Real Pen Work and Exercises for Flourishing

We recently acquired a lovely volume entitled Real Pen Work: Self Instructor in Penmanship, published in 1884 by Knowles & Maxim.


This book includes step-by-step instructions on everything from how to sit properly at your writing desk to the proper degree to which to slant letters. It features samples of script, promissory notes, verses for autograph albums, and these elegant business letters.


There are handwriting exercises as well as exercises for flourishing, the latter of which sounds suspiciously like something one would find on a clean eating and wellness blog.


The bulk of the book consists of illustrations made entirely through offhand flourishing, such as this graceful swan and this squiggly family (complete with curlicue guardian angel).

There’s even a small section of ornamental lettering, including some lovely color alphabets.

If you’d like to take a look at this or any of our other books on handwriting and hand-lettering, get in touch!


Wonderpictures, Russian Checkers, Toy Printing, Irish Certificate

Just a quick post with updates on some of the latest additions to Special Collections.

Thanks to donor David Nudelman, we’re now home to 356 Russian books on checkers. They join our already rich Haynes collection on checkers, and they should be of interest to anyone with an interest in Soviet book design. Here are two examples:


Another donor has given us a collection of toy printing/sign-making sets. They’ll join our Updike Collection on the history of printing.


We purchased a rare certificate of membership in the Repeal Association of Ireland:


And a very fun item that you’ll have to visit to get a proper sense of. “Stulz Wonderpictures” is a small advertising booklet that doubles as a visual toy. The images inside are printed in two colors and in such a way that the first image presents a scene and text (“Where are the fish?” for instance, with a picture of a fisherman). When the included red plastic sheet is placed over the image the original scene disappears and a new one takes its place (in the example above, fish swimming in a stream). Not only is it a whimsical complement to our children’s collections, it’s a fascinating piece of printing ephemera. And best of all, this amusing toy, seemingly aimed at children, advertises whiskey made by the Stulz Brothers company in Kansas City, Missouri.


Latest Additions: How to Run a Print Shop, Brush Your Teeth, Save Money, Etc.

It’s been a while since the latest post about new additions to Special Collections, so here are notes on items that have come in during the last month or two.

Cart of new books


If forced to choose my single favorite category of books, I’d probably go with what you might call practical books: books that have a job to do in the world and get that job done. They’re not always pretty — sometimes they feature page after page of numbers and lists. Often they show signs of being roughed up, marked up and stored in less-than-ideal locations. 

One such class of items in our Updike Collection is books on print shop management, and the first two shelves of books in the image above are new additions in that category. The first shelf are transfers from our general, circulating collection. One of our sharp-eyed librarians noticed them in the stacks and asked if I was interested. I certainly was.

There were some type specimen books…type specimen

… and manuals on useful topics, like how to keep your Linotype machine running smoothly:

Linotype manual


The second row of books are new purchases along similar lines, particularly handbooks for pricing a print job…

Price Book, cover

Price book, text


… and being a good printer/salesman:2013-08-23 11.07.19Row three offers a couple more purchases, from recently-published books for the Updike Collection…

printing history books… to an interesting children’s book/toothpaste advertisement…

Tinies who live in a tube… to a collection of items on roller skating …

roller skating… and a sammelband bringing together six very scarce short works published in Ireland in the nineteenth century. They’re mostly religious in nature, but included among them is an 1817 report published by the Belfast Saving Bank, which includes stories of exemplary savers who took advantage of the banks services:

2013-08-23 11.11.282013-08-23 11.12.21





Irish Linen, Hemp and Rebellion

Another new acquisition post in place of the Wednesday portrait, this time highlighting two items recently purchased for our Williams & Potter Memorial Collection on Irish Culture.

First, the Precedents and Abstracts from the Journals of the Trustees of the Linen and Hempen Manufactures of Ireland…, published in Dublin in 1784.

It offers a view of the organization overseeing linen and hemp production in London from 1711 to 1783, as they grappled with issues like workhouse conditions.

Second, The Petition of Sir Philomy Oneale Knight, Generall of the Rebels in Ireland… (London: Printed by T.F. for John Thomas, [1642]).

Felim O’Neill helped lead one of the 17th-century Irish rebellions and was eventually captured by Cromwell’s forces and executed. An unsympathetic 19th-century historian related a story designed to show O’Neill’s pretensions in the worst light:

It was reported that … the English captured sir Phelim O’Neill’s private trunk, and that they found in it a crown with which the ambitious chieftain had already caused himself privately to be installed prince of Ulster.*

But Felim’s hopes for glory were crushed in large part by the arrival of another O’Neill, Owen, who was chosen leader of the northern armies in place of Felim.

One of the most notable and notorious aspects of Felim O’Neill’s role in the uprising was the level of brutality it entailed.. The “Petition” is a brief pamphlet intended to clear O’Neill’ and his army of charges–printed in “divers false Papers and Pamphlets” — that they were guilty of “dismembering, dis-joynting, ripping up Women with Child, and sleying of Infants….”

