Category Archives: Ephemera

“There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.” -Robert Frank

This week at Tavistock Books, we’d like to highlight one of our favorite genres currently in our inventory… photographs and photograph albums! We have had several amazing items on our shelves over the years, as we find these personal and first hand accounts of history absolutely fascinating. What makes a photograph, scrapbook or photo album worth collecting, you may ask? Stay tuned for the 411 on the Tavistock team’s thoughts!

This cache of nine large photographs dates back to the lumbering community of the Pacific Northwest in the early 1900s. Check it out here.

This cache of nine large photographs date back to the lumbering community of the Pacific Northwest in the early 1900s. Check it out here.

Q: So, antiquarian photo/scrapbook albums… first things first! What makes you decide whether or not to invest in one for inventory?

Vic: What I primarily look for is a story being told.  That said, most albums are unidentified faces, with few places.  If an album is not captioned by the compiler, it makes it difficult to supply context to a potential buyer.  


Q: Is subject matter, provenance or condition the first thing checked by the Tavistock team, followed, I’m sure, quite quickly by the others?

Vic: All of those are important, though, imo, condition of the album itself not as important as condition of the images.  That said, subject matter of primary importance, with provenance coming in immediately behind.  Regarding this latter attribute, I’d consider purchasing an album with no captions if it came from a known & documented provenance, especially if said provenance was someone of import, such as, say, a Rochester neighbor of Charles Dickens.


Q: What are the benefits of buying a photograph album, or other piece or personalized ephemera from an antiquarian seller, rather than off eBay or another such site?

Vic: We’ll, I probably buy more from general eBay sellers rather than established antiquarian professionals, for the former category will often go for the quick sale, rather than take the time necessary to properly research the material at hand.  An example recently was the acquisition on an archive of family letters & manuscripts from an individual involved in the Texas Convention of 1845 [and subsequent aspects of Texas history].  Let’s just say I anticipate a generous profit margin in this acquisition once fully researched & catalogued.


This family travel photo album dates back to the turn of the century... the 20th century, that is, and focuses on California, New Mexico, Arizona, Kansas, Alabama and Texas. Check it out here.

This family travel photo album dates back to the turn of the century… the 20th century, that is, and focuses on California, New Mexico, Arizona, Kansas, Alabama and Texas. Check it out here.

Q: In looking at the descriptions of these albums on the Tavistock Books website, it is clear a TON of research has gone into describing these albums! Without giving away any secrets of the trade, can you give us a basic overview of how you go about researching a person who put the scrapbook together? It must take a lot of precious time!

Vic: Therein does lie the rub…  much time is involved, and that time needs to be a generous block without interruption.  And, of course, one needs the availability of appropriate reference sources.  I do subscribe to & JSTOR [though SFPL].  Google, of course, has been a vast help in this arena as well.  It’s amazing what information can be noodled out when searching the web.


Q: In your opinion, what is the most interesting item you have of this nature on the Tavistock shelves at this time, and what about in the past? Feel free to also tell us about something you might not have sold but perhaps have seen at antiquarian book fairs, etc.!


A happy Samm, knee deep in the R15 acquisitions!

Vic: I’ll defer to Samm on this one, for she recently went through R-15, where all our uncatalogued albums had been stored, “pending cataloguing”.  

Samm: I spent days going thru this shelf of archives – some catalogued, some not.  It was really difficult to sort through it all. But one item I thought was really cool was a photo archive of the New York Railroad and Interurban railways.  Its HUGE! As we state in the description “A massive photo album brimming with over 1100 images of street cars, trolleys, motor cars, locomotives, service trains, interurban railway lines, and railroads across New York from the 1890s up to WWII. With neatly handwritten captions, photographer’s notes often on verso, and even some typed text.”  The old photos of New York alone are incredible. Definitely worth looking at, linked here.

As for things we sold in the past, hard to answer we sell stuff regularly, hard to pick out one that struck a cord.  But this New York album, I know I will miss when gone!

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Check out Samm’s recommendation – the fabulous New York rail album here!

And that’s that! Also, don’t miss out on the upcoming ABAA Virtual Book Fair from June 4th to the 7th – where yours truly will be exhibiting! We’ll unveil some newly catalogued archival material… and maybe even a photo album or two. Join the count down and find out more information here


New Acquisitions for Your Viewing Pleasure

The recent fairs have given us a fair amount (pun intended) of new inventory! As we haven’t posted one in a while we thought it might be nice to give you an in-depth look at some of our latest and greatest… though there are many more ready to go home with their new owners! Check out our website’s categories for more info on these and other awesome titles.

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We would be remiss in sending our hometown book fairs love without beginning this blog with one of our favorite local finds! DeWitt’s Guide to San Francisco was published in 1900, and is illustrated by nearly 20 engravings! The city guidebook lists tourist sights, hotels, restaurants, banks, businesses, churches, clubs, schools, etc. Love San Francisco? Perhaps you should see what has changed in the last 118 years! See it here.

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This cabinet card photograph depicts three young girls, most likely of the Utes tribe, where they resided in the southern end of Colorado. The photograph itself is circa 1890s, when the town of Rouse, Colorado (now a ghost town) was home to, what was in 1888, the largest coal mine in the state. View this amazing piece of 19th century photographical history here.

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This 1890 edition of The Care of the Sick has a beautiful gilt illustrated binding – and is a solid Very Good copy of this handbook for Nurses, detailing care for the ill both at home and in the hospital. You love nursing material as much as we do? Check it out here!

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We also have a pretty spectacular collection of children’s series books – Nancy Drews, Tom Swifts… Hardy Boys? All can be found on our website and on our shelves! Some series books are not quite so well known as these, however… like this copy of The Bobcat of Jump Mountain. Part of the Boys’ Big Game Series, this title was published in 1920 and our copy still has its original dust jacket! Did we mention it is signed and inscribed by the author, the year of publication? See it here.

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Now this may look like nothing special, but in fact these two volumes make up a first US edition of Oliver Twist… and we would be remiss Dickens specialists indeed if we did not include one of his titles in this list! Now certainly Oliver Twist needs no description to provide its storyline or enforce its importance… so let’s just say that this rare set is not often offered in the trade. See it here.

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Kind of a strange leap from our classic main man, but here offered as well is a 1941 1st edition of rogue author Henry Miller’s The World of Sex. Bibliographers Shifreen & Jackson have speculated that the 3 states of the first [ours given priority] runs of this work may each have had a run of 250 copies. This first state binding is increasinly uncommon, especially in its original jacket – as ours is! Expand your horizons here.

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And while we’re on the subject, here is another fun find from the fairs! We almost feel like the mid 20th century Gilbert Vitalator requires no explanation except for their own marketing! With this vibrator attached to your fingers… “…you’re ready for the thrill of your life. Press your fingers against your body on the spot you wish to massage, and flip the switch. Things happen quickly here, but they can be explained slowly. The Vitalator sets up a vibration which travels to your finger tips and flows through them to your body. But it is not merely a vibration. If you had a pencil in your fingers, set to paper, it would be tracing tiny ovals with lightning rapidity. This rotary movement – this “Swedish massage” action – in the secret of Vitalators superior benefits.” Woohoo! Can be used by men and women, apparently. See this funny body massager here

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This poem, Dickens in Camp was written by Bret Harte shortly after Dickens’ death in the 1870s. Published in a fine press edition in 1923 by John Henry Nash in a run of only 250 copies… and it is signed by the famous publisher! Check out this wonderful tribute to our main man here.

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This Red Cross WWII campaign promotion poster advertises Toys for Kiddies – an initiative where patients in military hospitals designed and created handmade toys for children in homes and orphanages at Christmastime. With the materials provided by the Red Cross, apparently the men spent months making and competing to produce the most creative children’s toy of the season. See this 1940s broadside here.

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Last but not least, we offer as a tribute to the wonderful OZ themed California fair just a couple weeks ago this beautiful 1st edition, 1st printing of Frank L. Baum’s The Woggle – Bug Book, inscribed by the author to one Ruth Bailey Ingersoll in 1905 – the year of its publication. Said by bibliographer Bienvenue to be “remarkably difficult for collectors to find, particularly in good condition. … the large book is one of the most delicate and ephemeral of all Baum’s publications”, we are lucky enough to offer a very pleasing Very Good copy of this unusual early Baum title here at Tavistock Books! Check it out here.


We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief list of some fun new items on our shelves! Stay tuned throughout the rest of book fair season to see more of them.



L Frank Baum’s Forgotten Foray into Theatre


Baum with the cast of ‘Fairylogue and Radio-Plays’ (1908)

Though L Frank Baum is best known as the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the famed author had a rich and varied career. His accomplishments include trade magazines and newspapers, along with an oft-forgotten play based on his sequels to Wizard of Oz.

