Category Archives: Engravings & Etchings

A Christmas Carol and Its Corresponding Collector

Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present, by Solomon Eytinge, junior, and engraved by A.V.S. Anthony.

Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present, by Solomon Eytinge, junior, and engraved by A.V.S. Anthony.

While updating the catalogue record for an 1869 edition of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, I came across a letter inside the front cover. Dated 3 April 1867, it was written from Andrew Varick Stout Anthony (1835-1906) to Alexander Farnum (1830-1884) regarding William James Linton (1812-1897), an English engraver who had recently immigrated to the United States. Farnum was a Providence, Rhode Island, book collector and engraving aficionado, whose library has been described as one of “extraordinary excellence, sumptuous character and superb condition.”

The illustrations in the book were drawn by Solomon Eytinge, junior (1833-1905), and engraved by A.V.S. Anthony himself. As a book collector ever aware of matters of provenance and association, no doubt Farnum, upon acquiring the volume and remembering his correspondence with Anthony, pasted the letter into the book so as to preserve this connection.

Anthony letter 1

Anthony letter 2

694 Broadway Room 11
N.Y.  April 3d 1867

A. Farnum Esq.

Dear Sir:

W.J. Linton, the eminent English engraver – in fact the best engraver of the past or present, is in New York now, and contemplates getting up a “History of Wood Engraving,” sketching its rise and progress, but giving the larger portions of his volume to modern engraving and Engravers.

I mentioned your collection of rare old engravings to him and he is very anxious to look over them.

Would it be agreeable to you to have him drop in upon you when on his way to Boston?

He is an accomplished gentleman and has some little reputation on the other side as Poet and Journalist, and probably knows more about engraving than any other living man.

I hope to go on to Boston with him, but should I fail to make my business suit, may I give him a note to you?

Very truly yours

A.V.S. Anthony.

In 1882, Linton’s A History of Wood-Engraving in America was published in Boston and London.

Upon Farnum’s death, his collection was auctioned off by George A. Leavitt & Co. from the 9th to the 11th of June 1884. The sale was held at their headquarters at Clinton Hall (formerly the Astor Opera House) on Astor Place in Manhattan, also home to the New York Mercantile Library. Interestingly, Astor Place is only a few blocks from the location on Broadway where Anthony had written to Farnum 17 years earlier. Something of the atmosphere of this auction is surely conveyed in Spanish painter Ignacio de León y Escosura’s canvas, “Auction Sale in Clinton Hall, New York, 1876.” The building was razed in 1890 and replaced by an 11-story construction also called Clinton Hall, which stands to this day.

The catalogue of the Farnum sale naturally spoke very highly of its offerings: “Of such a class are the lots in this catalogue that the compiler honestly believes that instead of the necessity of American bibliopolists […] going to Europe of purchase from the English booksellers with whom they deal, all would find it in their best interests this Summer to buy from the Farnum Library, in Clinton Hall – books which, although printed in this century, are daily becoming of greater rarity in the old country over the sea.”

The volume was given to the Library by Mrs. Charles B. Watkins (Lucile A. Booker), class of 1899, in 1938. TB

Update (29 March 2017) — Transcription corrected thanks to Nigel Tattersfield’s observation.




Filed under Charles Dickens, Engravings & Etchings, Letters, Provenance, TB

The Rambler’s Magazine: A Puzzlingly Popular Periodical

The rambler’s magazine, or, The annals of gallantry, glee, pleasure and the bon ton. London: Printed for the authors, and sold by G. Lister, no. 46, Old Bailey; Mr. Jackson, at Oxford; Mr. Hodson, at Cambridge; Mr. Frobisher, at York; Mr. Slack, at Newcastle; Messrs. Peason and Rawlinson, at Birmingham; Mr. Crutwell, at Bath; and all other booksellers in Great Britain and Ireland, [1783-1791]

I recently cataloged an eight-volume set of The Rambler’s Magazine, or, The Annals of Gallantry, Glee, Pleasure, and the Bon Ton (not to be confused with Samuel Johnson’s The Rambler), which was published from 1784 to 1791. The magazine’s publishers boast that it is “calculated for the entertainment of the polite world, and to furnish the man of pleasure with a most delicious banquet of amorous, bacchanalian, whimsical, humorous, theatrical and polite entertainment.” The issues appeared monthly, with a supplement at the end of the year, and were each around 40 pages. These pages were packed to the gills with lectures, anecdotes, letters, poems, theatrical vignettes, songs, and general gossip — all of a very lowbrow nature. The Rambler’s Magazine is a true predecessor of those unavoidable tabloid publications that are to be found at nearly every supermarket checkout today. The lewdness of the content is often echoed in the accompanying engravings, which bear such humorous and suggestive titles as “Lady C—e preparing to be refreshed by Mr N—y” or “Abelard studying the use of Eloisa’s Globes.”

At times, the subject matter aims at the intellectual, discussing and illustrating contemporary political events (the general election of 1784) or scientific advancements (the hot air balloon pioneers Gustavus Katterfelto and the Montgolfier brothers), but always from a satirical and sensationalist point-of-view.

I looked in depth at the first four volumes, collecting some the most notable headlines and columns to share with readers of Non Solus. Memorable headlines include:

“On ogling; or, The language of the eyes” [1783 supplement]

 “Analysis of female attractions” [March 1784] – focuses on the phenomenon of blushing

 “Dissertation upon beards and whiskers” [June 1784]

“Memoirs of the Marquis de la Bizarre” [June 1784]

“Female boxing match” [August 1784]

“Capt. Cook cured of the Rheumatism, in the Otaheitean mode, by friction” [September 1784]

“Kissed to death” [October 1784]

“The history and adventures of a bedstead” [December 1784]

“On the necessary qualifications for lying, with illustratory specimens” [December 1784]

“Dissertation on breeches” [1784 supplement]

“Experiments on female inflammability” [1784 supplement]

In a March 1783 article entitled “A remarkable discovery; or, Mrs. General Washington, displayed in proper articles,” it is claimed that evidence was published in the Pennsylvania Gazette of 11 November 1782 revealing that the Revolutionary War hero and future president was “actually discovered to be of the FEMALE SEX.” The column is accompanied by an engraving showing a whip-wielding “Mrs. General Washington, Bestowing thirteen Stripes on Britania [sic].” Clearly some Britons were still sore about the recent events in the colonies.

Here are a few other anecdotes of note from The Rambler’s Magazine:

A Hint. If a certain old gentleman, not an hundred miles from Cavendish-square, would wish to make a secret of his frequent visits to a lady in the neighbourhood of Mortimer-street, he is advised not to leave his furious little terriers at the door, as the inscription upon their collars may lead to a discovery of an amour, which can be of no credit to a man of his age! [January 1783]

The inconveniencies attending large hoops are to be remedied, it is said, by constructing them with a sort of side wings, which yield upon resistance; but if the wings are made to give way so easily, pray what is to become of the middle? [February 1783]

Marriages in the Month of September, omitted by all the news-writers … 4. Mr. Flint to Miss Steel. N.B. As this is a striking couple, many sparks will, no doubt, be produced between them, by conjugal collision. [October 1783]

Bibliophiles will certainly derive a smile from the following letter to the editor from one “Lothario,” who claims that he has a copy of an interesting letter in his possession, which is then printed in full.

Epistle from a Bookbinder to a most enchanting subject.

My dear,

I long to fold you in my arms, and to gather the honey from your ambrosial lips. I could fill whole pages in expatiating upon your perfections, and nothing can ever cancel my esteem for you! Oh, that I had you but in sheets! I would be bound to give you satisfaction; and, if any man should attempt to oppose our union, his eyes should instantaneously be sewed up, and his body put in boards at the undertakers. Though I am neither guilt [sic] nor lettered, I understand collating. I have stitched Mrs. Newton (her trial I mean) many an hundred times; and he ought to be bound in calf who could not enjoy such a subject. Perhaps, Madam, you may object to my size. I confess that I am rather diminutive, but, give me leave to observe to you, Madam, that a good octavo is better than a bad folio. A fine foolscap is superior to a coarse royal. If I should be so fortunate as to obtain you for a wife, you may depend upon being well covered, not with sheep or blue-paper, but elegantly in Morocco. Oh, if I had you upon the margin of a limpid stream! The contents of my purse shall ever be at your service; and you may rely upon my sincerity, for my tongue is always an index to my heart. You may probably have heard, that I have been connected with unbound subjects, but I am now determined to turn over a new leaf and put a finis to all my follies.

I am, my dearest Duodecimo,

Your affectionate servant,

Timothy Catchword.

Similar to our modern-day crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and other mental exercises so often found in popular print media, The Rambler’s Magazine regularly included rebuses and riddles for the entertainment of its readers. Below are two to try your hand at.

The first is a cryptologic puzzle from the February 1783 issue, which is a dedication to “the doctor himself,” purported author of a multi-part piece entitled, “An eccentric lecture on the art of propagating the human species, and producing a numerous and healthy offspring, &c.” Can you decipher it?

The second is a rebus from February 1786. While most of the objects which here signify letters, syllables, or whole words are recognizable by 21st-century readers, some are not so obvious. For some clues, see here. The solution can be found here. (Note: a fox was misplaced where a donkey should be in line six of the second page.)

According to the British Library’s English Short Title Catalogue, this is the only copy of the run of these magazines in this country outside of Harvard University, though our copy is missing the January 1790 and February 1791 issues.

Volumes 3-8 bear the armorial bookplate of Sir Edward Denny Bacon (1860-1938), a famous British stamp collector and curator of the Royal Philatelic Collection. The Library’s copy was acquired from Hill in October 1961. TB

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Filed under Engravings & Etchings, TB

Seventeenth Century Hollar Prints Resurface

***This post was previously posted at the RBML Discoveries from the Vault website***

The famous artist and engraver Wenceslaus Hollar (Vclav Hollar in his native land), was born in Prague in 1607. While working in Cologne in May 1636 he met and entered into the service of the English diplomat Thomas Howard, the 2nd Earl of Arundel.

In London, Hollar executed work at Arundel’s direction, and also taught drawing to the Kings children and composed for printsellers and publishers.

One of Hollar’s finer works created in England was a series of prints on the theme of the four seasons. A set of the three-quarter length series was recently located in The Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

A very popular series, ‘Four Seasons’ at one point even received a Parisian imprint. The Rare Book & Manuscript copy of ‘Spring’ is the fourth state of four, with the other prints being the second states of two.


In the words of Hollar’s bibliographer, Richard Pennington:

Of all etchers, Hollar is certainly the most varied in subject, one of the most varied in subject, one of the most accomplished in technique, and with a style that is full of charm, a humour, and a good nature that are evidently the character of the man himself.

We hope you find these prints as elegant and charming as we do. CH


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