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American Trade Bindings and Beyond

Matrimony and Monograms

Mon, 20 Apr 2015 14:33:00 +0000

When we catalog a book for the Charles M. Adams American Trade Bindings Collection--or any other collection when we want to feature the cover--we have two main challenges:  a fair representation of the binding design, endpapers, etc. through our description, and trying to determine who designed the cover.  Sometimes the latter is easy (when we know the signature/monogram or the designer is identified in the book or from a reference source), sometimes it is difficult, and, most often, it is impossible.  Though I don’t have exact numbers on this, out of the approximately two hundred plus signatures and monograms we know about, probably less than half have been identified, and far more bindings are unsigned than signed.  So it’s doubly rewarding when we encounter a puzzle that is not too difficult to solve (reward 1), and also gives a small glimpse into the life of an artist (reward 2).  Such was an identification problem I faced some time ago. 

The book was an attractive title by Laura E. Richards , one of six children of Julia Ward Howe and Samuel Gridley Howe.  She was the author of around 90 books which include Captain January and many other children’s books, biographies (including a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Julia Ward Howe), and others.  Its title was The Silver Crown: Another Book of Fables (Little, Brown, and Co., 1906), and among the tree roots at the foot of the cover was a monogram.

The monogram consists of a large “S”, a “W” within the lower counter of the S, and a vertical line through the upper counter of the S and possibly descending to the bottom curve and filling the apex of the W, although this is hard to see without magnification.  When enlarged the vertical line appears to meet the apex of the W and follow the left stroke down.   In addition, the W seems to be tipped towards the right with the left vertex raised slightly above the curve of the S.  So we have a large S, a smaller W, and possibly an I, or a J, or even a T with a rounded top.  I was not familiar with any of these particular combinations.  

The question of the letters in the monogram was quickly answered by the decorated title page which was clearly signed with a vertical JWS.  

But looking further into the book yielded an unexpected bounty:  the book contains 45 fables, each one beginning with a decorative initial.  Of the 45 initials, 30 are monogrammed, plus the additional title page and cover monograms.

What was unusual was that nearly all of the monograms were variations of JWS in different configurations, some with periods, some lacking a letter or two, some in frames, most simple letters but a few overlapping, as with the cover monogram.  The ornamentation varies for all of the letters, some reflecting the fable.  Here are several of the signed initials—it should be obvious which one begins the fable called “The Serpent”! And see if you can spot the one which begins “The Tangled Skein.”         

To really get the feel of how this appears, here are all 30 monograms (not in page number order).

 Of course, cover designers, illustrators, and decorators are not bound to any one form of signature or monogram (although some, such as Margaret Armstrong, used a distinctive monogram from the beginning and kept it throughout their careers).  A case in point is the DecorativeDesigners, whose well known “DD” monogram with the second “D” reversed showed many variations during their 30 year existence, from the Ds barely touching to fully interlocked, and represented in any number of fonts.  Other designers who used a variety of monograms include Theodore Brown Hapgood, Amy Sacker (gathered by our own Mark Schumacher at his Amy Sacker website under Sacker monograms), and F. Berkeley Smith who variously signed bindings S, BS and FBS, with or without a number of different frames, causing all manner of confusion between his covers and those of other designers with similar initials.

Still, 32 variations in one book seems just a little excessive! 

Turning to the identity of the designer/decorator, I knew that Julia Ward Richards, Laura’s daughter, had done binding designs and illustrations for several of her mother’s books, five of which are pictured here.

 ... with their respective monograms.

