Friday, August 19, 2011

Woo hoo! A spectacular botanical find.

A few weeks ago, on my collage blog, I wrote about parceling out a beautiful lithograph of fuschias from the John Lewis Childs Catalogue of 1887. At the time, it was one of two seed catalog images I had in my library. That has changed.

Earlier this week, I was in a shop, waiting to pay for maps I needed for a few collages, when I began flipping through a box on the front counter. In it: random pages from books that were being sold for 25 cents each. I snapped up pages from a book titled "Friendships Gleanings," which I 'm trying to find out more about. Then I grabbed a few of children from who knows what book. Then, I spotted the worn cover of Chase Brothers Co. New England Nurseries 1902 catalog, "With Camera and Brush." Beneath it: 40 of the 48 lithographs that were originally included. I was momentarily breathless - really - then came to my senses, grabbed all of them and ended up paying just $8 for the batch.

The even-numbered pages are where the "brush" comes in via colorful lithographs printed by Stecher Lithographic Company, which, like Chase, was based in Rochester, N.Y. I'm researching who the artist is. There's a symbol on each plates that looks like a J and a W. The odd-numbered pages are where the "camera" enters with black and white photographs showing the plants in a variety of settings - backyards, front yards, draping porches, etc. - as well as more varieties. Those pages offer a description of the plants shown opposite them and often include a snippet of poetry ("I love the light anemones, That tremble to the faintest Breeze.").

The plates are a bit worse for wear, especially around the edges, but quite a few are in good condition and all are usable. As always, I'll most likely hold some back as too nice to cut up - even after I've finished scanning them into the digital archive.


  1. These are beautiful, Sara. What a wonderful find! I just noticed on your bio that you are a letterpress printer. I'm taking a beginners letterpress workshop next month. I've been reading up on it a bit and want to learn more about it. Do you have your own press? What kind of things do you print?

  2. Anne: How nice to hear from you. I've printed on a variety of presses - none of which I owned. Right now, I'm almost done reconditioning a small Excelsior tabletop press that will be used to print greeting cards, postcards, note cards, etc. I didn't want to deal with all the mechanics of a larger press - at least not right now. I hope the class is fun and look forward to hearing what you learned and ended up printing.