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American Trade Bindings and Beyond

The flowers that bloom in the spring ...

Fri, 19 Jun 2015 20:58:00 +0000



Tra la!


I was taking a walk around campus the other day, idly kicking up grass toupees, when I passed a small enclosed garden with some beautiful blooms.  I can tell a pansy from a pie plate, but beyond that I'm fairly hopeless at plant identification.  Not so with many binding designers.  Among them the best botanist was probably Margaret Armstrong (1867-1944).  For collectors, researchers, and admirers of American trade bindings, Armstrong needs no introduction.  But unless you're able to see a large number of her bindings, it might not be obvious just how important an element nature was to her aesthetic.

Of her 300+ known designs well over half feature floral designs or motifs and her title page and text border designs usually also featured botanical elements.  We could say that this culminated in her 1915 title Field Book of Western Wild Flowers (Putnam 1915) for which she supplied not only the text but 550 illustrations.  With several other women, she traveled across the West and into Canada in search of specimens, and she and her friends were the first women to descend to the floor of the Grand Canyon.(1)  As Gullans and Espey describe her: “She was a fine, amateur botanist, and would later in her career become the nearest thing to a professional that one can be without the certifying academic degrees.” (2)  A selection of her designs seems the perfect way to close out this season.

So as the hot and steamy North Carolina spring gives way to the hotter and steamier North Carolina summer, I offer this posy of pictures of Margaret Armstrong bindings.  Some of them may be new to you and some may be old favorites.  Enjoy them all!

Let's start with a few on appropriate subjects in appropriately colored cloths. 







Frances Theodora Parsons, who usually wrote under the name Mrs. William Starr Dana, was a botanist who authored the first field guide to North American wildflowers, How to Know the Wildflowers (1893).  Armstrong did two covers for this book—for the 1893 edition and a different design for the 1895 edition.  An 1897 reprint of the second design is pictured at the head of this post.  According to Season was published in 1894 (left) and was issued again in 1902 with a completely different cover design also by Armstrong (and be sure to look at a third design for this title shown later in the post!)  She also designed the cover for Parson’s How to Know the Ferns (1899).  Her own Field Book of Western Wild Flowers (1915) was frequently reprinted on a number of surfaces including limp leather and a wide variety of cloth colors.  The Commuter’s Garden (1914) edited by Walter Hayward is an odd one.  Gullans and Espey note the “clumsy” lettering squashed into the small central space as not by Armstrong and speculate that the design was done earlier and adapted for this late (in Armstrong’s design career) printing.  However, no earlier book is known to have this design--perhaps Armstrong or the publisher, Crowell, for whom she did a number of covers, had it on hand.






Two classic designs for Victorian poets.  The Tennyson (1905) was issued in several cloth colors and features that essential garden accessory, the sundial.  Though difficult to see without enlarging the image, the blossoms on Pippa Passes (1900) are actually stamped on a rectangular cloth onlay which is pasted to the green cover cloth.



















Here they are: the quintessential Margaret Armstrong designs.  Two representative covers from the Myrtle Reed “lavender” series and the Henry van Dyke “blue cloth” series.  If one knows no others, these designs leap off the shelves of used book stores shouting, “I am Margaret Armstrong.”  Though each cover design is distinctive in both series, the general look of them was  so well-known that a buyer could spot them from across a room just by their spines.  Armstrong did a dozen titles in each series over decades and the look of the covers became an essential part of books from these authors.  Even after she tired of working on these series, publishers continued to issue books with similar designs by other (unknown) designers in the characteristic cloths.  Both were continually reprinted, the Reed titles in particular, sometimes several times a year.  The Reed books were bound in a variety of materials other than the standard lavender cloth.  These include cloths in a darker lavender, lavender silk, green or gray, red leather, standard leather, and ooze leather (now called suede).  Some were housed in dust jackets and/or printed cardboard boxes.  Old Rose and Silver was first issued in September 1909; the copy pictured is the sixth printing from July 1910 (so at least six printings were called for in less than a year—hard to believe if you’ve tried to read it!)  The Blue Flower was issued in 1902.  Although Armstrong produced designs for a number of series, both for individual authors (Washington Irving and H.C. Bunner, for example) and for subjects (such as the “American summer resorts” series), none came close to the impact these two had on the reading public.


















How do you like your days?  With, or without dogs?  (both published in 1904).

















Published by Houghton Mifflin, The Tent on the Beach (1899) is considered one of Armstrong's masterpieces (there are many!)  Note that the gold stamping is in three forms:  gloss, matte, and embossed (the crabs at the foot of the cover).  The design was used on at least 5 colors of cloth, of which two are in the American Trade Bindings Collection.  

This design made an unexpected reappearance 91 years later on a Houghton Mifflin reprint of According to Season, by  Mrs. William Starr Dana.  Feel free to speculate on ... what were they thinking??  The cover has nothing to do with the contents, and why did it reappear at this time?  Did Houghton Mifflin still have "rights" to it?  Did it appear on any other titles in the intervening century?  Did Houghton Mifflin just need an "antique looking cover" to put on a reprint?  These kinds of questions and the odd byways of publishers' bindings keep our interest fresh and work with these materials too much fun.

















Here’s an unusual title.  This little book (above) was issued in 1910 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in a box as part of the “Ariel booklets” series.  Many titles were published in this series but most of them were issued in bright red “leather” with gilt decoration on the cover.  As far as I know, only titles bound in suede were designed by Margaret Armstrong.  Gullans and Espey do not list this title or any other Ariel Booklet in their checklist of her binding designs.  I would conjecture that this is a gift book and was probably also issued in other formats, the suede binding putting it at a higher price than standard issues.  I don’t know if any other titles were issued in this binding but I suspect that there are a few more titles out there … somewhere. 
Margaret and her sister, Helen Maitland Armstrong, worked on a series of books by Marguerite Bouvet, but Tales of an Old Chateau (1899) was the only one in an “out of series” binding.  This copy was issued in 1901.  I like the two dark green pod-like things flanking the title though I have no idea what they represent.  Can anyone help with this?






Two titles published by Bobbs-Merrill, The Pioneer in 1905 and Huldah in 1904.















As we near the end of our floral journey, here are two more designs, one considered a masterpiece and one--not so much.  Zelda Dameron is another Bobbs-Merrill title published in 1904, and Blue-Grass and Rhododendron was published by Scribner in 1901.  Which one catches your eye?



Finally, three of my current favorites.  Two are pictorial--one of my weaknesses.   To my taste, Pipetown Sandy, in particular, would make a wonderful poster.  And yes, it was written by that John Philip Sousa (after all, in keeping with this post's theme, he was known as "The March King"). (3)
The importance of condition for these covers is repeatedly stressed by anyone who has anything to say about them.  The Irving title makes this point better than any argument with its almost pristine white cloth. When one can find a copy of any decorated binding of this period in excellent condition, as is Rip Van Winkle, the difference is that of a cloudless spring day to an overcast February afternoon when one wants to see the sky:  the latter holds out some promise, but the former is breathtaking.  The gold, green, red and yellow stamping fires a twenty-one tulip salute against the background of white coarse cloth.  Simply gorgeous!






At the top of my Margaret Armstrong list, and the last cover I'll show today, is a late design, The Quest of the Dream (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1913).  We're fortunate to have a deluxe edition in dust jacket and slipcase, on both of which the cover design is repeated.  I like to put myself in the position of a book purchaser in 1913 who would come across this title in a bookstore.  The design looks nice on the slipcase though it's simple, and with its plain line border lacks the ornamentation that so many bindings featured--kind of romantic, though the brown on tan doesn't do it any favors.  Slipcase set aside, we find a printed dust jacket with the same images in the same colors.



But then I remove the dust jacket and am just about stunned by the actual cover with its brilliant blue cloth stamped with a single white poppy blossom against what appears to be the moon.  It's impossible to tell from the image, but the gilt is in both gloss and matte--the moon being the only feature in matte. On the cover, the poppy seems to be floating slightly above the surface of the cloth, which has a very fine rib grain, particularly where it overlaps the moon.   Needless to say, I purchase the book.



Until next time when we'll show some recent acquisitions destined for our bindings collection.







(1) For an account of their journey see: Armstrong, Margaret, “Canyon and Glacier”. Overland Monthly, v. 59, no. 2, p. 95-104. https://archive.org/stream/overlandmonthly259sanfrich#page/n153/mode/2up

(2) Gullans, Charles and John Espey. Margaret Armstrong and American Trade Bindings. Los Angeles: Department of Special Collections, UCLA, 1991, p. 36.

(3) Image from the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (cph 3c10617 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c10617)

Books Are Fun

Preservation Services on YouTube

Thu, 04 Jun 2015 19:55:00 +0000

The Preservation Services is releasing its first film about procedures in conservation treatments that are performed in our Division of the University Libraries. The film was possible through a joint effort with the Digital Media Commons, especially Cheryl Cross, who patiently recorded hours of  this treatment, to then be reduced to just eight minutes of viewing. What a fast conservation treatment!!!

The book, I Vespri Sicilliani, is part of our Cello Music Collection and was a donation received in 2013 from George Darden Piano and Opera collection.
http://uncgspecial.blogspot.com/2013/10/george-darden-martha-blakeney-hodges.html




UNCG Libraries Diversity and Inclusion Blog

Celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Month

Tue, 02 Jun 2015 19:53:00 +0000

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) month. "LGBT Pride Month is currently celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan. The Stonewall riots were a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. In the United States the last Sunday in June was initially celebrated as “Gay Pride Day,” but the actual day was flexible. In major cities across the nation the “day” soon grew to encompass a month-long series of events. Today, celebrations include pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposia and concerts, and LGBT Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world. Memorials are held during this month for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally."*

In June 2011 President Barack Obama issued a proclamation declaring June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. This will link to list of LGBT resources compiled by the Library of Congress.


Walt Whitman, 1819-1892


Friends of the UNCG Libraries

The Friends of the UNCG Libraries are advocates and supporters of the Libraries. Our Friends make a real difference in our ability to serve the campus and the local community.

Diving Into the Pool of Books

Thu, 25 Jun 2015 20:32:00 +0000



There’s a certain sublime beauty one sometimes encounters in the course of reading or doing research.  Scholars know the feeling of immersion into a pool of sources so deep that one cannot dive deep enough to find all of that is in the pool, yet the diving itself takes on a certain special joy.

This happened to me this week, as a circle completed itself.  I was taking the opportunity to read Kwame Alexander’s novel in verse, The Crossover, which won the Newbery Award for the best in children’s literature this past year.  Mr. Alexander is visiting UNCG and Bookmarks in September, a visit I am pleased to recommend and coordinate.  Our Libraries’ annual children’s book author and storyteller series is near and dear to my heart, and I always enjoy putting it together.  

When I finished The Crossover, which is a superb book for readers of any age to dive into, I read a blurb at the end from Ashley Bryan, two-time winner of the Coretta Scott King award for children’s literature.  I hope you haven’t missed the work of Ashley Bryan, now past 90 years of age, but he was one of the first, if not the first, African American author/illustrator of children’s books. Having brought the great author/illustrator Jerry Pinkney to be the very first speaker in our Children’s Book Author and Storyteller Series back in 2007, I was interested in knowing more about about Bryan, a man who no doubt has influenced and perhaps mentored not only Kwame Alexander, but probably Jerry Pinkney as well. 

I was startled to learn that Ashley Bryan lives on one of the Cranberry Isles in Maine, accessible only by boat.  I say startled, because I am departing for a trip to Maine with my wife and adult daughter in early July, and will be staying only a short distance from the Cranberry Isles when we stay in Southwest Harbor.  I’m hoping to take a day trip out to the Cranberry Isles to see an exhibit about the work of Ashley Bryan in the Isleford Historical Museum, if it's still on exhibit as it was last year. 

Who knows? Perhaps I’ll meet Mr. Bryan himself.  If I do, I’ll tell him how much I admire his contributions to children’s literature, and how way down here in North Carolina, we too are doing what we can to connect each person, young or old,  with the right book that might send them for a dive into the joyous pool awaiting them when they read or conduct research.

As Ashley Bryan writes at the end of his autobiography, Words to My Life's Song, quoting the Ashanti storytellers in African folktales: “This is my story.  Whether it be bitter or whether it be sweet, take some of it elsewhere and let the rest come back to me.”

See you when I return.  

When and Where to See Kwame Alexander (Both events free and open to the public):
In Greensboro at UNCG, 7 p.m. September 14 in the Elliott University Center Auditorium
In Winston-Salem at the Bookmarks Festival, Saturday, September 12  (time to be announced)



Irma's World at UNCG

Keep up with Irma & the University Libraries at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

New DVDs

Wed, 24 Jun 2015 16:43:00 +0000


North Carolina Literary Map Blog

Celebrate July Fourth with the Literary Map!

Thu, 25 Jun 2015 16:56:00 +0000

July Fourth, also known as Independence Day, is the day on which the United States colonists declared freedom from Great Britain in 1776.  To honor "America's Birthday," here are some titles pertaining to the American Revolution, the war surrounding Independence Day, and the United States' fight for freedom:

The Mysterious Rifleman; A Story of the American Revolution

North Carolina in the Revolutionary War

Battles of the Revolutionary War, 1775-1781

The Colonial and Revolutionary Period, 1584-1783

Society in Revolutionary North Carolina



UNCG Special Collections & University Archives

SCUA collects, preserves, and makes accessible rare, unique, or otherwise significant materials outside the scope of the general UNCG library collection. We also deliver presentations, classes, tours, and exhibits. Our collections include official records, personal manuscripts, rare books, textiles, A/V materials and artifacts. Subject strengths include women's history, literature, theatre, music, and dance.

A Portable Likeness: Selected Portrait Miniatures and Their Literary Context

Tue, 16 Jun 2015 19:00:00 +0000


The Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives is pleased to announce a new exhibit in the Hodges Reading Room. A Portable Likeness: Selected Portrait Miniatures and Their Literary Context, features selected portrait miniatures, both in the portable form as well as in a literary context.

Portrait miniatures emerged from the pages of manuscripts and appeared in portable form during the early 16th century. They were originally painted on vellum, card, wood, or copper and were considered a luxury item, often framed in precious metals or jewels. The images were painted with watercolors, oils, and enamels. Ivory became a more popular surface for artists around 1700, but portraits continued to appear on paper and card as well.


The earliest miniatures depicted royalty and were given as signs of favor and patronage. The late 16th century saw loyal, wealthy subjects wearing the images of Queen Elizabeth I of England as a sign of fidelity. Attempting to imitate the royals, members of the nobility began to commission miniature portraits to commemorate births, marriages, deaths, or the long departure of a loved one. By the 18th century, they were widely available to the rising middle class. These portable items were owned and carried by men and women alike, often on rings, in lockets and cases, on chains, and
incorporated into pins, necklaces, bracelets, and hair pieces.  Larger images were often displayed in a cabinet or “treasure room.”  While portrait miniatures usually show only the upper torso of the sitter, hairstyles, hats, and jewelry are often prominently featured and can help date paintings that have no provenance.



This exhibit will be featured in the Hodges Reading Room from May 12 until August 28. The Reading Room is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday




UNCG Special Collections & University Archives

Photos and other fun stuff from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives in the University Libraries. You can also follow us on Twitter: @UNCGArchives!

In honor of Independence Day, we give you the red, white, and...

Sat, 04 Jul 2015 10:01:09 -0400







In honor of Independence Day, we give you the red, white, and blue annotated Bach 6th Suite Prelude of Marion Davies. Marion Davies (1924-2012) was among the first women to secure the position of principal cellist in major orchestras in the United States, serving as first cellist with the Kansas City Philharmonic, the Houston Symphony, and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, where she remained from 1975-1987. As indicated at the top of the Prelude, the bowing and fingering reflects either performances or classes with several notable cellists, including Pierre Fournier, Maurice Eisenberg, and Pablo Casals. From the Marion Davies Cello Music Collection at UNCG Special Collections & University Archives.


Spartan Stories

Tales from the University Archives at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Another Twist of Fate for Chinqua Penn Plantation

Mon, 29 Jun 2015 13:00:00 +0000

Chinqua Penn Plantation
Chinqua Penn Plantation, the sprawling historic mansion located in Reidsville, North Carolina, finally has a new owner and its fate is once again in question. The home and 23 acres of surrounding grounds were purchased by Mitchell Barnett Properties, LLC, for $650,000, quite a bit less than Sun Trust’s original asking price of $1,900,000. This is yet another twist in the story of this grand manor.