Early Literary Aptitude

L_Frank_Baum_CadetBorn on May 15, 1856, Lyman Frank Baum was a sickly child. Particularly fond of fairy tales and British authors like Charles Dickens, Baum spent much of his time reading. But Baum found fault with fairy tales because they were so often frightening and gruesome. He would later note, “One thing I never liked then…was the introduction of witches and goblins into the story. I didn’t like the little dwarfs in the woods bobbing up with their horrors.” Thus, from an early age, Baum resolved to write a different kind of fairy tale.

But his first literary exertions weren’t fairy tales: Baum started his own newspaper, The Rose Lawn Home Journal with a printing press purchased by his father. Baum took the publication quite seriously, writing news pieces and editorials, along with poetry, word games, and fiction. The young man’s paper did quite well, and a number of local businesses purchased advertising space in its pages. In 1873, Baum launched two more papers, The Empire and The Stamp Collector.

Meanwhile it had become quite fashionable to breed chickens and other fowl. Baum took up breeding Hamburgs and won several awards with his birds. He also launched The Poultry Record, a magazine devoted to breeding and raising poultry. The publication was rather successful. Then in 1886, Baum published his first book, The Book of the Hamburgs: A Brief Treatise upon the Mating, Rearing, and Management of the Different Varieties of Hamburgs.

A Love for Theatre


Baum as Hugh Holcomb in ‘The Maid of Arran’

Baum also found time to nurture his interest in theatre. He frequently memorized passages of Shakespeare and even founded a Shakespearean troupe with his father’s financial backing. The elder Baum had made a fortune in the family business and purchased a number of opera houses in Pennsylvania and New York. He entrusted their management to his son in 1880. Baum proved quite adept, even delving into writing his own plays. The Maid of Arran, considered Baum’s first major literary work, met with immediate success.

But with the decline of the Baum’s father’s health and two unlucky episodes with swindling employees, Baum was left virtually penniless. His wife, Maud, suggested that the family move West. They settled in Dakota territory, where Baum opened a general store called Baum’s Bazaar. Soon Baum had made a reputation for two things: storytelling and extending credit. Thanks to Baum’s generous spirit and a drought that left most of his customers destitute, the bank foreclosed on Baum’s Bazaar in 1890, only two years after it opened. Baum established The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, acting as reporter, printer, and salesman all in one. But that, too, failed in 1891.

Return to Authorship

That year, Baum decided to move his family to Chicago. The World Columbian Exposition was there, so employment opportunities were plentiful. First Baum worked as a reporter for the Evening Post, but the paltry pay was hardly enough to support a family. Next he went into sales for the china company Pitkin & Brooks. He was often on the road. His mother-in-law, noted feminist Matilda Gage, moved in to help with the Baum children. It was she who encouraged Baum to write down the fairy tales he spun for his children and their young friends.

Baum frequented the Chicago Press Club when he wasn’t traveling. It’s been conjectured that Baum met illustrator Maxfield Parrish, resulting in Mother Goose in Prose (1897). But so far as we know, the two never actually met; Chauncey Williams of Way and Williams negotiated for Parrish’s illustrations in the children’s book. Williams also served as publisher of The Show Window when the journal was launched in 1897. The magazine gave Baum an opportunity to make a living without traveling as a salesman.

A Serendipitous Acquaintance

L Frank Baum

This photograph considered a fake, merely an actor holding a facsimile version of the 1st edition.

Soon Baum made the acquaintance of William W Denslow. Though the two had disparate personalities, they decided to collaborate on a companion to Mother Goose in Prose. Together they published Father Goose, His Book in 1899. The beloved book spurred Songs of Father Goose. The pair worked on a few more project, most notably The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Baum had originally submitted the story with the title The Emerald City, which publishers Hill and Company rejected. They finally agreed on a new title, and the first edition appeared in May, 1900.

Two years later, Baum collaborated with Paul Tietjens and Julian P Mitchell on an adult musical adaptation of Wizard of Oz. A major success, the production toured all over America. The country was absolutely infatuated with the land of Oz and its whimsical characters. Baum published a total of thirteen Oz books and six short Oz stories and came to be known as the “Royal Historian of Oz.” The Ozmapolitan, a promotional piece, was issued in 1904 to help Reilly & Britton advertise The Marvelous Land of Oz, which was the new firm’s first publication. Occasional later versions of The Ozmapolitan were also issued.

