Tag Archives: Elmer Adler

Specimens of Paper with Different Water Marks, 1377-1840

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1593 unicorn watermark

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1377 griffin watermark

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During the 1952-53 fiscal year, a unique collection of nearly 400 specimens of European papers with different watermarks (1377-1840) was acquired for the Graphic Arts Collection, at the suggestion of Elmer Adler (1884-1962) with a fund turned over to the Library by the Friends of the Princeton University Library (FPUL). Adler must have been a good negotiator, talking rare book dealer Philip Duschnes down from $350 to $300.

The album was elaborately created with sheets of many shapes and sizes bound in various layers, with a brief description written at the top of each sheet. I have included the front matter pinned to the endpapers.

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Originally in the collection of Dawson Turner (1775–1858), the auction catalogue description reads: ’Watermarks on Paper. A very curious collection of upwards of three hundred and seventy specimens of paper with various Watermarks, for A.D. 1377 to A. D. 1842, collected with a view to assist in ascertaining the age of undated manuscripts, and of verifying that of dated ones, by Dawson Turner, Esq. and bound in 1 vol. half calf.’

See also: Catalogue of the Remaining Portion of the Library of Dawson Turner, Esq., M.A., F.R.S., F.S.A., F.L.S., etc., etc. formerly of Yarmouth: which will be sold by auction by Messrs. Puttick and Simpson … Leicester Square … on Monday, May 16th, 1859, and seven following days (Sunday excepted). [London, 1859], item 1523.


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Specimens of Paper with Different Water Marks, 1377-1840. 1 v. (unpaged); 40 cm. 371 specimens of watermarked paper, together with brief descriptions of each in a mid-nineteenth century ms. hand. The specimens are mainly blank leaves, though some leaves feature writing and letterpress. Specimen 334 is stamped sheet addressed to Dawson Turner (1775-1858), Yarmouth. Purchased with funds from the Friends of the Princeton University Library. Graphic Arts: Reference Collection (GARF) Oversize Z237 .S632f

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Dawson Turner may have seen a goat, but this is a definitely a Unicorn, specifically a “bearded unicorn”, with its horn removed by Victorian scissors. The date c.1440 is almost certainly wrong; a much more plausible date is mid-1470s.
Thanks very much to Paul Needham for the correction.

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For comparison, here is an image of a Unicorn precisely of this type used by Caxton, in Bruges, c. 1475.

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The Sea of Matrimony

On June 10, 1931, Elmer Adler (1884-1962) wrote to the artist Tom Cleland (1880-1964) to say Harvey T. White, of R. Tyson White’s Sons, manufacturers of paper boxes, had contacted him. White was confirming a previous conversation in which Adler, acting as Cleland agent,  “authorized us to reproduce the The Sea of Matrimony by Wm [sic] Cleland for use on trays, waste baskets, lamp shades, cigarette boxes, etc., on the conditions. . . Print royalty is 3-7 cents each up to a total of $300. Depending on size.”


The Colophon (New York: Pynson Printers: The Colophon, 1930-1940). Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Z1007 .C71

The image was published on the colophon page of vol. 2, part six (1931) of The Colophon and proved much more popular than the cover image, also by Cleland.

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This was the middle of the Great Depression in the United States but Cleland had a good job as art director for Fortune Magazine.  He went on to design for Cadillac; Newsweek; and the newspaper PM.

The artist would not agree to Adler’s arrangement with White, but not because Cleland objected to seeing his art on waste baskets and lamp shades. He felt that so many people would want to license the image that $300 was not an appropriate price ceiling. Cleland would only agree if the company either bought the design for $300 or continue to pay royalties forever.

It is unfortunate that the response from White is not in the Cleland papers at the Library of Congress or Adler papers at Princeton University. If anyone has a lampshade with The Sea of Matrimony, please contact us. Thanks.