Friday, July 27, 2012

American Rare Book Trade Ads From 1902, Part III

By Stephen J. Gertz

We continue our series on vintage rare book trade ads from 1902. Catch-up with Part I and Part II.

John Anderson Jr. aka Anderson Auction Company and Anderson Galleries, was the foremost auctioneer of books in America of his generation, handling the sale of some of the most important collections ever offered, including the library of John Greenleaf Whittier, and, in 1916, portions of the libraries of Henry Huntington, and William K. Bixby.

"Born in 1856, Anderson attended school in Brooklyn and, as soon as he was able, set up as a rare-book dealer. Books, however, were not his main interest; he was, he said, 'a lover of good pictures many years before I was able to buy one,' and 'books cost less than pictures,' so he collected works on various painters, and while he taught himself about art, his business did well. After a few years he was able to move uptown from his stark original store on Nassau Street in Manhattan to 30 East Fifty-Seventh Street, where he opened the Anderson Auction Company. He sold books and then prints and quickly became a real force in the city’s art circles. But that wasn’t what Anderson wanted. Having established one of the best-known auction houses in the country, he promptly sold it, and in 1908 he took his profits and went to Europe to buy paintings" (The Man Who Discovered Turner's Secret, American Heritage). He became the world's foremost collector and historian of artist J.M.W. Turner.

We met the legendary bookseller George D. Smith in Part I. Here he offers the first American edition Campbell's Life of Mrs. Siddons (1834) for $1.50. In 2012, prices for the original first UK edition of the same year range from $100 - $240. The first US edition is rarer yet if any copies come into the marketplace the price will likely be less, adjusted for inflation, than Smith's $1.50 in 1902. Vadit vita  Sarah Siddons...

"The binding on the little volume entitled 'Lyra elegantiarum,' recently bound for the noted booklover, Mr. Henry W. Poor, by the Adams Bindery of this city, is so exquisite in design and execution that those long skeptical of the ability of Americans to bind artistically should now be convinced of their error. The outside of the cover is inlaid by Mr. Adams in the manner which has made him famous, and for which he originated the name 'Viennese Inlay' with an entirely new motif...It is to be hoped that all American binders will be encouraged to strive toward producing designs that are in a measure original and which show more of the individual touch of the artist" (New York Times, October 11, 1902).

Ralph Randolph Adams was, along with Henry Stikeman (who we discussed in Part I) and a handful or others, one of the great American art bookbinders of his era. He developed a new method of mosaic binding that blew everyone away with his work's exquisite beauty and breathtaking craftsmanship.

"We now have in New York City a bindery where the practical and the aesthetic are combined. Ralph Randolph Adams has succeeded in accomplishing something that was considered to be impossible, and, in spite of the severest tests, the bindings that he has executed stand triumphant. Generally speaking, American artists are behind their French contemporaries in the matter of design but Mr. Adams has demonstrated that he is at least the equal to the french in this direction" (The Art Interchange).

The impossible that Adams succeeded at was in perfecting the mosaic binding technique popular in Vienna hundreds of years ago but impractical because the binders of the day could not prevent the leather from cracking and parting; the bindings didn't last. All so-called "inlay" or mosaic binding after that time through Adams was actually onlaid work, the leather applied as a veneer atop a foundation leather. It was Adams who figured out how to do true mosaic work, the pieces of leather cut and applied directly on the bare board and flush with each other. Adams often used up to 1500 pieces of leather when creating his mosaic bindings. It was insanely intense and difficult to do. Adams did it anyway.

"The cost of binding a book in the new Viennese style originated by Mr. Adams is necessarily great as the work requires such concentration that Mr. Adams is unable to work at it for more than a few hours at a time" (The Observer).

An exhibit of Adams' "Viennese Bindings" was held at Scribner's bookshop in early 1902. The books  thus bound were offered for $1,250. In 2012 dollars, that's approximately $28,000. They were not for the casual collector. Adams' clients were fat-cats, J.P. Morgan amongst them.

Adams was proud of his work.  On the upper turn-in of his mosaic bindings will be found "Adams Bindery. Viennese Inlay. R.R.A. [year]" stamped in gilt.

In 1904, Arnold Lethwidge wrote The Bookbindings of Ralph Randolph Adams: An Appreciation, published by The Literary Collector.

Strange unknown chapter in American bookbinding history: 

On August 10, 1915  Ralph Randolph Adams filed for, and on July 10, 1923 was granted a U.S. Patent for "Radioactive Spray Material."

"The object of this invention is to provide a radio-active substance for the purpose of stimulating plant growth. A further object is to provide a radio-active substance for the prevention and destruction of insects, larvae, eggs, bacteria and fungi which are injurious to plants or animals. A further object is to provide a material having these properties which can be efficiently applied by spraying, and which will adhere to the parts of plants above ground...or to the fur, feathers or skin of animals [our emphasis] which are bothered by pests...(U.S. Patent No. 1461340).

In short, Adams invented a radioactive insect-killer to spray on the leather he used for binding as a preservative to prevent pests from harming his work. Adams "Viennese" bindings prior to 1910 do not, presumably, require use of a Geiger counter, and, having one from 1902 recently pass through my hands, I am relieved. It is unknown to this writer whether Adams' post-patent bindings glow in the dark.

Despite his no nonsense, cut to the bone, no credit, cash-only, books as strictly merchandise "no axe to grind" leap-off-the-page advertisement Niel Morrow Ladd rates nary a word in Stern or Dickinson.  

Circa 1910, Niel Morrow Ladd published Co-Operative Book-selling: An offering of stock in the company, with description of its plan to accumulate and sell used books across the country through the co-operative agency of the stockholders who will earn commissions, dividends and discounts. This proto-franshise scheme does not appear to have caught on.

Famed NYC rare bookseller Walter Goldwater (1907-1985), who established his shop in 1932, had this to say about Ladd, who appears to have remained in business into the 1930s.

"Niel Morrow Ladd eventually died, and I bought the contents of the shop. I don’t remember how I engineered the thing. I guess I continued to have a sale there for a while and then brought the rest over to my shop. I remember at that time there were remainders of certain histories of Flatbush, which he was selling for ten cents and later on using for backing on shelves, which now bring $10 to $25 on the market. He had simply a vast number of them, perhaps hundreds. They were either published by him or published by some friend of his, and they were in great quantity. There were a number of things of that sort -- histories of Brooklyn -- which we didn’t know anything about and didn’t care about. In fact, they didn’t have any market value at the time. There was a history of Harlem by Riker which he had in great quantity which is now desirable. But those were the old days, of course, and that's the typical thing that happened" (New York City Bookshops in the 1930s and 1940s: The Recollections of Walter Goldwater , DLB Yearbook, 1993, pp. 139-172).

Whoever Ladd was he has won a place in my heart as a fellow bird-brained bookman. He was the author of How To Attract Wild Birds About The Home (1915) and How To Make Friends With Birds (1916).

In 1789, Baltimore, along with New York and Philadelphia, was considered the home of America's greatest booksellers, with most books, rare or otherwise, purchased and shipped across the country from those cities. By the early 19th century, however, "Baltimore's promise as a bookselling center was not fulfilled...Baltimore lost to Philadelphia, never sustaining the position as a bookselling center that had once seemed within its reach" (Stern).

Baltimore's current Royal Books, Kelmscott Bookshop, and Johanson Rare Books are doing their best to fulfill the city's initial promise.

Rare bookseller The Baltimore Book Co. is not mentioned at all by Stern or Dickinson. The company published James McSherry's History of Maryland in 1904.

Pickering & Chatto began as rare and antiquarian booksellers in 1820. They're still around,  now known as much for their publishing operation as their bookselling activity.

Bookseller and publisher J.W. Bouton (1847?-1902) began as an errand-boy for publisher D. Appleton & Company. He established his first  rare book shop in 1857 in downtown New York; by 1885 he'd moved uptown and opened two salesrooms. 

"Bouton specialized in early printing, English literature and Americana, much of it gathered on his annual trips to Europe. In 1888 he claimed to have completed thirty-nine such overseas buying trips" (Dickinson). 