Baum_Bancroft_Twinkles_EnchantmentThough he indulged his audience with all these tales of Oz, he longed to delve into other projects. Baum often used pseudonyms for these endeavors, so that he didn’t have to worry about their critical reception. One notable project was Aunt Jane’s Nieces, a series for teenage girls Baum published under the pen name Edith Van Dyne. He also wrote under the names Laura Bancroft, Floyd Akres, Captain Hugh Fitzgerald, Suzanne Metcalf, and John Estes Cooke.

Baum also launched a traveling show called “Fairylogue and Radio Plays.” The show featured live actors costumed as characters from several of Baum’s fantasy books, a live orchestra, motion-picture clips, and colored lantern slides. Baum traveled with the show as master of ceremonies. The endeavor proved a commercial failure.

Return to the Stage

In 1913, The Tik-Tok Man of Oz made its debut on the stage. Producer Oliver Morosco inserted three songs he wrote (with music composed by Victor Schertzinger). Billed as “a companion play to The Wizard of Oz, The Tik-Tok Man of Oz met with great success in Los Angeles, but didn’t resonate with other audiences. Chicago critics were particularly unimpressed. Though the show made money, Morosco decided not to keep producing it.

Only an early manuscript of the musical is extant, and the play probably would have faded into obscurity were it not for the published music and advertisements. Promotional materials for the production have proven exceedingly rare; a survey of auction records and other online sources indicate only two extant playbills. One, from December 2, 1913 at the Babcock Theatre in Billings, Montana, comes from the collection of Fred M Meyer and can be viewed at the International Wizard of Oz Club website. The other, from the play’s opening night in San Francisco on April 21, 1913, is pictured here. We’re proud to offer this item as one of this month’s select acquisitions, which features a diverse collection of broadsides.

We invite you to peruse the entire list! Should you have a question about any item, please feel free to contact us.

Many thanks to our esteemed friend Peter E Hanff for his contributions to this article. The Deputy Director of the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, Hanff is a great scholar of L Frank Baum. He collaborated with Douglas G Greene on Bibliographia Oziana, the main bibliographic record and resource on Oz literature. 


A Brief History of Propaganda

The term “propaganda” has come to have a negative connotation in much of the English-speaking world. But in some places, the word is neutral or even positive. Why this difference? The reasons can be traced through the word’s etymology and the way that this strategy of communication has evolved over the centuries.

Roots in the Catholic Church

The use of propaganda began much earlier than most people would imagine. The Behistun Inscription, from around 515 BCE, details Darius I’s ascent to the Persian throne and is considered an early example of propaganda. And ancient Greek commander Themistocles used propaganda to delay the action of–and defeat–his enemy, Xerxes, in 480 BCE. Meanwhile, Alexander put his image on coins, monuments, and statues as a form of propaganda. Roman emperor Julius Caesar was considered quite adept at propaganda, as were many prominent Roman writers like Livy.

But it was the Catholic Church that both formalized the use of propaganda and gave us the word itself. Pope Urban II used propaganda to generate support for the Crusades. Later, propaganda would become a powerful tool for both Catholics and Protestants during the Reformation. Thanks to the printing press, propaganda could be disseminated to a much wider audience.


The 300th anniversary of the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide was commemorated on Italian currency.

In 1622, Pope Gregory XV established the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide (Congregation for Propagating the Faith) for the purpose of promoting the faith in non-Catholic countries. The group’s name was often informally shortened to “propaganda,” and the name stuck. As literacy rates grew in subsequent centuries, propaganda became a more and more useful tool around the world. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were both considered adept propagandists during the American Revolution.

Literacy Propagates…Propaganda


“All About California” is a propaganda piece designed to encourage settlement in the state.

By the nineteenth century, propaganda had finally emerged in the form we think of it today. Because most people were literate and had more than passing interest in government affairs, politicians found it necessary to sway public opinion. They turned to (sometimes unscrupulous) propaganda to get the job done.

A notorious propaganda campaign of the 1800’s was that of the Indian Rebellion in 1851. Indian sepoys rebelled against the British East India Company’s rule. The British grossly exaggerated–and sometimes completely fabricated–tales of Indian men raping English women and girls. The stories were intended to illustrate the savagery of the Indian people and reinforce the notion of “the white man’s burden” to rule, induce order, and instill culture in less civilized peoples who could not be trusted to rule themselves.