Built in 1925 by Thomas Jefferson “Jeff” Penn and  his wife Margaret “Betsy” Schoellkoph Penn, the house was a treasure trove of architecture and decorative arts; a culmination of years of travel and collecting.  Mr. Penn was a native of Reidsville and a descendant of both William Penn and Thomas Jefferson.  Mrs. Penn was from an affluent New York family that helped harness power from Niagara Falls. The family pedigrees were buoyed by serious tobacco money. The management of tobacco interests in the East as well as three world tours gave the Penns an ideal platform from which to amass their extensive collection. To house these treasures, the Penns built a thirty-room mansion created from the stone that surrounded the land. It was decorated in an eclectic style with art and architecture from every corner of the world, including a full size stone and timber pagoda. They named the “plantation” Chinqua Penn, which was a combination of their family name and the chinquapin, a species of the American chestnut tree, which was indigenous to the area.

Stone and Timber Pagoda
The Penns had always intended to give the plantation to the state of North Carolina and when Mr. Penn passed away in 1946, Mrs. Penn began to make plans for the estate.  On October 20, 1959, she formally presented the home and grounds to the Consolidated University of North Carolina, which included the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State College (NC State), and Woman’s College (now UNCG).  At the same time, she gave the university system more than $750,000 to maintain the home and its vast farmlands, orchards, lakes, forest, and livestock. Provisions in this gift stated that she be allowed the status of lifetime tenant, giving her full rights to the property until her death and that after twelve years, if the management of the estate became “unfeasible,” the university system could dispose of the property as they saw fit.

The Clock Tower on the Property

The university system initially saw Chinqua Penn as a top tourist destination and a research center. UNCG would manage the house and NC State would develop a beef cattle and crop research center and operate a 4-H Club camp by the 25 ½ acre lake. The home was also seen as a perfect location for North Carolina students to study art and interior design.

The Gardens

For twenty-five years after Mrs. Penn’s death in 1965, UNCG and NC State oversaw the operations of Chinqua Penn.  Management and economic challenges faced by operating the estate, as well as over $2,000,000 in estimated repairs, forced the UNCG Board of Trustees to close the house to tours in 1991. A non-profit agency quickly formed in an attempt to keep the home open to the public, but “lack of funding, economic conditions, and debt” required them to give up the endeavor in 2002.

Interior of Chinqua Penn Before Auction
 Chinqua Penn’s fortune seemed to change when in 2006, Calvin Phelps, a local businessman also involved in the tobacco industry, purchased the home and 23 acres of land from the university system for $4,100,000. He immediately opened it for tours and planned to expand the use of the property to include a winery, overnight lodging, corporate conferences, and weddings. NC State continued to retain the Penn 4-H Educational Center. By 2012, besieged by financial and legal troubles, Phelps was ordered by the United States Bankruptcy Court to sell Chinqua Penn’s art, artifacts, and furnishings during a two-day auction in Greensboro, North Carolina. The items sold for more than $3,000,000, which was funneled to his many creditors. Some of the objects were purchased by Lindley Butler on behalf of the Museum and Archives of Rockingham County. On September 18, 2013, Chinqua Penn went into foreclosure, with SunTrust Bank acquiring the property for $1,400,000.

Chinese-themed guest bedroom
The recent purchase has opened the door to new possibilities for the property. Although its portable treasures have been auctioned off, the home’s beautiful architecture and surrounding acreage continue to be a huge draw. As there has been no announcement of intended plans, Chinqua Penn’s future remains to be seen.


UNCG's Dataland

UNCG's land of data releases, new data sources, fun stats information, and much more!

ICPSR webinar on data sharing

Wed, 10 Jun 2015 18:39:00 +0000

ICPSR provided a great webinar yesterday called "Meeting Federal Data Sharing Requirements" and made the recording available for free. Definitely worth looking at if you are writing data management plans.

Don't forget that ICPSR is our primary resource for a wide variety of data sources and training.