Small, cheap, poorly-printed pamphlets like this one (and the title page image above offers plenty of examples of sloppiness) flew back and forth during the 17th-century.This one appears not to have even been a legitimate statement from O’Neill, but rather “a hoax,” according to entry for O’Neill in the Dictionary of National Biography.

The only other copies in US libraries appear to be located at the Huntington Library and Yale’s Beinecke library. In addition to this account, the Williams & Potter Collection includes a number of other 17th-century pamphlets relating to issues in Ireland.

* Thomas Wright, The History of Ireland (London: Tallis, [c. 1854]), p. 708.

Another Selection of Books about the Book Trade

Here’s another selection of recent acquisitions to the Updike Collection, some new and some a little bit older:

John Lewis’s A Handbook of Type and Illustration (1956) offers samples of a range of illustration techniques and pattern designs like these:

Alfred Seymour’s Modern Printing Inks (1910) includes outlines the ink-making process from start to finish:

And this catalog of Ingersoll hand printing machinery (with assorted ephemera) is where you would have ordered your Little Gem “Family Printing Outfit” in its “elegant Lithographed TIN BOX.” The only other copy in the OCLC database (listed as belonging to the Rochester Museum & Science Center) has an address of 65 Courtland St. in New York. Our copy has an address of 46 Courtland St.

Spies by Subscription

It’s always a particular pleasure when we add a new item that overlaps with more than one of our collections. Here’s an example of a recent addition that will be useful for researchers interested in either the Civil War or the history of printing and the book trade: a publisher’s sample book for taking subscriptions to The Spy of the Rebellion.

The practice of subscription publishing has been at work for a very long time, going back at least to the seventeenth century. The original model was designed to work around the necessity of raising the capital to publish a book: All the expenses are paid (or at least promised) up-front by interested would-be readers who don’t mind shelling out their money first and getting the book later. This still happens today at places like Kickstarter, where someone has already raised $40,000 to publish something called Dinocalypse Now.

But there was another reason for subscription publishing, and it was a particular strategy of 19th-century American publishers: Subscription publishing — which sent an army of subscription collectors out door-to-door in out-of-the-way corners of the country — brought books to new audiences. In some cases this was expressed with missionary zeal:

Ignorance everywhere raises his stupid front, and among the best weapons with which to vanquish him are books, and in the interior, with a vast number, the habit of obtaining and of using these will not be acquired unless brought to their very doors.*

It was also a good way to make money, often by selling books that appealed to many buyers’ decorative sensibilities (they were often published in seemingly luxurious, gilt-decorated bindings) rather than their intellectual curiosity.

Alan Pinkerton, who founded the famous Pinkerton agency, offered his services to the Union (particularly to George MacLellan) during the Civil War, and The Spy of the Rebellion is a hefty account of his exploits. It’s one of several autobiographical works authored by Pinkerton, and a copy has long been part of our Harris Collection on the Civil War & Slavery. And we’re now able to add a subscription book that was used to sell copies like ours.

The subscription book is on the left, the full copy on the right. In addition to offering the table of contents and a selection of text and illustrations of the volume, it includes complementary blurbs:

and a form to be filled out by interested buyers:

This copy also includes an inscription on the flyleaf — “Edith Morgan | Burnham Maine” — indicating both the type of area in which subscription-takers were most active (Burnham’s current population is around 1,100) and that this particular copy may have been used by a woman.

Whatever the case, it also includes scrapbook-style additions that don’t seem relevant to the text for sale. Recipes and “household hints” are pasted in and written in manuscript at the back of the volume:

One of the most interesting features of books like this, and one of the reasons they appeal to historians of the book, is that they demonstrate the steps by which a book like Spy of the Rebellion came into being, and point to potential that may never have been realized. At the very end of this subscription book is pasted in the spine of a leather binding, not at all like the binding of the copy we have here in the library. This is presumably the “Sheep, Library Style” binding referenced in the subscription sheet. Or maybe it’s a binding that was never offered at all.

Henry Howe, quoted in Lehmann-Haupt, The Book in America (New York: Bowker, 1951), page 250.

A Specimen Selection

Continuing our series on some of the recent new additions to our collections, here are a few type specimens that will join the Updike Collection, already impressively stocked with type specimen books from the sixteenth century to the twentieth:

These are five twentieth-century examples, including the Navy Hydrographic Office specimen book, which is in a plastic comb binding, complete with a small tool for opening the combs to add more pages as they became available:

Type specimen text is often enjoyable for it’s stream-of-conscious aesthetic. In many cases, like this Ludlow specimen, the text offers suggestions on how a face might be used. Headlines are indeed made for advertising a new product:

The table of contents for the Boyd Printing Company’s specimen book shows they covered all the bases: Linotype, Ludlow and hand setting: