American Trade Bindings and Beyond

To Autumn: John Keats and Margaret Armstrong

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 17:59:00 +0000

"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;”

-- autumn has come and, unbelievably, is nearly past.  Outside it's overcast with not much of autumn's characteristic crispness, and only a few leaves remain on the trees.  But inside we have a crisp binding to share:  The Poetical Works of John Keats, edited with notes and appendices by H. Buxton Forman.  Complete edition.  New York:  Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., c1895.

Before we take a closer look at the design, I hope you’ll bear with me for an anecdote about finding this particular book.  I’ve been travelling to bookstores in search of trade bindings for several decades and browsing for them is not as daunting as it might seem at first.  Although they are generally not displayed with the front covers out, and you’re usually confronted by shelf after shelf (or wall after wall) of book spines, it becomes almost second nature to recognize the look of a book published before 1920, and more often than not to be able to tell in what decade, the 1890s for example, the book was published.  Sliding the book out – not by the headband please! – and glancing at the cover only requires a few seconds, after which the book is either in your pile or back in position and you’re on to the next.  I was once in a bookshop in a small town in northeast Ohio which specialized in small press fantasy and horror titles, comics and ephemera, older paperback science fiction and some general stock, with much of the non-genre books gathered in one place on a range of shelves.  Since trade bindings can be found in almost any subject I glanced over the shelves and, to my great surprise, I spotted a likely candidate almost immediately.  Keats, of course, described my feelings perfectly in his sonnet “On first looking into Chapman’s Homer”:

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies 
When a new planet swims into his ken; 
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes 
He star'd at the Pacific—and all his men 
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise— 
Silent, upon a peak in Darien. 

I remember the scene in that small town bookstore looking something like this:

 The spine of the book had the look of a publication from the first decade of the 19th century and something about the grape vine decoration looked very familiar.  

Elisabeth Cary.  William Morris.  New York: Putnam, 1902

Detail of grapevine

When I pulled out the book and looked at the cover I knew from the lettering on the cover that this was a Margaret Armstrong design, and her monogram confirmed it.  This, however, was a title that I did not recognize.  There will be more on that later.  In the meantime, let’s take a closer look at the cover

As discussed in an earlier post, Margaret Armstrong, who designed this cover, almost never designed a pictorial cover and even less frequently included any human feature in her designs.  Instead her work was ornamental and this cover is no exception.  The cloth is a dark greenish-blue, with four major motifs: a (Grecian) urn on a pedestal with the inscription “Adonais”, a laurel wreath, a frame of grape vines and grapes, and a scroll with the book’s title.  The urn and grape vine motifs represent two of Keats’ best known odes: To Autumn

Conspiring with him how to load and bless 
   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run”

and the Ode on a Grecian Urn.  The urn and pedestal might also be seen as a funerary monument to Keats, particularly with the “Adonais” inscription (referring to Percy Shelley’s “Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats”).  The laurel wreath also represents Keats poetic achievement and is a common motif on bindings of poetry books.  The spine design continues the theme with more grape vines and grapes wrapping the title.  To the right of the wreath is Armstrong’s monogram.  As a final indicator that this was meant to be a quality production, the top page edges are gilt.

Another feature of the design is the interplay of gloss and matte gold which is hard to see in the scan of the binding.  The actual cover, however, changes its appearance depending on how the book is held and how the light strikes it.  In the design, the grape leaves are the only parts of the design that have a matte finish.  When the book is tilted so light reflects off the vines, wreath and scroll the immediate result is a three-dimensional effect with the gloss gilt appearing to rise above the surface and the white and matte gold moving into the background.  This effect is complicated by the leaves that appear to rest on top of the vines (particularly the large leaves below the corners of the scroll and the single leaf at the upper central scroll), and the bunches of grapes which lay over the vines in some places and appear on the same plane as the leaves in others.  The image below shows this effect to some degree but cannot substitute for the cover itself.

The shape of the design is also characteristic of a number of Margaret Armstrong covers, with a wider portion above and a narrower below; in this case the change in dimensions is defined by the bottom of the scroll (although the two leaves provide a transition to the lower portions).  This shape is certainly not exclusive to Armstrong, but it does provide a visual link to a number of her other designs, some of which are pictured below.

Aside from the design there are two factors that make this book and this particular copy special.  The copy is in very good condition which is unusual in that white stamping was often the bane of the binding process.  Although white was often used for lettering it was used much more sparingly as part of the design.  For whatever reasons, white was particularly subject to damage such as flaking and rubbing on cloth bindings.  It’s not at all unusual to see a well preserved design with all or most of the white lettering gone, or heavy chipping to a scene.  Some designs featured large areas of white such as snow scenes or flowers on novels or travel books.  Almost invariably some of the white has disappeared on such bindings.  Against the darker cloth this type of defect is particularly noticeable.  This copy has almost no such damage to either the finer features of the design such as the delicate handles of the urn and the numerous grapes, or to the broader areas of white such as the monument “steps.” 

The second and more important consideration is that this book has a previously unrecorded Margaret Armstrong design.  Charles Gullans and John Espey, in their 1991 checklist of Armstrong bindings, list 314 items (1).  They are careful to make the point that they did not believe that they had found all that there were, and that two new designs had been brought to their attention as the checklist was going to press.  Indeed, a number of others have been found and mentioned since the checklist appeared, but this is not one of them.  The final item in the checklist, number 314, is given as an addendum and, coincidentally, seems to be related to the Keats volume in that both of them were published by Crowell.  The book is The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, edited by Edward Dowden, with no publication date.  They note that the Dowden edition was continually in print from 1894 in numerous bindings, and in 1907 a series of books of individual poets’ works were issued in the “Crowell’s Poets Illustrated Holiday Edition,” with newly designed covers.  They speculate that the Shelley book was probably included in this edition (2).  This gives a clue as to when and why our Keats volume was published.

The only date given on the volume is the copyright date of 1895.  Like the Shelley poems, the H. Buxton Forman Keats was also kept continually in print in a variety of editions since 1895.  Crowell regularly issued and reissued titles with no date of publication, or with only the original date of publication or copyright date, so all we can often say is that a book was not published before any date given.  The always fascinating and informative Lucile Project (3) adds much context to Crowell’s publishing practices.  This publisher alone issued over 180 “editions”/series of Owen Meredith’s Lucile, and treated other worthy works with similar zeal.   If indeed this book was published as part of Crowell’s “Illustrated Holiday Edition,” we could place it around 1907 in Armstrong’s later period.  

I've seen the Crowell "1895" Keats on a number of occasions with all of the copies either rebound or bound in red cloth with minimal decoration (lettering and a blind-stamped ornament).  Which brings us full circle to my anecdote on finding trade bindings.  Based only on online descriptions from booksellers or other sources, the likelihood of finding this book online is extremely low—not knowing that it exists makes it even more unlikely.   Trade bindings are usually not described in any detail beyond "decorative" or "illustrated cloth", and to include Margaret Armstrong’s name in the description a dealer would have to be familiar with her “MA” monogram and think it important enough to include.  Many dealers include pictures for selected books and this can be a help, but many dealers do not.  An online bookseller’s description of condition also often needs to be taken with a peck of salt—one person’s “very good” is another person’s doorstop.  The move to online bookselling has had enormous benefits, particularly for known item searching, but for discovering materials such as decorated bindings there is still much that needs to be improved.  I enjoy searching thousands of booksellers’ stocks while drinking coffee in a familiar setting—but I treasure that “stout Cortez” moment in an Ohio bookstore.

(1) Gullans, Charles and John Espey.  Margaret Armstrong and American Trade Bindings.  Los Angeles: University of California Los Angeles, 1991.

(2) Their citation is to the Publishers Trade List Annual for 1907 to which, alas, I don’t have ready access.

(3) If you’re not familiar with this extraordinary resource by Sid Huttner at the University of Iowa, check out the website.  The purpose of the project “is recovering the publishing history of single 19th century book.  Owen Meredith’s Lucile was first published in 1860, by Chapman & Hall in England and as a Ticknor & Fields “Blue & Gold” in the United States.

Thomas Young Crowell (1836-1915) started a small publishing firm in New York at 744 Broadway.  The Thomas Y. Crowell Company, under variations of the name, existed from 1876 to 1979 when it was taken over by Harper and Row.  In his publishing activities “He preferred solid books and was chiefly interested in those that would inspire or be useful for reference, sa that one editor was to say that ‘never issued a book that one is not better for having read.’”  Dictionary of Literary Biography, v. 49, p. 108.


New Staff in Access Services

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 21:14:00 +0000

Two new staff began on December 1, 2016:

Amanda Perri is the Weekend/Assistant Stacks Manager.  Amanda received her BA in English in 2014 and her MLIS in 2016, both from UNCG.  She worked in the Stacks throughout her time as a student spending three years as a Student Assistant and three years as a Lead, and she has been serving as the Temporary Stacks Project Manager and working in a staff capacity at the Check Out Desk since June, 2016

Lois Barnes is the Assistant Desk Manager. Lois received her BA in English with a concentration in Secondary Education from UNCG in 2012. She is coming to us from the School of Music at the UNC School of the Arts where she has served as an Administrative Support Associate for the past 3+ years.  Prior  she worked here in the Stacks and on the Check Out Desk for 3 years.  She served as a Lead Student on the Check Out Desk and as a temporary Access Services staff member for 5 months after graduation.

Books Are Fun

Visiting University of Coimbra and the Barroque Library

Thu, 03 Nov 2016 16:59:00 +0000

In my recent visit to Portugal I had the opportunity to go to the University of Coimbra - Portugal, founded in the Middle Ages and known as the oldest university in Europe (1290).

Coimbra is a city full of life, students are everywhere, especially in October when they are starting the academic year. There are lots of events associated with the student’s homecoming and I was lucky enough to see them marching through the streets of the city. This was just one of the many students “rites of passage” to become part of the Coimbra academic fraternity.  

Where History Meets Youth

Situated on the top of the hill and surrounded by the medieval wall, the university is accessed through the "Porta Férrea", literally the Iron Door, leading to the main patio of the university where you have a view of the lower city and the Mondego river. 

Duca696 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
 By Alvesgaspar - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
By Alvesgaspar - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Joanina Library is named after King João V (1707-1750) who sponsored its construction. It is considered a masterpiece of the Portuguese baroque period and one of the richest libraries in European.

Isabella Baltar, Oct 2016.

The library building.
"The Noble Floor, completed in 1728, began receiving the first books after 1750, and currently its collection comprises some 40,000 volumes. The entire construction is aimed at conservation of library collections, from the width of the outer walls to the use of wood inside. Also to in aid the conservation of books, there are two small colonies of bats that for centuries protected them from insects. 
Built with noble and exotic materials, brought from all over the world, the symbolism attributed to its decor are a tribute to the magnanimity and power of King John V and the Portuguese Empire, whose repository of knowledge was headquartered here in the King’s University. It was used as a place of study from 1777 until the mid-20th century, until the General Library opened in 1962." (

World heritage recognized by UNESCO since 2013, this was the video that was submitted by the University of Coimbra in its application:

University of Coimbra - Application for UNESCO World Heritage

Visiting the University of Coimbra:

Learning more about the University of Coimbra:

UNESCO and the University of Coimbra - Alta and Sofia

UNCG Libraries Diversity and Inclusion Blog

CACE Call for Abstracts (due Dec 6)

Sun, 27 Nov 2016 20:27:00 +0000

Abstracts for the Conference on African American & African Diasporic Cultures & Experience are due by next Tuesday, December 6th for the Spring 2017 conference. Abstracts that include panel presentations as well as individual abstracts are encouraged. Also considering spoken word presentations or performance for the Literary Cafe. More details here (link) and below:

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.

Terry Brandsma Recognized as "Superstar Collaborator" by OCLC

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 07:30:00 +0000

Terry Brandsma, Information Technology Librarian at UNC Greensboro, was recently recognized by OCLC as one of the 12 “superstar collaborators” among the more than 8,900 users from 3,500 libraries worldwide that use the online OCLC Community Center. 
Since the Community Center was launched in July 2015, these 12 superstars collectively participated in more than 500 community conversations where they shared workflows, sought and gave advice to peers, contributed ideas on how to improve products, and interacted with product teams. 
Terry is the Libraries’ system administrator for both WorldShare Management Services (the OCLC integrated library platform) and WorldCat Local (the OCLC public discovery interface). The superstar collaborators were first recognized at the WorldShare Management Services Global Community & User Group Meeting, held recently in Dublin, OH. Additional details can be found in this OCLC Next blog post.

New DVDs at UNCG

Check-in to see which new DVDs are hitting the shelves in Jackson Library!

New DVDs

Sun, 27 Nov 2016 21:09:00 +0000

Hell or high water
Mechanic: resurrection

Hetalia. Season 6, World twinkle.
One piece. Collection 16.
Sausage party
Finding Dory

Nine lives
Café society
Bad moms
War dogs

Papa : a true story
Infinitely polar bear
Captain Fantastic

Pink Floyd the wall

Star trek. Beyond

North Carolina Literary Map Blog

Christmas in Old Salem!

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 16:51:00 +0000

Looking for something fun to do during the holidays?  Then how about a visit to Old Salem, North Carolina?  Founded 250 years ago by the Moravians, the town of Salem has since been preserved as a historic museum and gardens near Winston-Salem, NC.  Interested in traditional Moravian love feasts, music, and more this Christmas season?  Then please visit Old Salem's website!

The NC Literary Map contains various titles about this fascinating community.  Winston-Salem native Molly Grogan Rawls wrote about the history and changes to Salem over the centuries in "Old Salem and Salem College".  Got kids?  Then you might want to peruse this fun historical fiction book entitled "An Old Salem Christmas, 1840" by Karen Cecil Smith.  This book describes the experiences of a young Moravian girl living in Salem at Christmas time in 1840.  Do you want to know more?  Then please check out these books at your local library or bookstore!  Happy reading (and sightseeing)!

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.

Composer C. Alan Beeler's Collection Donated to Special Collections & University Archives

Mon, 21 Nov 2016 14:31:00 +0000

The Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections &University Archives is pleased to announce the donation of the sheet music collection of composer Charles Alan Beeler (b. February 10, 1939 – d. April 28, 2016). Beeler began his studies at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington from 1957 to 1961, training with John Sibler and Will Ogden. Beeler earned his MA in Music Theory/Composition at Washington University, St. Louis, 1965 and PhD in Music Theory/Composition, Washington University, St. Louis, 1973, studying theory with Leigh Gerdine and composition with Robert Wykes, Robert Baker, and Harold Blumenfeld. His dissertation was titled “Winter Music, Cartridge Music, Atlas eclipticalis: A Study of Three Seminal Works by John Cage.” Ph.D. diss., Washington University, 1973.”

Beeler taught theory and composition at Wisconsin State University at Stevens Point for four years and at Eastern Kentucky University as Professor of Music Theory and Composition for thirty-six years. While at Eastern Kentucky University, Beeler was the co-author of a four volume music theory textbook. In addition to teaching and composition, Alan Beeler was a talented oboist, teaching oboe and performing in faculty ensembles and the EKU orchestra. His many compositions include works for solo piano, chorus, chamber ensemble, string orchestra, full orchestra, and voice. Several of his works were recorded by PARMA Recordings, Navona Records, and Ravello Records. His compositions have been performed by the Prague Radio Orchestra directed by Vladimir Valek and by the Slovak Radio Symphony conducted Kirk Trevor in Bratislava, Slovakia among others.

The Charles Alan Beeler Collection contains over a hundred manuscript compositions and arrangements, in addition to other music for multiple instrumentation, and some personal papers. Beeler joins a growing collection of composer archives represented in the UNCG Special Collections, including Harold Schiffman, Egon Wellesz, Peter Paul Fuchs, and Rudolf Matz

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!

#FoodieFriday celebrates #NationalFritterDay with these #fritter...

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 14:00:48 -0500

#FoodieFriday celebrates #NationalFritterDay with these #fritter recipes from:

Randolph, Mary. The Virginia House-Wife. Washington: Printed by Way & Gideon, 1825. Jackson Library Special Collections-Woman’s Collection TX715 .R215 1825  

You can try recipes for apple fritters, bell fritters - which involves boiling a portion of butter the size of an egg, bread fritters, and Spanish fritters. We’re tempted to try the latter as they are recommended to be served with “wine and sugar, or molasses.” Yum!

Spartan Stories

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

The McIver House: Hospitality on Campus

Mon, 28 Nov 2016 14:00:00 +0000

In 1952, just sixty years after it was built, the McIver house was torn down to make room for new construction on campus.  Located on the corner of Spring Garden Street and College Avenue, the house held a central location on campus for more than half a century.
McIver House, c. 1900

Much of what we know about the McIver residence was recorded in several articles published by Woman's College graduate Virginia Terrell Lathrop (class of 1923) in the Carolinian, Greensboro Daily News, and Alumnae News.  Recently, SCUA archivists rediscovered her articles which contain interesting stories about the house and it's inhabitants.  Here are some highlights from her account.