The monograms looked very similar to those in The Silver Crown except for the final letter—the arrangement, the spotty use of periods, even the style of some of the covers were similar to certain initials in The Silver Crown.  You've no doubt guessed by now what I found when I checked the autobiography of Laura Richards.  In the final chapter, “Milestones,” she says: “In 1905 came the first milestone with an orange blossom laid on it. Julia Ward, my mother’s namesake, married Carleton Anderson Shaw.”  Our mystery designer was indeed Julia Ward Richards, who was known after Dec. 27, 1905, when she was married at Gardiner, Maine, variously as Julia Ward Shaw or Julia Ward Richards Shaw. In 1910 Nathan Haskell Dole wrote of her: “Another daughter, Julia Ward Richards, now Mrs. Carleton Shaw, has had similar success with her pencil.  She has made a specialty of designing book-covers, and in this way her work has been pleasantly associated with that of her mother.” 

I enjoy speculating about just when Julia prepared the initials and cover for her mother’s book.  She was married on December 27th and her mother’s book was listed as “published today” in the October 13, 1906 Publisher’s Weekly, and was then listed in the “Weekly Record of New Publications” in the October 20th issue.  Did Julia work on the new monograms after her marriage, in the ten months between that event and the publication of the book?  Or did she perhaps spend some time before the end of December in designing the initials and working out how she would sign them.  To me, the monograms seem to be more than just fitting a space in the initials.  Whether real or not, there is a feeling of trying things out—varying the letter shapes, seeing what looks good and where--about them.   This is particularly true of the monograms with overlapping letters.  Most of these include the W in the upper counter of the S and do not seem fully worked out.  Throughout, there is a playful feeling of experimentation with that new letter S.  Only the cover monogram looks “finished”--or close to it.  Though her gravestone reads “Julia Ward Richards” the Richards’ “R” is seen nowhere in this book. 

And there we will leave it.  I have not seen any book covers or illustrations in books by Julia Ward Shaw after “The Silver Crown” and if they exist I certainly don’t know if any are signed (although the cover of Laura Richards' 1907 book Grandmother certainly resembles Julia's work).  Nathan Dole’s 1910 piece on Julia Ward Howe quoted above does not make it clear if he is speaking about Julia in the present or in the past.  If any turn up I’ll update this post; but as far as I know, the cover monogram on The Silver Crown is the last by Julia Ward Shaw.  And it’s a good one.

The Silver Crown might be unique.  Though I've seen designers use a number of signatures and monograms over time, I've never seen one so painstakingly—or playfully--working out a monogram in a single place.  Certainly not in such a public one!

Julia Ward Richards Shaw

Laura Elizabeth Richards

Julia Ward Richards Shaw was the 4th of Laura Elizabeth Howe’s and Henry Richards’ seven children.  She was born in Gardiner, Maine on August 30, 1878, and died in Concord, Massachesetts on June 18, 1977 at the age of 98.  She was buried at Groton, Massachusetts.  She married Carleton Anderson Shaw (born Lexington, Massachusetts, May 9, 1873, died Groton, Massachusetts, February 4, 1937) in Gardiner, Maine on December 27, 1905.  Carleton taught at the Lawrence Academy, Groton, Massachusetts, for a year, then established the Red House School in Groton where he was headmaster until his retirement in 1932.  The Shaws had four children, Henry (born Nov. 17, 1906), Elizabeth (born Oct. 16, 1908), John Dyer (born July 29, 1911), and Robert Hollowell (born July 20, 1914).

Dole, Nathan Haskell.  “Julia Ward Howe and her talented family.”  Munsey’s Magazine, v. 42, no. 5,   February 1910). P 619. Website, viewed Mar. 20, 2015,

Harvard Graduates’ Magazine, v. 14, no. 55, March 1906, p. 560. Website, viewed Mar. 23, 2015

Harvard College Class of 1895. Fifth report. Cambridge: Printed for the class, June, 1915, p. 290-1. Website, viewed Mar. 23, 2015.

“Carleton Anderson Shaw” obituary at:  Groton Public Library Digital Collections; page: Groton Town Diaries, 1918-1971. Website.  Viewed Mar. 25, 2015.

Publishers’ Weekly.  Aug. 18, 1906 (no. 1803) p. 371.  “Little, Brown & Co. have in preparation…”
Publishers’ Weekly.  Oct. 13, 1906 (no. 1811), p. 1027 “Little, Brown & Co. publish to-day … The Silver Crown,” by Laura E. Richards, a book of fables for old and young”
Publishers’ Weekly.  Oct. 20, 1906 (no. 1812), p. 1091.  Listed in “Weekly Record of New Publications” All viewed from website.

Richards, Laura E.  Stepping Westward. New York: D. Appleton, 1931, p. 387.

“Maine, Vital Records, 1670-1907”, index and images, FamilySearch ( accessed 17 March 2015), Julia Ward Richards, 1878.

Books shown:
Richards, Laura Elizabeth Howe.  The silver crown: another book of fables. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1906.
Richards, Laura Elizabeth Howe.  Geoffrey Strong. Boston: Dana Estes & Co., 1901.
Richards, Laura Elizabeth Howe.  Mrs. Tree. Boston: Dana Estes & Co., 1902.
Richards, Laura Elizabeth Howe.  The Merryweathers. Boston: Dana Estes & Co., 1904.
Richards, Laura Elizabeth Howe.  Mrs. Tree's Will. Boston: Dana Estes & Co., 1905.
Richards, Laura Elizabeth Howe.  The Armstrongs. Boston: Dana Estes & Co., 1905.

Books Are Fun

The Dove Bindery and The Ideal Book

Mon, 18 May 2015 15:55:00 +0000

“This is the supreme Book Beautiful or Ideal Book, a
dream, a symbol of the infinitely beautiful in which
all things of beauty rest and into which all things of
beauty do ultimately merge.
The Ideal Book - T.J. Cobden-Sanderson (1840-1922)

The Special Collections and University Archives, at the University Libraries, UNCG,  is the holder of the Book Beautiful or The Ideal Book. A limited edition of three hundred books, printed by Cobden-Sanderson and Emery Walker, at the Doves Press, in 1900, and bound at the Doves Bindery. Our copy has been previously restored and arrived at the Preservation Services for minor repairs and infills on the leather, which  is becoming very brittle.


Cobden-Sanderson opened the Dove Press in the late XIX and by the turn of the twenty-century, Emery Walker joined him for a period of eight years, when Cobden-Sanderson continued his printing career.
The press used a single type designed under the supervision of Walker and was based on a type from the 1400’s, by Nicolas Jenson, also a printer. The break of their partnership lead to bitter discussions about the type ownership and finished with Cobden throwing them into the River Thames, in 1916.

Detail of colophon

The ultimate goal of the Doves Press and the Doves Bindery was the “beauty” of all elements that were part of a book, including the text itself. They influenced the Arts and Crafts movement and worked close with William Morris and his Kelmscott Press.

 A custom clamshell box was designed and now holds this precious volume after restoration.


UNCG Libraries Diversity and Inclusion Blog

Celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage Month

Mon, 04 May 2015 13:06:00 +0000

May is Asian Pacific Heritage Month. APA Heritage Month was first established in 1977 when Representatives Frank Horton and Norman Mineta and Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga introduced resolutions asking the President to declare the first ten days of May (the month when the first Japanese immigrants arrived in the U.S. in 1843) as Asian/Pacific Heritage Week. In 1978 President Carter made it an annual event and in 1990, President George H.W. Bush proclaimed the entire month of May to be Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.


Below are links to sites where you can find out additional information on Asian-Pacific Heritage Month, and about the contributions of Asian and Pacific Islander contributions to history.

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.

Staff Development Week at University Libraries

Tue, 19 May 2015 20:18:00 +0000

The University Libraries at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) recently completed its fourth annual Staff Development Week May 11-15.  Designed as one of the responses to the Libraries’ 2011 ClimateQual Survey, Staff Development Week consists of a number of varied programs planned by a committee of paraprofessional and professional staff.  The week after graduation was chosen so that the event could be held during a week identified as low impact in order to allow everyone to participate. Examples of event types are personal enrichment; job-related skills; health and fitness; teamwork; career enhancement; and communication techniques and styles. Suggestions for events are solicited from the staff. The events have a foundation within the diverse experiences of existing staff as well as expertise brought in from outside the libraries.

Several keystone programs are held each year during week, including presentation of the Staff Service Award created in 1997 "to recognize and reward members of the Library Staff who provide outstanding leadership and service in furthering the accomplishment of the mission of the Library to provide service to students, faculty, staff and members of the community which the University serves."  Another highlight of staff development week this year was the Triad Area Libraries Association Paraprofessional Conference planned by UNCG and other area libraries and held at High Point University on May 13.   Other events include workshops and presentations by library and university experts on topics of interest to the staff held throughout the week, a community service project to clean an area stream, and a lunchtime picnic on the lawn in front of the library.  Several of the events are purely for fun, such as the Mario Kart Wii tournament among the staff and an ice cream social to conclude the week’s activities.

Irma's World at UNCG

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

New DVDs

Thu, 14 May 2015 17:29:00 +0000

Irma's Suggestion Box

Libraries have free (or really cheap) summer entertainment!

Mon, 04 May 2015 13:00:00 +0000

You asked:  Does the Library have some fun materials for summer?

Irma says:  We sure do. Here are some of them:

In the Reading Room on the 1st floor:
  • A large DVD collection with a wide variety of films from thrillers to family fare
  • Audio books on CD's
  • The "Current Literature" collection with recent fiction and non-fiction
Also on the first floor is an ongoing book sale.  Hardbacks are $1.00
and paperbacks are .50c

Downloadable audio and e books are available through NCLIVE.  Books are available through Libraries' catalog (red box on home page) or  You'll need your UNCG login to access them. 

North Carolina Literary Map Blog

Gabrielle Freeman of Greenville Wins Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition

Wed, 20 May 2015 18:19:00 +0000

Gabrielle Freeman of Greenville, NC, is the winner of the 2015 Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition for her poem, “Failure to Obliterate.”  She will receive $200 and publication in a special supplement of storySouth.  Freeman's poetry has been published or is forthcoming in many journals, including Beecher’s Magazine, Chagrin River Review, Gabby, Hobart, Melancholy Hyperbole, Minetta Review, Shenandoah, and Waxwing.  She has been nominated twice for the Best of the Net, and she was a finalist in 2014. In 2013, she earned her MFA in poetry through Converse College.  

Gabrielle Freeman

The first runner-up was “Testimony,” by Ann Deagon of Greensboro. “Every Field of Paradise,” by Chapel Hill’s Ralph Earle, was second runner-up.  The Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition honors the work and legacy of the poet and critic Randall Jarrell, who taught at what is now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro for nearly eighteen years.  storySouth is an online literary journal dedicated to showcasing the best poetry (and fiction and creative nonfiction) that writers from the "new south" have to offer.

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.

University Archives Completes Grant to Enhance Oral History Interview Access

Thu, 21 May 2015 19:16:00 +0000

University Archives recently completed work on a grant-funded project to provide enhanced access to many of our oral history interviews with African American students who attended Woman's College/UNCG in the 1960s. These oral history interviews, which are part of SCUA's African American Institutional Memory Project, were previously available online only as a PDF transcription. Even with this somewhat limited access, the interviews were frequently used by undergraduate students and others seeking to gain information on the personal experiences of students during this time.

This project, which was supported by the University Libraries' Innovation and Enrichment Grant Program, allowed us to augment access to a total of 27 of our oral history interviews -- two more than the initially-proposed 25. Using the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer (OHMS), developed by the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries, we indexed the interviews and created time syncs that make it easier to search and move between the written transcription and specific points in the audio recordings. We also established a workflow that will incorporate indexing and syncing via OHMS into the workflow for future University Archives' oral history projects.

For the first time, direct access to the audio recordings of these valuable interviews is available online. You can browse and listen to these enhanced interviews through the Libraries' digital collections portal.

Questions about the project may be directed to University Archivist Erin Lawrimore.

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!

Campus Buildings named after former Chancellors

Fri, 22 May 2015 13:58:04 -0400

Today, Dr. Franklin Gilliam Jr. was named the new Chancellor at UNCG. He’s the 11th person to lead the school since its opening in 1892 and the 9th to hold the title of “chancellor” (previously the campus leader was given the title “president.”). Many of these past leaders have been honored on campus by having a building named in their honor:


McIver Building, named in honor of founding president Charles Duncan McIver in 1960. This was the second campus building named after McIver. The first - the McIver Memorial Building - opened in 1908 and was razed in 1958.


The Foust Building was one of the original structures on the campus of the State Normal and Industrial School when its doors opened in October 1892. On February 22, 1960, the building was named in honor of Julius Foust, president of the school from 1906 to 1934.


Jackson Library, named after Walter Clinton Jackson in 1960. Jackson was the third leader of UNCG, and the first to hold the title of Chancellor.


Built in 1983, this building was originally known as the Arts and Sciences Building. In February 1985, it was renamed in honor of James Ferguson, chancellor of the university from 1967 to 1979.


In 2012, the area previously known as Fountain Plaza, was renamed in honor William E. Moran who served as the chancellor of UNCG from 1979 until 1994. 


Built in 2003, this building was renamed the Sullivan Science Building in honor of Chancellor Patricia Sullivan in 2008. Sullivan served as Chancellor from 1995 to 2008.

Spartan Stories

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

Campus May Queens

Mon, 18 May 2015 13:00:00 +0000

Each year that a May Day celebration was held on campus, a May Queen was elected. From the biggest festivals of 1912 and 1916 to the final year of 1954, a May Queen was present. She was typically a senior elected by her classmates who served as the mascot of the event and in the later years, as the main attraction.

May Day Court, 1938
During the massive fetes of 1912 and 1916, the May Queen rode in the procession on a float beside her king. She and the King of May presided over the festivities of the day, such as plays and dances. After 1916, there was an inevitable break in the celebrations due to the eminent war. When the May Day festivities returned in the 1920s, they were never as elaborate as those prior to the war. The May Queen and her court became the focus of these later festivals.

May Queen, 1950

After 1916, May Day occasionally featured plays, parades, and dances, with the Queen and her court as the constants. The Queen would be crowned while her court looked on. In some years, the court sat on an outside stage in Peabody Park while dancers or even plays were performed in front of them.

Virginia Ambrose, May Day Queen of 1940

The May Day celebrations officially ended in 1954 after being abolished by the senior class. May Day was considered too close to commencement and was a time consuming and expensive endeavor. The seniors had other responsibilities as graduation loomed near. The only thing to survive the May Day tradition was indeed the May Queen (name changed to Beauty Queen), who would be elected with her court in the spring.

This blog was created by Jennifer Brooks, volunteer at the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, April, 2015.

UNCG Digital Collections

Digital collections news from UNCG University Libraries

Hayes-Taylor YMCA Achievers Banquet

Mon, 18 May 2015 16:15:00 +0000

Stephen Catlett and David Gwynn from the digital projects unit had the honor of attending the annual Achievers Program banquet held by the Hayes-Taylor YMCA at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering of in Greensboro on Saturday 16 May. We had the privilege of introducing Jamon Oxendine-Blackmon, a student at the Triad Math and Science Academy, who has been participating in the DGH Explorers (Digitizing Greensboro History) digitization project as part of the Achievers Program.

This is an outstanding group of young people who are doing quite amazing things, and it has been a pleasure working with them--as well as with the staff and volunteers at Hayes-Taylor--over the past few months. The project will continue into the summer for our DGH group.

The program also featured an inspirational keynote address by Dr. Drewry Vincent of Greensboro. The mentors and volunteers for the Achievers Program were recognized, as was Mr. Felton Foushee, the program director.

The following video documents some of the program's activities over the past year: