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.


Free coffee in Jackson Library!

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 14:54:00 +0000

Good Luck on Exams!

Free Coffee in Jackson Library:

Tuesday, December 6
Wednesday, December 7
Thursday, December 8

Deliveries at 9 pm and midnight

Bring your own mug!

Sponsored by the Friends of the University Libraries, Student Government and Campus Activities and Programs

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.

Libraries Improve First Floor Reading Room

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 21:42:00 +0000

UNCG students were greeted this fall with a completely refurnished Reading Room on the first floor of Jackson Library. Improvements include 24 new workstations with double monitors and a wide variety of flexible seating in appealing colors.  We added numerous white boards as well.

As you can see in this brief video, students are flocking to this new learning space.  It's often hard to find a seat!

New DVDs at UNCG

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

New DVDs

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 19:10:00 +0000

The wild life

Hands of stone

Pete's dragon

Don't breathe

The librarians. Season one
Game of thrones. The complete sixth season
Ripper Street. Season three
Outlander. Season two
Poldark. The complete second season
Better call Saul. Season two

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!

On Saturday, #UNCG and the #Greensboro community were privileged...

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 13:54:35 -0500

On Saturday, #UNCG and the #Greensboro community were privileged to experience #cello music artistry at its best during an evening recital featuring Lynn Harrell and pianist, Victor Asuncion. The recital was brought to UNCG as part of a collaborative effort between the College of Visual and Performing Arts (@uncgarts) and UNCG Libraries for the War & Peace Imagined series ( #wpiuncg). Mr. Harrell dedicated the performance to his early teacher, Lev Aronson, whose sheet music library is preserved in the UNCG Cello Music Collection. In honor of his teacher, Mr. Harrell performed the Lev Aronson composition “Chassidischer Tanz,” for cello and piano. The UNCG Cello Music Collection has digitized this manuscript, including its drafts, ranging in date from Lev Aronson’s time immediately after the Holocaust, c. 1946, through his immigration and citizenship in the United States. The photograph shows the original manuscript, which would account for one of the very few personal items Lev Aronson brought with him when coming to the US, having lost everything during WWII. You can download this piece for free from our digital collections here:     

P.S. Sitting in front of the UNCG Music Archives team during the recital was a most enthusiastic UNCG freshman violin major with her family, who were absolutely entranced with the performance. After hearing Mr. Harrell perform Lev Aronson’s composition, the student informed us that she enjoyed the piece so much, she plans on transcribing it so she can perform it for violin.            

Spartan Stories

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

Chancellor Patricia A. Sullivan: Encoded in the DNA of UNCG

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 14:00:00 +0000

UNCG opened its doors in 1892 as a publicly-supported school for women from across North Carolina (and beyond) to receive a higher education. But it would not be until the 103rd year of the school's existence that a woman would serve as the university's highest-ranking administrator. On January 1, 1995, Dr. Patricia A. Sullivan officially became the 9th Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the first woman to hold the chief executive position on campus.

Patricia Sullivan was born in Staten Island, NY, and received degrees in biology from Notre Dame College of St. John's University (B.A., 1961) and New York University (M.S., 1964 and Ph.D., 1967). Her work experience included research positions with the National Institutes of Health as well as faculty positions at Wagner College, Wells College, Texas Woman's University, and Salem College. She also served as Dean of the College at Salem College from 1981 to 1987, and as Vice President for Academic Affairs at Texas Woman's University from 1987 until her hiring at UNCG.

During her time at UNCG, the campus underwent a number of major changes that helped it become the institution it is today. Under Sullivan's leadership, enrollment at UNCG reached an all-time high, while academic standards for admissions also increased. Enrollment of students from underrepresented communities also increased significantly during this time. As JoAnne Smart Drane, one of the first African American students to attend the school, noted in a tribute to Sullivan, "she valued the University's diversity as strength."

Sullivan also led a charge to move UNCG to its current classification as a Research University with High Research Activity. Funded research grew 180% during her years as chancellor, from $12.7 million to $36 million. Additionally, numerous doctoral programs were established during this time, including Ph.D. programs in nursing, geography, economics, information systems, special education, community health, communication sciences and disorders, history and medicinal biochemistry. UNCG also established partnerships with North Carolina A&T University to found both the Gateway University Research Park and the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering.

Not only did the academic landscape of UNCG change under Sullivan's leadership, but the physical landscape changed as well. Sullivan diligently advocated on behalf of the North Carolina Higher Education Improvement Bonds, which was the largest bond referendum for public education in United States history. Ultimately, the passage of the bond referendum provided $3.1 billion for construction at state universities and community colleges across North Carolina. UNCG received $166 million from the referendum for construction and renovations. The Science Building that would later be named in Sullivan's honor was constructed as a result of that referendum. Numerous other buildings - including the Brown Building, Forney Building, and the UNCG Auditorium - were also renovated and modernized.

Sullivan with former Chancellor Moran at moving of Chancellor's Residence
Through the bond referendum, successful fundraising campaigns, and other donations, approximately $500 million total in new construction and renovations were added during Sullivan's time as chancellor. In addition to the Science Building, the Gatewood Studio Arts Building, the Moore Humanities and Research Administration Building, and the Spring Garden Apartments residence hall were constructed during her tenure. Also, in a collaboration with Preservation North Carolina, the historic Chancellor's Residence was moved, renovated, and reopened as the Armfield-Preyer Admissions and Visitor Center.

On December 6, 2007, Chancellor Sullivan announced that she would retire, effective July 31, 2008. At the time, she was the most senior chancellor among the UNC System. In remarks to the UNCG Board of Trustees upon announcing her retirement, Sullivan noted, "as with any journey, each year during which I've served as chancellor has been marked by great strides and great successes. Many inspiring challenges and surprises. Times when my heart felt great pain from the tragedies we had to overcome. And times when my heart swelled with pride at the accomplishment of our people. It has been, after all, a very beautiful voyage ... and I shall always understand what UNCG means."

Following the Spring 2008 Board of Trustees meeting - her final meeting as chancellor - a ceremony was held in which the Science Building constructed with the bond referendum funds that she diligently worked for was renamed the Patricia A. Sullivan Science Building. Board of Trustees Chair Steve Hassenfelt noted, "I think we found a way to encode Pat Sullivan and her tremendous leadership into the DNA of UNCG for many years to come." During the ceremony, UNC President Erskine Bowles also presented Sullivan with The Old North State Award, which recognizes "dedication and service beyond expectation and excellence to the Great State of North Carolina."

At her retirement, Sullivan was also fighting a battle with pancreatic cancer. On the morning of August 20, 2009 after a two-year battle with the disease, she passed away at the age of 69. A campus-wide service was held in her memory on September 14, 2009, with remarks from numerous UNCG alumni, faculty, and administrators. As the following Chancellor Linda Brady remarked in closing the ceremony, "there is a void on our landscape. But it is just a physical void. Pat's engaging smile and encouraging spirit - her intellect and reason - is on every hallway, in every building - in each classroom, studio, and laboratory. It's in the Weatherspoon, the library, the Elliott Center, on the athletic courts and fields ... Her spirit lives on in the hearts of all of us who hold UNCG dear ... and who continue the commitment to advancing the University that she dearly loved."

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!