Abolitionists in both the US and Britain also aggressively used propaganda to support their cause. Certainly the conditions of slavery were heinous, but they often exaggerated or eroticized transgressions, making them more lurid. These efforts were complemented by freed slaves who traveled to speak at public events. The speakers generally made arguments against slavery based on moral, economic, and political grounds. The combination of emotional and rational arguments proved an excellent combination for winning supporters to the abolitionist cause.

Meanwhile another powerful form of communication was emerging in the nineteenth century: the political cartoon. Though illustrated propaganda had been used in the past, the form of the political cartoon was significantly refined during the second half of the century. Thomas Nast is considered one of the forerunners of this format.

Global Conflict Gives Propaganda New Power


This 1919 propaganda publication assails the Shantung settlement incorporated in the Treaty of Versailles.

World War I saw the first large-scale, formalized propaganda production. Emperor Wilhelm of Germany immediately established an unofficial propaganda machine with the creation of the Central Office for Foreign Services. One of the office’s primary duties was to distribute propaganda to neutral countries.

After the war broke out, however, Britain immediately severed the undersea cables that connected Germany to the rest of the world; Germany was limited to using a powerful wireless transmitter to broadcast pro-German news to other nations. The country also set up mobile cinemas, which would be sent to the troops at the front lines. The films emphasized the power, history, and inevitable victory of the German Volk.

Meanwhile, the British propaganda machine was regarded as an “impressive exercise in improvisation.” It was rapidly brought under government control as the War Propaganda Bureau. Journalist Charles Masterson led the organization. On September 2, 1914, Masterson invited Britain’s leading writers to a meeting to discuss potential messaging. Attendees included Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, GK Chesterton, Ford Madox Ford, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, and HG Wells. Winnie-the-Pooh author AA Milne would later be recruited to covertly write propaganda.

The propaganda of World War I was frequently based on complete exaggeration or misinformation. For example, nurse Edith Cavell was executed for treason after using her position as a nurse to help soldiers escape from behind German lines. The episode was used to exaggerate German atrocities, and it was even made into a movie. (Read more here.) Indeed, by the end of the war, people had begun to tire of propaganda.

Yet the British propaganda machine was quite effective. It is frequently credited with persuading the United States to enter the war in the first place. Adolf Hitler actually studied British propaganda after the war, declaring it both brilliant and effective. He would later enlist Joseph Goebbels to help with propaganda during World War II, and the two proved an indomitable team. They masterminded multiple campaigns to justify eugenics programs, extermination of target populations, and other atrocities. The Allies countered with propaganda that vilified the Germans.


This collection of South Vietnamese GVN propaganda were probably air drop leaflets. Though usually dropped in mass quantities, few survive.

When the true horrors of Nazi Germany came to light, the extreme power of propaganda was terribly apparent. The word “propaganda” soon developed a negative connotation, one that it still carries to this day in the English-speaking world. Airdrop leaflet campaigns during unpopular engagements like the Korean War and Vietnam War often brought the communication even lower.

Now it’s common for a government authority to regulate propaganda, and it may be used for more innocuous purposes like public health and safety campaigns. But in non-democratic countries, propaganda continues to flourish as a means for indoctrinating citizens, and this practice is unlikely to cease in the future.

Related Posts:
Edith Cavell: Nurse, Humanitarian, and Traitor? 
AA Milne: Legendary Author and Ambivalent Pacifist

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Collecting Antiquarian Diaries, Journals, and Correspondence

In this age of electronic communication, the practice of keeping a journal or diary has largely fallen by the wayside, as has the art of letter writing. But in past centuries, keeping a diary was the only means of creating a written record of one’s life, the only way to look back at one’s personal past. In bygone days, farmers may have recorded observations about crops, livestock, and weather in a journal. Soldiers recorded strife,while ordinary men and women simply recorded the simple details of their daily lives. And written correspondence was the primary method for maintaining long-distance relationships.

Looking back at these documents can give us tremendous insight into the aspects of life that history books often omit. They may reveal facts about the diet, customs, or etiquette of the time period. They sometimes shed light on genealogy and local history. Journals and correspondence may even reveal the real motivations behind historic events or explain the nuanced relationships among important individuals.

Tips for Collecting Diaries, Journals, and Correspondence

For many collectors, diaries and journals are appealing because each volume is an absolutely unique manuscript. Such a document is quite a treasure, indeed. Collectors should keep a few tips and hints in mind.

  • Look for complete sets, rather than individual volumes of journals and diaries. Faithful diarists will often have produced a number of volumes over the course of their lifetimes. Stay away from individual volumes that have most likely been removed from a set.
  • Decide whether you’ll digitize your collection. This will require the assistance of a skilled archivist or conservator. Digitizing these items is an investment, but it will enhance your ability to enjoy the content of your collection–and to share it with scholars if the content proves significant.
  • Be gentle! Old paper can be quite brittle, while covers may be fragile. Handle them with care, and consider professional conservation or preservation to extend the life of your collection.
  • Don’t overlook ephemera. Journals frequently contain extra items, which can range from dried flowers to vacation souvenirs. These items damage the pages on either side. A conservator may recommend carefully documenting each item’s location and storing it separately in an archival envelope.
  • If correspondence is still contained in the original envelopes, consult a conservator about the best means to preserve both the envelopes and the letters inside. Chemical interactions between materials–even between two sheets of the same or similar papers–can hasten breakdown.

A Selection of Diaries and Journals

Journal Across the Atlantic

Journal_Across_AtlanticOriginal mss journals such as this are quite rare in commerce. An unidentified male passenger recorded the details of his 1785 transatlantic journey from London to Philadelphia. He records the names and nationalities of the crew and passengers, along with the daily minutiae of life aboard the ship. Events include the sighting of a “grampus whale,” an encounter with a Spanish ship, and a lively debate over how moths and butterflies came to be aboard the ship. Details>>

Notes from Lectures of Professor Alonzo Clarke for 1848-1849

Almon Mitchell Orcutt attended the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. The first 136 pages of his journal consist of notes he took during the lectures of Alonzo Clarke, a noted physician and professor at the college. Clarke was often quoted in medical journals and association reports. He famously said, “All of our curative agents are poisons; and, as a consequence, every dose diminishes the vitality.” He was correct, indeed, given the “medicines” and treatments commonly used at the time. John Harvey Kellogg quotes Clarke in his Home Hand-Book of Domestic Hygiene (volume 2, 1880) in a discussion of the smallpox vaccination. Orcutt’s notes include the semester’s lectures, while the last 68 pages contain financial records. Details>>

Department of the Interior, US Geological Survey

US_Geological_Survey_Notes_JournalThis workbook started out as a record of levels and other data, kept by Allen T Paine, the survey crew levelman. But Paine also used the book as a photo journal. Many of the photographs are captioned. While many show family, friends, and colleagues, a good number also document the buildings of Concord, New Hampshire, along with the survey crew’s work and environs. Details>>

Family Trip Photo Diary/Journal

This period photo journal of a visit to the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco begins in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It includes 45 images, eight of which clearly depict portions of the journey to San Francisco. One image, for example, shows part of the Salt Lake; another, the Grand Canyon. Fourteen of the images have handwritten captions. Details>>

 Archive of Shuman Family Letter Correspondence, August 1862-September 1866

Shuman_Family_Correspondence_Civil_WarJohn Shuman was in his early twenties when he volunteered for service in the 88th Regiment of the Indiana Volunteers to fight for the Union in the American Civil War. His letters illustrate his confidence in the decision and that he believed the war would be short-lived. It lasted longer than Shuman expected, and he lost his life in battle, not due to wounds, but due to dysentery. The Shumans’ correspondence offers a unique snapshot of a soldier’s life during the war. Details>>

Eleven Manuscript Diaries

Manuscript_DiariesThe author of these diaries, William Antrim Flowers, was born on March 21, 1832 in Champaign County, Ohio. He begins his memoir with his birth and then goes back to the birth of his father in 1804. The memoir is a rich storehouse of family genealogy and history, following his family and relatives as they moved abou tthe Midwest in the early nineteenth century. Flowers also documents his own life, during which he worked variously as a teamster, a wagon driver, a teacher, and a dairy farmer. He saw the first McCormick reaper in 1855 and enlisted to serve in the Civil War. Flowers records descriptions of his own experiences in the war, along with a description of the 114th Colored Regiment Infantry and the 44th Colored Regiment; and the death of Abraham Lincoln. Details>>

Related Posts:
Flights of Fancy: Collecting Vintage Airline Posters
Of Sammelbands and Sheet Music
A Brief History of Broadsides


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Of Sammelbands and Sheet Music


“See at Your Feet a Suppliant One” As Sung By Miss Ella Wren, In Balfe’s Grand Opera of the Bohemian Girl. An example of Confederate sheet music

Music has always played a powerful role in cultures around the world. Now sheet music provides a glimpse at people’s daily lives and illustrates changes in fashion, dress, and even behavioral expectations. Collecting sheet music isn’t just for music lovers; it’s an engaging pursuit that frequently intersects with history and literature.

The first music to appear in a printed volume was in the Codex spalmorum (1457). But the work didn’t include the actual notes; instead the text was printed with blank space to manually add the music to each manuscript! It wasn’t until 1473, with the publication of the Constance gradual in Germany, that music appeared fully printed. Three years later, Ulrich Hahn published Missale secundum consuetudinem curie romane, which included music printed with woodcuts. He claimed to be the first to print music, but most experts agree the Constance gradual was the true first. Soon after, missals, graduals, and other religious texts began popping up all over Europe, and many contained printed music.

The difficulty with printing music is that it generally requires multiple print runs: one to print the staff lines, and another to print the actual notes and notations. Hahn and his successors got around this issue by using woodcuts. Eventually, however, new printing technologies–namely moveable type and lithography–were adopted for music as well. (Famous revolutionary and publisher Isaiah Thomas was the first to use moveable type to print music in the United States. More on him later this month!)


Illustrations and themes of antiquarian sheet music can be an uncomfortable reminder of the past. This item, from the Bohemian Club, is quite rare with none listed in OCLC.

By the 1820’s, however, the most common method for printing music was engraved plates. This has produced numerous bibliographic obstacles for collectors and scholars today. First, not all sheet music bore copyright information in the first place. Next, publishers would often store the plates for long periods of time and simply use them, unaltered, for later reprints whenever they needed to replenish their stock. And sometimes they sold these plates to other publishers, who didn’t bother emending copyright information when it did exist. Sometimes the plate numbers can be used to determine an approximate date, but that’s largely based on how much is known about the particular engraver or publisher. Collectors of nineteenth-century sheet music, then, must put their detective skills to the test on a regular basis–and be comfortable with some uncertainty about publication information.

While many antiquarian book collectors would shy away from works that are not definitive first editions, this factor is less important with sheet music. These items were printed with the intention of being ephemera, and of being used. They often bear the marks of use, such as tears, smudges, wear, and mending with tape or sewing thread. Music printed in the early nineteenth century and earlier tends to be more durable than later sheet music because it was printed on paper made of rag rather than wood pulp. Meanwhile, during the heyday of American sheet music, it was common to print sheet music as newspaper supplements. These items, printed on thin, cheap paper, are often quite fragile if they survived at all. Collectors must be quite mindful of preservation issues to extend the longevity of their sheet music.

Highlights from Our Sheet Music Collection

A Complete Dictionary of Music

Complete_Dictionary_Music_Thomas_BusbyThomas Busby, author of A Complete Dictionary of Music, began his musical career at a young age. After being rejected as too old to be a chorister by Westminster Abbey organist Benjamin Cooke, he went on to study under Samuel Champness, Charles Knyvett, and Jonathan Battishill. Busby’s first musical venture was music to accompany William Kenrick’s play The Man the Master. This remained incomplete during his lifetime. His next pursuit, an oratorio for Alexander Pope’s Messiah, occupied Busby intermittently for several years. He published a musical dictionary with Samuel Arnold in 1786, along with a serial called The Divine Harmonist. Busby also published the first music periodical in England, The Monthly Musical Journal. His A Complete Dictionary of Music went through several editions during his lifetime.

A Sheet Music Sammelband

Sheet_Music_SammelbandOccasionally also called a nonce-volume, a sammelband is a collection of works that were originally published separately and have since been bound together. A musician or music enthusiast might assemble a sammelband of favorite pieces, while music teachers might put them together to teach students specific skills in a set progression. This particular sammelband contains 43 pieces, ranging from waltzes and quadrilles to country dances, sonatas, and operas. It includes a handwritten “Contents” at the front. Much of the music was composed for the piano forte, so the original owner likely played this delightful instrument.

“Carrie Bell”

Carrie_Bell_Confederate_Sheet_MusicCaptain WC Capers, who wrote the words to “Carrie Bell,” was formerly of the “Macon Volunteers” and had served in the Florida Indian Wars (1836). During the Civil War, he commanded Company G, 1st LA Heavy Artillery Regiment of the CSA. In July 1863, Capers was promoted to Major. He saw service at Vicksburg and elsewhere in the South. Confederate sheet music such as “Carrie Bell” was much more frequently published via lithography instead of engraved plates because metal was such an important commodity during the war–it simply wasn’t available for making engraved plates.

“The Ivy Green”

Ivy-Green-Charles-DickensThough “The Ivy Green” makes its first appearance in Chapter Six of The Pickwick Papers, Kitton informs us that the piece wasn’t written expressly for the novel. The favorite setting for the piece was by veteran Henry Russell, who said he received the whopping sum of ten shillings for the composition. Dickens frequently incorporated popular music into his works. He also occasionally wrote his own pieces, such as the satirical ballad “The Fine Old English Gentlemen,” which he penned for The Examiner and said should be sung at all conservative dinners. Meanwhile, Dickens’ extraordinary popularity meant that his novels often took on lives of their own, and people also composed their own musical pieces based on Dickens’ works.


Flights of Fancy: Collecting Vintage Airline Posters


Summer is long gone, and with it have gone the days of leisurely summer vacations. But collectors can recapture these moments and explore the history of aviation with vintage airline travel posters.

The earliest aviation posters, which date to the mid nineteenth century, did not advertise air travel, but the exploits of hot air balloonists. With the introduction of planes in the early twentieth century, posters were an effective means of advertising exhibitions and air shows. During World War I, aviation posters offered a subtle form of propaganda: the novelty and excitement of air travel attracted new recruits, and the military’s large-scale use of airplanes was an imposing sight unto itself. Commercial airlines began using posters to advertise in the 1920’s, but it wasn’t until the 1950’s and 1960’s that the airlines started producing posters that advertised both the excitement and comfort of air travel.

Collecting Vintage Airline Posters

For collectors, these collectible posters recapture the excitement and romance of air travel. They are also an interesting way to trace the history of aviation. Collectors often build collections around a specific airline, artist, destination, or time period.

Northwest_Orient_747FThe posters from now defunct airlines tend to be more sought after than those from companies that still exist. Pan American World Airways (PanAm) posters, for example, are particularly beloved. The airline started in 1927 with a single route from Key West to Havana, but soon became the leading international airline in the world, a distinction it held till iGolf-Worldwide_Pan_Americants collapse in 1991. Unlike other airlines, PanAm created posters for both its commercial and cargo planes. Smaller regional airlines also hold their own allure. Posters from the relatively obscure Jersey Airways in Britain and from Western Airlines and Northwest Orient Airlines in the US all offer charming travel posters. These airlines often have a relatively short history, so their posters can be more scarce.


Some collectors focus on existing airlines. Swissair, founded in 1931 after the merger of two Swiss airlines, has long printed beautiful posters. The airline is a favorite among aviation enthusiasts because it consistently stays at the forefront of technology. Swissair was among the first to use DC-2’s, and it claims to be the first airline to employ stewardesses (1935). And United Airlines has also published a plethora of marvelous airline posters. In the early to mid 1970’s the airline produced a well-known series that evokes American history and freedom.

Meanwhile, a love of a specific destination motivates many collectors to create destination-themed galleries. Tropical locales like Hawaii or Tahiti are perennial favorites, as are more exotic destinations like the Philippines, Bahia, and Korea. Similarly, collectors may focus on an individual aircraft. United Airlines advertised its adoption of the 747 with three-dimensional foam boards.


Caring for Vintage and Rare Posters

Collectors often wonder about the best ways to store and protect their rare and vintage posters. It’s actually perfectly fine to display your posters, so long as you take a few precautions. Use UV resistant Singapore_Japan_Airlinesglass or Plexiglass to protect your travel posters from damage from both sunlight and fluorescent lighting. If you decide to matte or back the poster, be sure to use only acid-free, archival quality materials. If you frame the poster without a matte, place a spacer between the poster and the frame, so that the poster and the glass are not touching. Otherwise, humidity can get trapped between the poster and the glass, and the poster will get stuck to the glass. Some posters are linen backed for preservation or restoration purposes. Well-executed linen backing can increase a vintage poster’s value, but it’s best done by professionals.

When your collection exceeds your wall space, you’ll need to store your posters safely. Ideally, posters are stored flat in acid-free sleeves, which will protect them from dust, moisture, and decomposition. It’s best to store each poster in its own sleeve; posters can leach chemicals onto one another, causing discoloration and decay. If flat storage isn’t an option, you can roll posters in acid-free tubes. Over time your posters may begin to curl, so you may have to flatten them if you decide to frame, photograph, or sell them later.

This month we’re pleased to offer a list of airline promotional and travel posters. We invite you to peruse the list! Please contact us if you have inquiries about any item.