In 1891, while the first buildings (Administration and Brick Dormitory) were erected on the site of what would soon by State Normal and Industrial School, Dr. McIver and his family lived in Benbow hotel in downtown Greensboro.  The NC legislature had not planned for a home for the McIvers, but in 1892 the Board of Directors approved money for an addition to the dormitory to house twenty-two more students and the construction of the President's home.  It was built using left-over materials from the construction of the Administrative Building and the Brick Dorm.  The building was completed in just six weeks.

At the time the college was built, it was at the outskirts of Greensboro and had no nearby housing for faculty.  The McIver family let some of them board in their home, which raised some question as to whether it was appropriate for the McIver's to let others stay in a home that wasn't theirs.  However, Lathrop uncovered reports to the Board of Directors that showed Dr. McIver paid $15 a month in rent, and one newspaper defended him, saying "so long as he paid his rent it was his own business whether he took boarders or not."

Ms. Lathrop described the house as a "spacious two-story ten room frame house" that "stood just inside the main gate of the college."  It was a place where the McIver's hospitality could extend far and wide.  They took in anyone who needed a place to stay, from visiting dignitaries to "Valentine," a tramp who jumped from a passing freight train on the on the February 14th.  He came to the McIver house offering to cut wood for a meal and stayed for a year, leaving as mysteriously as he came.

Other more distinguished guests to the McIver home included, Walter Hines Page founder of the State Chronicle newspaper in Raleigh, who delivered a speak at the auditorium entitled "Forgotten Man," and George Peabody, philanthropist and educator for whom Peabody Park is named.  Ms. Lathrop speculated that Governor Aycock spent the night with the McIvers when he visited campus after the Brick Dormitory fire in 1904.  He came to campus the day after the fire and was pleased to find the students "fully clothed and in their right minds."

The President's home served as a gathering place, but was first and foremost a home for Dr. McIver's family.  Two of the McIver children, Verlinda, who died in childhood, and Mrs. John Dickinson, where born in the house.  Mrs. Dickinson was married in the house and a wedding reception for the McIver's older daughter, Mrs. James Young, was held in the two living rooms.

After Dr. McIver's death in 1906, the legislature offered the home to Mrs. McIver for her lifetime. Ms. Lathrop says that Mrs. McIver would offer a place every year to one or two students at the college to help defray the costs and make the college experience more affordable.  She also claimed that, "over a long period of years [Mrs. McIver] gave a room and meals to a succession of students at the Negro A and T college, always keeping in touch with them after they finished college and when a number of them became teachers of their own race."  Following Mrs. McIver's death in 1944, the house was used as a dormitory for service-women returning after WWI to attend college on the G.I. Bill.

The McIver house was demolished in October of 1952.

McIver House in 1951, shortly before demolition

UNCG's Dataland

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

New free resource: IPUMS Higher Ed

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 17:39:00 +0000

From the Minnesota Population Center:
The Minnesota Population Center has released a new data project: IPUMS Higher Ed. IPUMS Higher Ed offers harmonized versions of the surveys incorporated into the NSF Scientists and Engineers Statistical Database (SESTAT).
IPUMS Higher Ed is composed of three National Science Foundation surveys of college degree holders in the United States: the National Survey of College Graduates, the Survey of Doctorate Recipients, and the National Survey of Recent College Graduates. Only the respondents who have a degree in science or engineering (or related fields) or work in a science or engineering occupation are included in the SESTAT file for that year. 
The surveys in IPUMS Higher Ed collect data on education history, labor force status, employer and academic institution characteristics, income, and work activities. SESTAT data have been used previously to study a wide variety of topics, including gender differences in the labor force and the presence of immigrants in the U.S. science and engineering workforce. 
The data can be accessed at no cost at

UNCG Digital Collections

Digital collections news from UNCG University Libraries

Full house

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 21:25:00 +0000

A full house in Digital Projects working on Good Medicine. We're closing in on the halfway point, with almost 20,000 items scanned. Many of these are already online as well, although the site is technically "under construction."

We've also added new material to the Cello Collections and Composer Collections, not to mention the full run of North Carolina Community Progress, an extension publication of the North Carolina College for Women (now UNCG) from the 1920s.

And, by the way, we've redesigned our website to make it easier to explore our collections. Let us know what you think!