The American Bookseller, reviewing one of Bouton's catalogs in 1889, said that Bouton "is well-known as one of our most indefatigable and judicious collectors." He was a leading - and quite successful -  figure in the trade for more than fifty years. The ad above, appearing shortly after his death, heralds the sale of his "magnificent" stock.

Bouton also published. I first became aware of him through his publication of Taylor's The Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries (1875); Inman's Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism (1884); and Samuel Dunlap's mouthful, The Ghebers of Hebron. An introduction to the Gheborim in the lands of the Sethim, the Moloch worship, the Jews as Brahmans, the Shepherds of Canaan, the Amorites, Kheta, and Azarielites, the Sun-Temples on the High Places, the Pyramid and Temple of Khufu, the Mithramysteries, the Mithrabaptism, and succesive oriental conceptions from Jordan Fireworship to Ebionism (1898).

When I first began to investigate sex in religion some thirty years ago, Bouton's publication of Westropp and Wake's Ancient Symbol Worship. Influence of the Phallic Idea in the Religions of Antiquity (1875) was (and remains)  a tumescent reference.

Henry Blackwell (1851-1928), bookbinder and bookseller, bibliographer and biographer, was the son of bookbinder Richard Blackwell of Liverpool.  In 1873 his bindery appeared in the Liverpool directory.

Blackwell emigrated to New York in 1877 and supervised a large bindery. In 1892 he established his  own shop. Blackwell played a prominent part in the Welsh-American life of his adopted country. He was a scholar of Welsh literature as well as binding, his 1899 essay, Notes on Bookbinding, a memorable contribution. Henry Blackwell does not appear to be related to the Blackwells that established their eponymous bookshop in St. Clements, U.K. in 1846 and grew it into  the academic and rare book colossus that it is today.

Little is known about The Burrows Brothers Co. of Cleveland beyond that they provided early, valuable experience to two major figures in the American rare book trade, Arthur H. Clark (1898-1951) and William Harvey Miner (1877-1934).

Clark,  a British ex-pat who had just completed a four year apprenticeship with Henry Sotheran & Co. in London before arriving in the U.S., was rare books manager and publications supervisor at Burrows Brothers. After leaving Burrows in 1902 due to a profit-sharing dispute, he established is own shop in Cleveland devoted to Americana. His pricing philopsophy reflected John Ruskin, a quotation from whom graced each of Clark's catalogs: "All work of quality must bear a price in proportion to the skill, time, expense, and risk attending their invention and manufacture." In 1930 Clark moved his shop from Cleveland to Glendale, California.

Miner, an 1897 Yale graduate, initially worked in  NYC antiquarian bookshop/publisher Dodd, Mead's rare book department. Next stop, c. 1902 (the year of this Burrows advert.), Cleveland, in charge of the Burrows Brothers Co. rare book department. In 1916 he migrated to St. Louis and established his own shop where he was known as a responsible and resourceful dealer and respected bibliographical scholar. One major library director noted of Miner that "There are few men with whom I would rather scan a suspicious looking and dusty bookshelf, than with him."

By the Fall of 1902, after three months of advertisements in The Literary Collector that, apparently, did nothing to improve its fortunes, our hapless rare bookseller, S.F. McLean & Co., honed its message to a simple, declarative blunt point: BOOKS. BED ROCK PRICES.

Considering that the land in Manhattan upon which S.F. McLean & Co. sat  remains billion year-old bedrock 150-500 feet thick, McLean's prices for old and rare books  must surely have been very low, solidly so, and etched in granite.


STERN, Madelaine B. Antiquarian Bookselling in the United States (1985).
DICKINSON, Donald C. Dictionary of American Antiquarian Bookdealers (1998).


  1. Ads, flyers, ephemera etc. Not much about books in your pieces lately. Any reason for that?

  2. No particular reason. Booktryst covers the world of rare books and related, incl. the trade. I write the stories as I find them, essentially whatever piques my interest at the moment, at work or otherwise, through dealer and auction catalogs, suggestions, ideas that occur to me spontaneously, etc.


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