George Timmons III

Phone
843-290-1746
Address
P.O. Box 1147
Woodbine, GA 31569 US
Interests
Any and All !

A Dog Diversion

For those in need of temporary diversion, we share a selection of American historical prints depicting dogs. Arranged chronologically, these prints range from the sentimental to the absurd, and we hope they provide a pleasant distraction during troubling times. Since more of us are now staying home and working remotely, it’s also a good reminder to embrace that extra bit of quality time with our own pets.


James Akin, The Most Noble Lord Timothy Dexter [Engraving, 1806]. Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society.

 

Peter Maverick, Untitled (Two Puppies) [Lithograph, ca. 1830]. Courtesy of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

 

W. S. Pendelton, Docility [Lithograph, ca. 1830]. Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society.

 

W. S. Pendelton, Puppies [Lithograph, ca. 1830-32]. Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society.

 

Childs & Inman. Esquimaux Dog [Lithograph, between 1831-1833]. Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society.

 

Nathaniel Currier. All Right! [Lithograph, between 1835-56]. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

John Sartain (engraver), The Playful Pets [Mezzotint with etching, 1842?]. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

 

E. Jones, Two Dogs [Lithograph, between 1845-50]. Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society.

 

Nathaniel Currier, Julia. “Love me, Love my dog” [Lithograph, 1848]. Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society.

 

J.H. Bufford & Co., A Quiet Smoke. After dinner [Lithograph, between 1856-66]. Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society.

 

Currier & Ives, Happy Little Pups [Lithograph, between 1857-72]. Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society.

 

A large dog howling while puppies try to climb onboard a raft [Wood engraving, 19th century]. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

James Bateman (artist), A Distinguished Member of the Benevolent Society “Give a poor dog a bone” [Mezzotint and engraving, between 1870 and 1875?]. Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society.

 

L. Prang & Co., Dogs Not Admitted [Chromolithograph, 1872]. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

 

Graphic Company, Throw Physic to the Dogs [Chromolithograph, 1873]. Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society.

 

L. Prang & Co., Domestic Dogs. Order-Carnivora, or Flesh-eating Animals. Family-Dogs (Canidae) [Lithograph, 1874]. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

 

Dupuy, Child at table with dog begging at left [Chromolithograph, ca. 1875]. Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society.

 

Metropolitan Print, Educated Dogs [Lithograph, 1875]. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

 

Compliments of Sheppard, Arrison & Sheppard, 1008 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia [Lithograph on Japanese paper, 1876?]. Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society.

 

H. Bencke, Two dogs chasing mouse through open case of champagne [Lithograph, 1878]. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

 

P.O. Vickery (publisher), “The First Lesson” in Book of Cabinet Chromos [Chromolithograph, 1881]. Courtesy of the Library Company of Philadephia.

 

Lawrence & Bullen Lmtd., Cock Bird & Dogs [Woodcut, 1901]. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

 

Taber Prang Art Co., No. 2042. Waiting. [Chromolithograph, 1906]. Courtesy of the Jay T. Last Collection, Huntington Library.

 

J. Ottmann Lith. Co., Yard of Puppies [Chromolithograph, proof before letters, 1907]. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

A Dramatic Demonstration of the Damaging Effects of Light

By James S. Brust

When I purchased the chromolithograph in Figure 1, I was more interested in acquiring the original period frame than the print itself, which was obviously faded and toned. All print collectors have heard stories of opening a frame and finding another, more valuable print behind the one showing through the glass. This time, when I opened the back, I actually did find another print behind the first, and much to my surprise, it was a second impression of the same chromolithograph (Figure 2). I had no idea why someone would have put an identical print behind the one they were displaying—perhaps the two had been stacked one on the other and accidentally stuck together. But here were two impressions of the same print, housed in the same frame, one having been exposed to light for 140 years while the other was shielded.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Those who collect or study works of art on paper know exposure to light is detrimental, and over time can damage a print. What is usually seen, and strikingly evident in Figure 1, is that light will darken the paper and cause color to fade, especially the “warm” ones on the red, orange, and yellow side of the spectrum [1]. Even though these are oil colors, said to be more resistant to fading than the watercolors used on many of the prints we study, it is evident that the red in the doll’s costume is almost gone. Since chromolithographs such as these were made by printing sequential layers of color to create different tones, in other sections what we see is less a disappearance of color than a shifting away from the now faded “warmer” hues in the skin and even the hair of the children, and the overall image just seems to have less color in it. Even the blues have faded to some extent, but not as dramatically as the other colors.

The paper mount of Figure 1 has darkened, and the fact that light is the culprit is verified by a narrow strip along the bottom and right edges, which, protected under the lip of the frame, remain lighter. Also, though not visible in our illustrations, the paper beneath the mounted chromo in Figure 1, having been protected from light by the print itself, has not darkened.

Figure 4

Figure 3

While the faded print in Figure 1 protected Figure 2 from light, the situation was reversed when it came to damage from the wooden back board that held both of them in the frame. Such backings are known to cause damage since the acidity in the wood will stain the print. Figure 4, the reverse of the unfaded Figure 2, which was against the back board, shows characteristic staining that matches the grain and a knothole in the wood. Figure 3, the reverse of Figure 1, did not touch the back board, hence does not show wood grained staining. However, since it was in direct contact with the chromolithographed surface of Figure 2, a reversed ghost image of the print has leeched onto its surface.

There are other factors that can damage a print including storage temperature, humidity, moisture, and the acidity of the paper, ink, and framing materials. I claim no expertise in these matters, and this is not intended as a scholarly discourse. But this rare opportunity to study two identical impressions of the same print exposed to different conditions.

To learn more about protecting against the damaging effects of light, read the Northeast Document Conservation Center’s leaflet on “Protection from Light Damage.”

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Note:
1. Orange, red, and yellow colors are usually referred to as “warm” colors because they remind us of fire, while those on the blue end are “cool” because they evoke images of ice and snow. This terminology is well established and often used in the art world, though it is actually reversed from the realm of physics, where it is known that higher temperatures are required to radiate colors on the blue end of the spectrum compared to the red.

Images:
Figure 1. Chromolithograph, ca. 1870, 7 1/4 x 5 in. on a 10 x 8 in. mount. Untitled; marked “Bufford’s Oil Chromo, Boston.” The composition is similar to the Currier & Ives small folio lithograph Our Pets, Fast Asleep (C-4652, G-5043).
Figure 2. Another impression of the print in Figure 1.
Figure 3. The reverse of Figure 1.
Figure 4. The reverse of Figure 2.

Images courtesy of James S. Brust. This article originally appeared in the AHPCS News Letter, Winter 2012 (Vol. 36, No. 3).

Collecting Five Hundred Years of Women’s Work

The 53rd California International Antiquarian Book Fair was in Pasadena on February 7-9. One of the highlights was a featured talk by Lisa Unger Baskin. Baskin is the collector behind Five Hundred Years of Women’s Work, which was the largest collection of women’s history material in private hands before being acquired by Duke University’s Rubenstein Library in 2015.

Baskin’s collection contains over 10,000 printed items and 250 manuscript collections related to the political and social history of working women. It is international in scope and primarily dates from the mid-1400s to the 20th century.

Baskin said that she made a promise to herself not to purchase stereotypical images of women. Her collection contains many “firsts” related to women—the first book on obstetrics published by a woman, the first women’s rights weekly journal, the first work published by an African American … Or, rather, as Baskin amended, the known firsts. “I say ‘That we know of’ all the time,” she said.

Fine-tuned to her audience, Baskin tailored her talk to her process of collecting, sharing anecdotes that will sound familiar to many AHPCS members—at one point acknowledging that it was an “addiction.”

Baskin began collecting early. To accommodate her growing collection, Baskin’s parents installed floor-to-ceiling shelving in her childhood closet. One audience member asked her to recall her first acquisition. “That is impossible to answer,” she responded immediately. A bookseller herself, Baskin championed the role of rare book dealers in facilitating collections like hers. “You need the trade, you need dealers on the road,” she said.

Baskin always knew that her collection should ultimately reside in an institution. What was most important to her in selecting its new home? Accessibility. Baskin wanted the collection to be available—for people to know what was in the collection. To accomplish that, it had to be cataloged. She was confident that the Rubinstein Library would be able to efficiently catalog the collection. (As of this writing, there are more than 7,400 online catalog records.)

Even now, Baskin continues to collect: “I still manage to find something someone doesn’t notice.”

An exhibit of Baskin’s collection at the Grolier Club just closed on February 7th but can be relived through a lovely illustrated exhibit catalogue: Five Hundred Years of Women’s Work (The Grolier Club and Duke University, 2019).

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Image credits

Top image at left: The life & age of woman. Stages of woman’s life from the cradle to the grave / Kelloggs & Comstock, N.Y. & Hartford, Conn. [Lithograph, between 1848 and 1850]. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. Note: This print is also in Baskin’s collection.

Middle image at right: Lynch, James Henry; after Lady Mary Leighton (née Parker), The Rt. Honble. Lady Eleanor Butler & Miss Ponsonby, [ca. 1830-1850], Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Bottom image at left: Torrey, Jesse, A portraiture of domestic slavery, in the United States: with reflections on the practicability of restoring the moral rights of the slave, without impairing the legal privileges of the possessor; and, a project of a colonial asylum for free persons of colour, including memoirs of facts on the interior traffic in slaves, and, on kidnapping: illustrated with engravings, Philadelphia: Published by the Author, 1817, Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

“Ponderously” Rare (Part 3): Variation and Rarity in Music Title-Page Design

 

The Lynch Archives is one of the premier private collections of American sheet music. Kevin Hugh Lynch is a steward of the Lynch Archives, begun more than one hundred years ago by his father, band leader and art dealer Francis Lynch. The collection of published popular music dating from 1736 to 1987 is uniquely sorted by subject, archived, and conserved. It is based principally on prominent nineteenth-century publications of American and British music, although many European prints are included as well.

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In this three-part series, Kevin Lynch explores the variety of music title-page design through three sets of unusual and rare pieces from the Lynch Archives along with his own commentary on what makes these covers so special. Read Part 1 and Part 2!

In this final post, Kevin shares portraits of two prominent 19th century women: ballet dancer Augusta Fuchs and Queen Victoria.

Quadrilles

Quadrilles.
Lithographed and hand colored by N. Currier’s Lithography, New York, circa 1837-1841 (the only years publishers Hewitt and Jacques were at the printed address of 239 Broadway), vertical format, folio.

There is some question as to whether it was Currier’s shop that colored the litho or whether we are looking at ‘color added later.’ Though the lion’s share of Currier’s sheet music lithography matched the years above (perhaps a hundred different title page designs), colored lithos are very rare. Black and white lithos were the rule, often done by William K. Hewitt, whose sketch for the burning of the Lexington served as the basis for Currier’s first popular lithograph in 1840. Could this be one of the earliest hand-colored lithographs Nathaniel Currier produced?

The image features ballet dancer Augusta Fuchs in a well-known pose. A tinted Currier print of Madlle. Augusta is in the Peters Collection at the Smithsonian. Fuchs appeared in La Bayadere, credited on the cover, at the Park Theatre in New York in November of 1836, which argues for 1836 or 1837 as the date the music was published. The coloring does indeed look to be from the period.

Fair Beauteous Queen.
Lithographed by N. Currier’s Lithography (artist: C.E. Lewis), New York, in black and white, 1839, vertical format, folio.

This is one of the more beautiful black-and-white lithographic renderings of the queen, Reina Victoria, early in her reign. She took the throne the prior year and her bicentennial was, in fact, just last year. There is a bit of mystery to this print. In 1947, Harry Dichter, author of Early American Sheet Music, a trusted source, released a volume of music for sale, complete with prices. This piece was priced way beyond the other Victoria music prints and way over the dollar amount that would have seemed appropriate. There could be only one reason – extreme rarity.

Exhaustive searches on the Internet a number of years ago located a single copy – at the Library of Congress. Since then a second copy has been discovered at Baylor University. It is not listed in WorldCat.org and not at the top university archive for prominent sheet music illustrations, the Lester Levy Collection (Johns Hopkins University). It’s likely this is a ‘single digit rarity’ with less than ten copies assumed to exist.

The music is written, composed and respectfully dedicated to the St. George’s Society in New York, a charitable organization that benefitted those in need within the British and Commonwealth community of New York. It’s interesting that in 1838 the St. George’s Society of Philadelphia commissioned the great Thomas Sully to paint what became a famous portrait of the illustrious queen.

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All sheet music covers courtesy of the Lynch Archives. No further reproduction or distribution is permitted without permission of the Lynch Archives.

Kevin Hugh Lynch is a steward of the Lynch Archives. Mr. Lynch develops presentations based on the Lynch Archives in his home state of Washington. He has written articles for Imprint, Illustration Magazine, The Journal of the Book Club of Washington, and the Rail Splitter: A Journal for the Lincoln Collector. He lives in Whidbey Island. The Lynch Archives collection of suffrage sheet music will be on display at the American Historical Print Collector’s Society 45th Annual Meeting in May in Louisville, Ky.

“Ponderously” Rare (Part 2): Variation and Rarity in Music Title-Page Design

 

The Lynch Archives is one of the premier private collections of American sheet music. Kevin Hugh Lynch is a steward of the Lynch Archives, begun more than one hundred years ago by his father, band leader and art dealer Francis Lynch. The collection of published popular music dating from 1736 to 1987 is uniquely sorted by subject, archived, and conserved. It is based principally on prominent nineteenth-century publications of American and British music, although many European prints are included as well.

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In this three-part series, Kevin Lynch explores the variety of music title-page design through three sets of unusual and rare pieces from the Lynch Archives along with his own commentary on what makes these covers so special. Click here to read Part 1!

In part two, Kevin takes a look at views of two St. Louis hotels.

Southern Hotel Polka

Southern Hotel Polka.
Lithographed and printed in tints by McLean Lithography, St. Louis, 1865, vertical format, folio.

The hotel was designed by architect George Barnett, who built other famous buildings in St. Louis. This litho demonstrates the tendency to highlight and draw to perspective by deliberately setting off the shaded side of the building from the sunny side. These views of buildings have proved to be very popular with collectors. The ornately titled piece adds to the allure.

One of the interesting things about this copy of the Southern Hotel Polka is that it is full size and unbound, unlike at least ninety-five percent of nineteenth-century music that has survived. Binding into personal volumes, or sammelbands, was what protected so much of American music from this time period. As WorldCat.org only locates this at Yale University – not even at the Library of Congress – you can get a sense of the difficulty of locating this in an unbound, uncut state, as originally published. Sadly, the Southern Hotel burned in a spectacular fire in 1877, the burgeoning fire shooting up the elevator shafts in the structure.

Lindell Grand March.
Lithographed and printed in tints and hand coloring by Ehrgott, Forbriger and Company, Cincinnati, 1863, horizontal format, folio.

Interestingly, this sheet music was both lithographed and published in Cincinnati to promote a St. Louis hotel, the Lindell House. The dedicatees, Messers Sparr and Parks, were the original lessees of this spectacular hotel, which also burned, in 1867, ten years before the Southern Hotel. It’s possible Sparr and Parks were active in Cincinnati and perhaps even had a hotel there under their management. To bring these two venues and prints into even closer association, the buildings had the same architect: George Barnett.

You can see the advantage a horizontal format had in giving a sense of the size of the hotel. The detail and quality of the tints are well beyond what one normally sees on a music cover. It’s possible the artist was Christian Fabronius, who was in Cincinnati at the time of publication along with his brother Dominique. Both were known to work with Ehrgott, Forbriger as well as Middleton, Strobridge Lithography. This item is also unbound, in original size and, oddly, also held at Yale, as well as Johns Hopkins (Levy Collection) and the Library of Congress.

Click here to continue to Part 3 of this series!

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All sheet music covers courtesy of the Lynch Archives. No further reproduction or distribution is permitted without permission of the Lynch Archives.

Kevin Hugh Lynch is a steward of the Lynch Archives. Mr. Lynch develops presentations based on the Lynch Archives in his home state of Washington. He has written articles for Imprint, Illustration Magazine, The Journal of the Book Club of Washington, and the Rail Splitter: A Journal for the Lincoln Collector. He lives in Whidbey Island. The Lynch Archives collection of suffrage sheet music will be on display at the American Historical Print Collector’s Society 45th Annual Meeting in May in Louisville, Ky.

“Ponderously” Rare (Part I): Variation and Rarity in Music Title-Page Design

Music title-page images courtesy of the Lynch Archives.

Before radio, records, CDs, or MP3s, if most Americans wanted to hear music, they needed to create it themselves. As the growing American middle class of the 19th century eagerly purchased pianos and other musical instruments for their homes, they also bought sheet music. By 1855, one New York publishing house was advertising a stock of one million musical works.

And just as the music industry of the late 20th century lured potential buyers with record-sleeve and CD-case artwork, earlier music publishers did the same with illustrated title pages. These pictorial covers provide a seemingly inexhaustible trove of images on an amazingly diverse range of subjects.

A number of libraries have American sheet music holdings. Among private collections, the Lynch Archives stands out as one of the premier collections. Kevin Hugh Lynch is a steward of the Lynch Archives, begun more than one hundred years ago by his father, band leader and art dealer Francis Lynch. The collection of published popular music dating from 1736 to 1987 is uniquely sorted by subject, archived, and conserved. It is based principally on prominent nineteenth-century publications of American and British music, although many European prints are included as well.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

In this three-part series, Kevin Lynch explores the variety of music title-page design through three sets of unusual and rare pieces from the Lynch Archives along with his own commentary on what makes these covers so special. (Jump to Part 2 or Part 3!)

In part one, Kevin explores two covers with imagery of the American Civil War:

Yankee Volunteers Marching Into Dixie

Yankee Volunteers Marching Into Dixie.
Lithographed and printed in colors by John H. Bufford, in Boston, 1862, horizontal format, folio size.

This is the only music print I know of that is held at each of these archives: the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian (Harry Peters Collection) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The humorous naiveté of the Northern forces in the Civil War’s first year was encapsulated with this image and also the next (Yankee Robinson at Bull Run). Though not published until 1862, long after the First Battle of Bull Run (First Battle of Manassas) in July 1861, the iconic image of the ‘three-month volunteer’ that occurs in the following image is also present here. ‘An easy march into Richmond’ seems to be the suggestion. The picture of the soldiers, all uniformly dressed in top hat, blue vest, and yellow pinstriped pants, is so winning it’s hard to say the charm of the image was excelled on music covers in the four long years of war.

Yankee Robinson at Bull Run

Yankee Robinson at Bull Run.
Lithographed and printed in colors by Chicago Lithographic Company in 1867, vertical format, folio.

This was published by P.L. Huyett and Son in St. Joseph, Missouri. This publisher and this city were not additionally known to print music during this time.

When I obtained this publication, sheet music maven Larry Zimmerman had this to say, “you know this is mythologically rare.” I have used at times certain adjectives to communicate the depth of rarity regarding this piece or that – magically rare, wickedly rare, deviously rare, etc. Searches on the Internet, WorldCat.org, and elsewhere find this print at the Library of Congress, the Lester Levy Collection at Johns Hopkins and one other personal archive. That’s it. Let’s call it ponderously rare.

The likelihood that this is the only lithographic image on music of the principal, initial battle of Bull Run (Manassas) definitely adds interest. But there are other reasons for its historical relevance. It is certainly the only time the Confederate Blackhorse Cavalry appears on a music title-page, and that regiment had some standing. It also very humorously depicts ‘The Grand Skedaddle,’ as the retreat toward Washington was referred to after Northern forces were repulsed. You can see that moniker written in the sky behind Yankee Robinson. And the main illustration gives a vivid detailing of the hightailing, including three men on a horse (far right) and one gentleman inexplicably opening an umbrella (!).

Fayette Lodowick Robinson, the self-entitled ‘Great Yankee’ pictured on the cover, was a staunch abolitionist and was also one of the best known names in circus lore during the 19th century. He had more than forty years in the business and merged his show in the last year of his life (1884) with The Ringling Brothers, who were just starting out at that time.

Click here to continue to Part 2 of this series!

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All sheet music covers courtesy of the Lynch Archives. No further reproduction or distribution is permitted without permission of the Lynch Archives.

Kevin Hugh Lynch is a steward of the Lynch Archives. Mr. Lynch develops presentations based on the Lynch Archives in his home state of Washington. He has written articles for Imprint, Illustration Magazine, The Journal of the Book Club of Washington, and the Rail Splitter: A Journal for the Lincoln Collector. He lives in Whidbey Island. The Lynch Archives collection of suffrage sheet music will be on display at the American Historical Print Collector’s Society 45th Annual Meeting in May in Louisville, Ky.

A Look Back: “The most important Currier & Ives sale to take place in Southern California …”

“I am Done Collecting—Now What?” contains great tips from appraiser and art historian Leah Tharpe on things to consider when preparing to sell or donate a print collection.

Margaret Leslie Davis’s new book, The Lost Gutenberg (TarcherPerigee, 2019), might be considered a cautionary tale for these same collectors getting ready to donate their collections.

Davis’s book tracks one surviving copy of the Gutenberg Bible known as “No. 45.” No. 45 eventually made its way into the collection of Estelle Doheny, a serious rare book collector and the widow of a California oil tycoon. Doheny donated the Gutenberg along with most of her collection to St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California.

Doheny (who died in 1958) may have assumed her collection would form the foundation of the Seminary’s special collections in perpetuity, but the deed of gift included a clause allowing the Los Angeles Archdiocese to sell the items twenty-five years after her death.

When the restriction expired in 1983, Davis writes, “The Los Angeles Archdiocese, unable to resist monetizing the valuable assets, put the entire Doheny book collection on sale in 1987.” The collection, though, went far beyond books to include manuscripts, artwork, prints, and decorative objects. Christie’s auction house would ultimately hold seven sales between October 1987 and May 1989 of Estelle Doheny’s collection.

The star of the show was, of course, Doheny’s Gutenberg Bible, which sold on October 22, 1987, for a total of $5.4 million. But for print lovers, the real sale occurred on February 3, 1988, at St. John’s in Camarillo.

As a collector, Estelle Doheny had a soft spot for Currier & Ives prints, and Christie’s described her collection of prints as the “the finest and most extensive” to come up for sale in decades. The News Letter later estimated that the sale grossed more than $385,000.

AHPCS member Jim Brust recalls it as “The most important Currier & Ives sale to take place in Southern California in my entire 45 years of collecting.” He shares his memories of the auction in the recent News Letter. Click here to read his account!

Top photograph courtesy of James Brust.

The Million-Dollar Question: Original or Reproduction?

A recent article in the New York Times (“Is It a ‘5’ or a ‘6’? The Answer Could Make an Art Fortune”) explores whether a certain bronze sculpture is an extremely valuable Renaissance original or just a 17th century copy—a distinction worth a million dollars. Among the disputed crucial details is whether a date cast on the sculpture’s base shows the number “5” or “6.”

While the stakes aren’t nearly as high, the article brings to mind a common question for historic print collectors:

“Is it an original or a reproduction?”

At AHPCS, we often receive this question for Currier & Ives prints—both because certain Currier & Ives originals are highly valued and, also, because there are a number of reproductions out there. Mind you, most of these reproductions are not the result of forgers trying to swindle unsuspecting buyers—the repros exist because Currier & Ives prints are so loved, and as a result, companies have wanted to capitalize on the demand (especially in the mid-1900s).

Among the most convincingly accurate reproductions are a series published by Andres, Inc., of New York in 1942. Andres selected twenty images from among the large-folio stars of the Currier & Ives lineup and reproduced them expertly to the exact size. It even went so far as to hand-color the prints as Currier & Ives had originally done.

Included in the series is the lush and ornate Landscape, Fruit and Flowers created by artist Fanny Palmer for Currier & Ives in 1862.

Below are four copies of the print—three originals and one reproduction:

The color variations immediately stand out in the images—but not just for the reproduction. The colors differ among all four prints and reflect the inherent uniqueness of hand-coloring and the effects of sun exposure and other environmental factors over time.

Which one is the Andres reproduction? Spoiler alert! It’s the second print from top (or from left in the first panel).

So how should beginners go about determining if a print is an original?

In most cases, a Currier & Ives reproduction can be identified by measuring the image dimensions and comparing them to the size provided in a standard reference book like Frederic Conningham’s Currier & Ives Prints. An Illustrated Check List (Crown Publishers, 1970, 1983). Over at the Antiques Prints Blog, AHPCS member and dealer Chris Lane goes into excellent detail on “Currier & Ives Sizes.”

If the print passes the measurement test, other clues can be revealed by looking at the printed text below the image, studying the paper quality, and using a strong magnifying glass to examine the ink pattern. To help navigate the question of authenticity, our website features a Currier & Ives Frequently Asked Questions page with tips.

In comparing the repro Landscape, Fruit and Flowers from an original, one longtime collector suggests looking at the letters in the title of the print.

The basic printing of the black-and-white lithographed image loses detail and clarity when copied. This loss is less visible in the colored illustration portion of the print but is more obvious in the block letters of the title. The original letters appear more distinct than the reproduction:

Unfortunately for the beginner, though, there is no substitute for old-fashioned hard-earned experience when evaluating prints. In 1977, collector Jacques Schurre wrote to AHPCS founder Ladd MacMillan:

“When it comes to prints that are reproduced in the exact size and printed matter as the original, and there are many of these, explaining how one can distinguish a repro from an original is of dubious value. That knowledge comes from owning and handling original impressions” (AHPCS News Letter, Fall 1996, Vol. 21, No. 2).

Image credits (left to right/top to bottom): The first two images courtesy of a private collector; the third image is courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art; the fourth image is courtesy of the Old Print Shop.

Recent Auction News

Two historic prints were big sellers for Litchfield Auctions at their recent Nov. 30-Dec. 1 sale. According to Antiques and the Arts, the lot, estimated at $1/1,500, finally went to a lucky bidder for $22,100.

The lot contained “The Road—Winter” and “The Road—Summer,” a pair of hand-color lithographs drawn by Otto Knirsch and published by Nathaniel Currier in 1853 (four years before his partnership with James Merritt Ives created the iconic “Currier & Ives” firm).

So why the high price?

“The Road—Winter” shows a young couple traveling through a snowy landscape in a cozy winter sleigh. While it does fit squarely within the genre of idyllic winter scenes so beloved by Currier & Ives collectors, the image is noteworthy for other reasons.

That young couple depicts none other than Mr. Currier, himself, and his second wife, Lura Ormsbee Currier.

The image was originally presented by Currier’s staff as a Christmas gift to the forty-year-old Currier and his twenty-nine-year-old wife, then in their sixth year of marriage. Currier liked the print so much that he decided to add it to the company’s production line.

The print would later be memorialized as the object of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s interest in a well-known photograph documenting the President-elect’s February 1933 visit to the Old Print Shop in New York City.

 

Image credits (from top): The Road—Winter, courtesy of the Old Print Shop. Photographs of Nathaniel Currier (D. Appleton and Company) and Mrs. Nathaniel Currier (William Kurtz), Harriet Endicott Waite research material concerning Currier & Ives, 1923-1956. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Photograph of “President Roosevelt. Examining a print by Currier & Ives on his visit to The Old Print Shop in 1932,” digital copy from the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, New York Public Library Digital Collections.

On this day: December 4, 1885

On this day in 1885, Scottish-American engraver James Smillie died at the age of 78. Smillie’s work included seven full-plate engravings for the American Art Union between 1850 and 1852—notably after paintings by Jasper F. Cropsey, John F. Kensett, Asher B. Durand, and of Thomas Cole’s Voyage of Life (1850):

Smillie also engraved illustrations for gift books and periodicals and was a prolific banknote engraver for the American Bank Note Company. At the time of his death, he was working on a vignette for the company: “Lions at Home.”

 

His son, the engraver James D. Smillie (1833-1909), recollected:

It was the last piece of work that Father did & it was a great disappointment to him that he could not live to quite finish it. We consulted together so that I might know his wishes and in answer to his desire I promised him that I would finish it. There was really very little for me to do – almost nothing but some work upon the accessories with the purpose of ‘bringing things together.’ The animals are almost as he left them. As I sat with him on the 5th of Nov. ’85—he, propped up in bed with a proof in his hand, I gave him a pencil & asked him to write his autograph upon the proof. He did so—it was the last he wrote. He died on the 4th of Dec. following. When I finished the die I traced his autograph upon it.

—Letter from James D. Smillie to Charles Henry Hart, February 19, 1888. Reprinted in the AHPCS News Letter Vol. 23, No. 3 (Winter 1999)

The vignette was later printed on a five-hundred pesos banknote created by the American Bank Note Company for the Banco de Londres y Mexico of Mexico City.

Image credits: The Voyage of Life — Youth [Engraving by James Smillie of painting by Thomas Cole, 1850], courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society. Photograph of James Smillie and “Lions at Home” engraving from the collection of Walter D. Allan printed in the AHPCS New Letter (Winter 1999).