Tuesday, August 26, 2008

AE Foote, Scientific Books in Philadelphia

Visiting with Bibliophiles of Oklahoma member RB, I got the opportunity to look at some of his books. Incredible. Knowing my interest in book trade items, he pointed out a book label that was a little different than the norm. It looked familiar. I was fairly certain I had seen it on Seven Roads Book Trade Label Gallery. Not only is it a mouthful, but a tremendous resource for Book Trade historians.

The label was one like the above. "Scientific and Medical Books, and all objects of Natural History. A.E. Foote, M. D. 1223 Belmont Ave., Philadelphia, Pa." I was thinking it looks ca. 1905, but an older company. It maintains the punctuation norms of earlier labels (and signs, and titles, etc.) but with a more "modern" styling, like Pa., instead of Penna. Then I found the Biographical Record of The Mineralogical Record, which answered my questions. Albert E. Foote was a Mineral dealer. Not just a mineral dealer, but THE mineral dealer in the US who also sold books. He even had a mineral display at the 1876 Centennial Expo in Philadelphia, which is very cool to a museum person. My museum hero, George Brown Goode, also happened to be there curating his first exhibit, for the Smithsonian no less. The website also says the AE Foote Co. changed names in 1900. Well there goes my date. At least I have a tentative end date of 1900.

Looking through the 22 mineral specimen labels they've collected from Foote, I found this label dated Feb. 1884. The lower half of it looked awful familiar. Placing the book label next to this specimen label they are nearly identical; probably printed by the same printer. Notice the second numeral 2 in the address is scrunched, the too small period after M in MD.

The entry includes the info that Foote moved out of the Belmont address in 1890. If the specimen label and the book labels were printed at about the same time, we can place this label to mid-1880s to 1890.

So, 1884-1890. That's a date I can live with. This entry will be recorded at the American Book Trade Index for future reference.

My friend and fellow collector is very interested in archeology texts before 1900. Given Foote's specialty, he surely offered many more archaeology books in his time. So, do you have any books with an AE Foote label? Does anyone have a book catalog from Foote? Inquiring minds want to know...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fraud / Approved Forgeries / Misunderstanding

Nearly every blog in the bibliosphere has posted on the Craig's List ad for forgers. To sum, the ad is seeking folks to: "ghost sign copies of a newly released book on behalf of the authors. You will need to be able to copy the look and style of both author's signatures." No one has been able to get a hold of the firm advertising for these "ghost signers".... until now.

I just got a very tired young lady on the phone and asked about the position. She said, "It was a mistake. A big misunderstanding. That project is not going forward." She said the ad was, or should be, taken down already. I asked which authors it was for, and she said she was not privileged to give out that information. I asked which publisher and got the same answer only more curt.

How do you like your books?


Monday, August 18, 2008

Recent Addition: Mennonite Book Store, postcard interior

Scottsdale PA, Mennonite Book Store, postcard interior
Store interior with press back chair in foreground, display cases and counters with books galore. Note the lighting fixtures suspended from the ceiling and, on back wall is an old wood frame wall telephone. Scottdale, Pennsylvania is in Westmoreland County near Mt. Pleasant, Upper Tyrone and Connellsville.

Robbins R-52721 - Circa 1915

Part of my collection.


Saturday, August 9, 2008

Weil - Ptak Ephemera Scale

Marty Weil of the The Ephemera Blog and John Ptak of The Science Bookstore have put together a useful rubric for measuring "ephemeralness". Marty says
"WP Ephemera Scale standardizes the relative indicators of what makes something ephemera into six principal categories and grades them on a scale of 5 through 30, least ephemeral to most. The indicators approximate the printed item's importance, distribution, susceptibility for being saved, durability, age, and purpose."

They then break down 5 categories, and assign a score (1-5) to the various attributes. So, 5 would be the lowest total score possible, and would be the most ephemeral item. A 30 would be the highest, least ephemeral thing. These include:
(A) Place of origin/population target. (Approximation of how many of these printed items were made.) What sort of population was it printed for? (5) town (4) region (3) city (2) state (1) country
One thing that could be very difficult to measure is (A) the quantity of an item printed. The target audience is a good, but rough guide. I can't think of anything as effective, certainly nothing more effective. I don't like that the evaluator needs to draw conjectures and extrapolate, but I think this may be as good as it gets.
(B) Amount of usage/intended amount of use of the printed item. (5) Single, one-time usage (implying it was collected after use/thrown away) (4) multiple (3) monthly (2) yearly (1) lifetime
(B) also perhaps needs more definition. For instance, how do I score something that was not expected to last very long, but expected to be used up over a few months? Is that multiple or monthly? Or is something "monthly" if I use it once a month?

(C) Purpose of the printed item. (5) Very highly restricted (1) very widely employed, multi-purpose

I think we need some things defined. Like (C), what is "highly restricted" intended use vs. multi-purpose? Like a matchbook- usually limited to the life of 20 matches (on a windy night, that could be very short), or is it multi-purpose? Are there degrees in the middle?

(D) Savability--reasons why the item might have been saved. (5) Very low (reason to save it, like an unused bus transfer, laundry ticket; OR, the item was collected after use; (4) Low (intended for a single use but was not necessarily collected once used (like a movie stub); (3) Medium (2) High (1) very high reason to save (like wedding photos, military troop photos, baby pictures, that sort)
(E) Medium (the physical object itself and the stuff it is made of, meaning that if it was flimsy, toilet-paper-like material it would just not stand the test of time better than, say, a vellum document. It was made to be dispensable.) (5) Flimsy, potentially volatile material; (4) newsprint (3) cheap paper but better than newsprint (2) strong, good book-paper (1) very strong (vellum, thick, cover-stock paper
(F) Age. (5) New (4) Newish to 5 years old (3) 6-25 years old (2) 26-100 years old (1) 200+ years old

I believe (F) is supposed to score the other direction, but you get the idea. So, I want to put the WP Scale to test and see what there is to see.

This scale is really wonderful and it is certainly evident a lot of thought and consideration has gone into it. I think it will be a helpful tool, especially to people who do not deal much with ephemera, to understand what makes a piece special. It could also be very helpful to collection managers and archivists to help quantify the scarcity of ephemera in museum and library/archive collections. Another thing I like, is that to use the scale, you have to have the object in your hands. This cannot be done by photos, or arbitrarily they way many booksellers grade their books.

OK, so let's apply the scale to a stereoview I just bought this last week or two. It is an image of the Old Corner Bookstore in Boston.

A) I've seen this stereoview a few times before, and know this was an oft-printed series. I would rate it a 3. I think 3 is too high, perhaps 2 should be for states and large cities. Afterall, the population of Boston in the 1870s was bigger than some of the more rural states.

B) Amount of usage. I think a 2, yearly. I don't think stereoview publishers thought these would last a lifetime, but were intended to last a long time.

C) 1. Stereoviews were meant to be used many, many times in the home, or at a reading room, school, etc.

D) 2 for savability.

E) 1 for medium. Stereoviews were often printed on very heavy cardstock, but quality varies. My example is on one of the nicer stocks.

F) 4. The stereoview has a handwritten date on the back of Nov. 1872, in period brown dip-pen ink. It was black ink, but it turned a very dark brown after 130+ years of oxidation. The date also fits the style of stereoview.

So, the WP Ephemera Score for my stereoview would be: 13. For this particular stereoview, I think this is a good score and reflects the ephemerality of this item. I've told you before, I'm not above making up words.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Bookmobile Toy at Auction

I had a slew of the old steel Tonka trucks my Dad grew up playing with. There was a firetruck, a pickup with a horse trailer, a big yellow dump truck I could put my knee in and push myself around scooter-style. I loved these trucks for the fact they were made of steel, like a real truck. They had hard rubber tires unlike my other toy trucks that had soft tires and plastic bodies.

So, another bookmobile grabbed my attention this week. This time it is on ebay, and it is in perfect original condition. The seller pegs it as 1950s and it is likely Japanese in origin. Seller had to add the word "bookmobile" to the listing, as the toy was marketed as "Children's Book Service Car." This thing is just beautiful, and is currently sitting at $350.00! It may sound like a lot, but try to find another one. The seller describes the toy:

"The library on wheels was a fairly common sight in the North American suburbs of the 1950s and one that is captured nicely in this 11.5 inch toy by some obscure Japanese toy maker (signed with the trademark "AN"). The truck comes with a working friction motor and measures 11.5 inches in total. It is in mint condition and comes with its beautifully illustrated original box. It is the only example of this toy that I have seen to date."

There are several things I really like about this toy. The first is the colors. I also find the awkward English phrases charming. "Lets Read the Good Books!" and "Children's Book Service Car." I also like the fake book covers painted on the side and that the books look as though they open left-to-right and some open right-to-left. Two things I don't like. The biggest thing (to me) is that you'd need some freakin' huge kids to be able to reach those books! Maybe if I made a little matching rolling ladder to go with it. The other is the extremely constipated expression on the children's faces on the protective doors. They do not look eager to read the good books. It looks like the back door swings down, but the seller didn't clue us in for sure. Otherwise, these are tantalizing images. Perhaps all the more as we can't see inside.

I casually looked around the internet this week for other bookmobile toys. There don't seem to be very many. Have you seen any? Did you have one as a kid? Do you have it still? Will you send it to me?