynahinch Castle, 2017

Into the mountains: images from the Twelve Bens / Wilson, Joe, 1947- artist.; Tóibín, Colm; Savage, Jim. Aghabullogue, Co. Cork: Occasional Press in a collaboration with Ballynahinch Castle, 2014

John by Jean: fifty years of friendship: photos of John Berger / Mohr, Jean, photographer. Aghabullogue, Co. Cork, Ireland: Occasional Press, 2016

Montenotte / Cross, Dorothy, 1956-; Cross, Dorothy, Aghabullogue, Co. Cork: Occasional Press, in collaboration with Ballynahinch Castle, 2012

Pony / Curtis, Tony, 1955- author.; Lilburn, David, Aghabullogue, County Cork, Ireland: Occasional Press, 2013, ©2013

The Celtic zoo: a report back on the state of modern Ireland in 24 satirical watercolour drawings / Fitzgerald, Tom, 1939- artist.; Dorgan, Theo. Aghabullogue, County Cork: Occasional Press, 2014

The idea of islands / Hubbard, Sue.; Teskey, Donald. Aghabullogue, Co. Cork: Occasional Press, 2010

This flight tonight: Captain John Alcock & Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown’s non-stop transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to Ireland 14th-15th June 1919 / Curtis, Tony, 1955- author.; Lilburn, David, Aghabullogue, County Cork, Ireland: Occasional Press in collaboration with Ballynahinch Castle, 2019

Walking drawing making memory: a Ballynahinch sketchbook / Lilburn, David, artist. Aghabullogue, Co. Cork: Occasional Press in a collaboration with Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, 2009


George Rhoads 1926-2021

“Rolling Ball Sculpture As A Mechanical Design Challenge,” Alma Žiga and Derzija Begic-Hajdarevic in New Technologies, Development And Application“ Nt-2021 June 24-26. 2021. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.