Rare Book School

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Images of Interest

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Comment by W.A. Dwiggins Railroad Rail Bookends

Mysteries and Requests

Intaglio plate with lettering going both ways

Rare Book School received a dozen smallish early 20th-century British intaglio copper printing plates, most of them made for printing stock certificates and the like; the plates show various handsomely engraved ornamental, Roman, and script faces.

The top half of one of the plates has right-side-up lettering, whereas the bottom half of the same plate has the lettering upside down -- not reversed, just upside-down; see scans of a proof of the plate and the copper plate itself below.

Proof of intaglio plate for George Coverdale, Limited Proof of intaglio plate for George Coverdale, Limited Intaglio plate for George Coverdale, Limited

Can anyone explain why the writing has the double orientation? The two sections of writing seem to be carefully aligned to one another, even though one is upside down and the other right-side up; so this would NOT seem to be the case of the equivalent of a crazy-quilt-like mother stone in lithography.

Mystery Wood-Engraved Block

Unidentified wood-engraved block from the Vincent Price Collection: can you identify the artist, the interpretive wood-engraver, or the book where this illustration first appeared? If so, please let us know!
[View Image]

Mystery Solved: Steel-Engraved Portrait of A. L. Jordan

Several years ago, RBS acquired a 7 x 10" steel plate, ca. 1885, showing an engraved head-and-shoulders portrait of a man identified by his signature in the plate as one A. L. Jordan. A faint caption at the base of the oval image reads: "Engraved by John Sartain. Phil." The subject's face is realized primarily in mezzotint; the rest of the oval image is engraved.

We had wondered if this might be a portrait of the A. L. Jordan (b. 1846) who wrote “Gen. Jos. E. Johnston: a review of his military career” (Pulaski, VA: 1907). But in fact a bit of re-Googling showed that it is a portrait of Ambrose L. Jordan (1789 - 1865), a prominent Hudson (later New York), NY, lawyer sometimes known as “aqua fortis” Jordan; Jordan's biography may conveniently be found in Wikipedia. The portrait is reproduced (p. 238) in Richard H. Levet’s “Ambrose L. (Aqua Fortis) Jordan, Lawyer” (NY 1973).

Below is a scan (flipped horizontally and reversed), made directly from our steel plate, showing the portrait and its accompanying engraved signature. [View Image]

Printed Corners on Dustjackets

RBS was recently given a nice copy of Van Wyck Brooks' The Times of Melville and Whitman (NY: Dutton, 1947). The rear flap of the dustjacket is shown below. We're interested in learning more about the purpose behind printing the book's title, author, and publisher information in the lower left-hand corner of the flap. The dotted line above this information indicates that it was intended to be removed from the dj. We believe that bookdealers snipped off these corners to facilitate inventory control. Does anyone know what such corners were called in the retail book or publishing trades, or when the practiced flourished, or how widespread was its use?
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Books in Sheets

RBS owns about 65 copies of 26 different books in sheets — that is, books still consisting of flat printed piles of unfolded (or, occasionally, incompletely folded) sheets, never bound. Here is a fairly detailed list of our holdings, updated to March 2003.

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We're always interested in knowing who else has copies of these books, whether still in sheets or otherwise; and we're always interested in acquiring additional examples, by gift, trade, or purchase.