Georg Jensen: Godfather of Danish Modern Silver

In the realm of silversmithing, the name Georg Jensen is the epitome of the craft. Longtime collectors seek out Art Nouveau-influenced Jensen hollowware – the large tableware that is both highly decorative and functional. Younger consumers, on the other hand, tend to favor the modernist flatware and jewelry – the more-affordable pieces that still reflect the uncompromising quality long associated with the Jensen marque.

“It’s like the names Tiffany and Cartier,” said Michael Millea, co-owner of Millea Bros. Ltd., the Madison, N.J.-based auction house. “Jensen is the kind of thing that is always popular.”

Georg Jensen Sterling Silver “Melon” Bowl, designed in 1911 by Georg Jensen. Estimate: $20,000-$30,000. Jasper52 image

 

The Georg Jensen name takes in more than just the creations of the artist himself. More than 90 craftsmen worked for the firm during the founder’s lifetime and beyond, covering some 95 years of production and an evolution of styles. Born in 1866 in Dyrehaven, Denmark, Jensen was trained as a goldsmith, sculptor and ceramicist.

His best-selling products in the early years, however, were silver rings, brooches, bracelets and hat pins, adorned with amber, malachite, moonstones and opals. They weren’t costly to make or purchase, and they appealed to middle-class shoppers. Jensen’s style reflected themes from nature, in tune with the Arts & Crafts movement in England and Art Nouveau in France. The pieces were all carefully, lovingly handmade, as if each were a work of art unto itself, as opposed to the machine-stamped, mass-produced lines of the Industrial Revolution.

Pyramid pattern flatware set, service of 12, designed by Georg Jensen. Sold for $1,800. Jasper52 image

 

The Jensen craftsmanship was then carried over to the production of flatware and hollowware. His teapot with a floral motif called Magnolia was expanded into a full tea or coffee service. His work in utilitarian pieces blossomed into bowls, boxes, pitchers, candelabra, chandeliers, clocks, dishes and trays.

Finding and being able to acquire those large pieces from the Jensen workshops has become increasingly difficult, according to Millea.

This sterling silver cake service, with stylized bud handle, was designed by Georg Jensen in 1945. Courtesy of Brunk Auctions

 

Robin Rice, silver specialist at Brunk Auctions in Asheville, N.C., said Jensen hollowware is still appearing on the market, often coming from the shelves of collectors who are downsizing. They tend to end up in the hands of
 other advanced collectors, though.

Younger customers tend to pay more attention to Jensen jewelry, such as brooches, cufflinks and tie clips, or to the flatware, said Michael Millea. His design-conscious peers are often more interested in the “clean-lined” designs. “The Pyramid-patterned flatware and the fluted patterns appeal to the modernist aesthetic that is so popular now.”

 

Georg Jensen Sterling Silver Large Meat Platter or Serving Tray No. 290B, Circa: 1930’s. Estimate: $20,000-$30,000. Jasper52 image

 

Rice said the most desirable, larger pieces are the trays, pitchers and bowls. Flatware designed by Georg Jensen himself, particularly in the Grapevine and Blossom patterns, are also highly sought after and remain among the more affordable Jensen products. While the Jensen artists intended their work to be beautiful objects that could and should be used, collectors of the hollowware and flatware don’t always concur. “Whether it’s Jensen or English silver or something else, there are certain collectors who like to surround themselves with antiques and feel that using them is part of owning them, and that they should be used,” Millea has found. “And there are certain people who feel just the opposite – that they should be looked at and admired but not used. That’s true in most collecting categories, whether it’s Jensen or other antiques.”

A 1945 sterling beaker by Georg Jensen. Courtesy of Brunk Auctions

 

Jensen Jewelry

Interest in jewelry produced by the Jensen workshops is stronger than ever, according to Gloria Lieberman, director of Fine Jewelry at the Boston headquarters of auction and appraisal company Skinner Inc.

Jensen sterling silver and green onyx necklace. Courtesy of Skinner Auctioneers & Appraisers

 

“I think the popularity is growing because there is a larger population looking at Jensen (through) the Internet,” Lieberman explained. And because Jensen pieces are easily identified by their name and number, the Internet is a reliable marketplace, she said. Web searchers are purchasing Jensen’s modernist styles, many of which were not as popular a mere 10 years ago. And the hottest trend in Jensen jewelry is the gold line. The name Jensen is primarily associated with silver, but at age 14 Georg Jensen apprenticed with a goldsmith in Copenhagen. So gold actually goes back to the designer’s roots, as well.

“It has been around for a while,” Lieberman said, “but nobody cared about it years ago…not until the last year or two.”

 

Georg Jensen Silver Moonstone Bracelet, made by Georg Jensen in Denmark circa 1926. Estimate: $3,500-$5,000. Jasper52 image

 

Collectors still chase after the larger silver pieces as well. “The bigger and drippier, the better,” Lieberman said. “But those pieces were not in large production, so they fetch a high price.” Past sales at Skinner have seen the sale of a large brooch and early necklace, each reaching the $10,000 range. “It is, of course, about rarity,” Lieberman added.
 Jensen’s jewelry was not always so dear in price. “He was part of the Art Nouveau movement, and that was not about using precious stones and precious materials. It was about handcrafted floral designs. It was about silver, and the look of jewelry forged by hand.” In Jensen pieces, the hammered work and markings are plainly visible, and the stones were not the principal concern.

“But customers loved his combination of amber and green stones. Collectors love the moonstones still.”

 


By Alan Jaffe

Adapted from original article appearing in Auction Central News

A Trip Around the World Through Historical Maps

Maps are snapshots of world history. They record the result of battles, migrations and the birth of new nations. Enthusiasts collect maps for various reasons. The mind, the eye, and the heart all play a role in making new acquisitions.

For serious scholars, maps are crucial documents that present reality on the ground at a particular date. They reveal the borderlines in a year of conflict or the growth of cities during and after a period of global exploration. Rarity is more important than condition; a single example may reveal information that was previously unknown to anyone.

Maps can be as ornamental as they are informative. Cartographers were not content with just the ground plan; artists added ornamental borders, stately personifications of a city or state, and even mythological monsters swimming in the oceans.

Maps hold extra visual appeal when displayed in groups of three or four. Maps can reveal details of the place and time when ancestors were born or record pleasant details of special events – a honeymoon in France, gap year in New Zealand, anniversary cruise to Alaska – a map that recalls a special memory will bring a smile every time you walk past it.

Cuba with Havana Inset

Cuba with Havana inset, 1902, 14½ x 22in. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers

Thanks to improved diplomatic relations, a new wave of American travelers is discovering the rich cultural heritage of the island-nation of Cuba. The date of the map shown above – 1902 – was a crucial year for the country; American occupation had ended and a free Republic of Cuba was born.

 

Map of North America

1850 Map of North America by Thomas Cowperthwait. Image courtesy of Jasper52

This 1850 Map of North America by Thomas Cowperthwait is a colorful lesson in global spheres of influence. Canada remained a British possession until 1867, and Russia ruled Alaska until Seward’s purchase of the territory that same year. The Southwestern United States were still in transition. Texas declared statehood in 1845 and California in 1850, but Arizona and New Mexico would remain Mexican territories until 1912.

 

Map of France

1829 Malte-Brun Map of France. Image courtesy of Jasper52

Maps approach their subjects with different objectives. This 1829 Malte-Brun Map of France indicates not only the region’s settlements and topography, but also its political divisions.

 

Map of the Low Countries

1753 Homann Map of the Low Countries. Image courtesy of Jasper52

Anyone with ancestry from Belgium, the Netherlands or Luxembourg can trace family history on this detailed Map of the Low Countries with counties carefully outlined in color. An elaborate cartouche depicts the heraldic shields of the 17 provinces, as well as Neptune and Hermes with a globe illustrating the Dutch East Indies. The 1753 map was printed by Homann, Nurnberg.

 

Map of Virginia

1855 map of Virginia printed by G.W. Colton shows the state before West Virginia became a state of its own. Image courtesy of Jasper52

This map from G.W. Colton was printed in 1855 and shows Virginia as it looked before West Virginia became a separate state and six years before the beginning of the Civil War. Its insets depict the cities of Richmond and Norfolk.

 

Map of Northern Russia

1792 de L’Isle Map of Russia. Image courtesy of Jasper52

This attractive 1792 de L’Isle map covers northern Russia, from the Arctic Ocean and Finland to just beyond the Petzora River. It highlights in detail the topography, along with numerous villages, towns and roads. Its colorful cartouche features putti and a variety of scientific instruments. This important map of the European portion of the Russian Empire of the late 16th century is a testament to how much change has occurred in the area that eventually became the Soviet Union.

If you’ve purchased a map that is not already framed, it is wise to choose a frame shop with experience in mounting fragile documents. Once preserved with acid-free materials and sun-resistant glass, your map becomes a handsome virtual time capsule of geographic history to adorn your home or office.


By Karla Klein Albertson

Kilim and Dhurrie Rugs Complement Trending Tribal Style

As part of the red-hot globalism trend, “tribal style” – exotic, eclectic and influenced by travel – has spread from fashion to home decor. There’s a caravan of interesting furniture and accessories that work in any space, from the sleek and contemporary to the simple and functional.

“It’s a look that’s meant to reflect the places you’ve been and the decorative objects you brought home,” says New York designer Elaine Griffin. “And it’s perfectly fine if you’ve voyaged no further than the Internet, in the comfort of your living room.”

Authentic tribal Persian hamedan rug, all-wool, vegetable dye pile hand-knotted in Iran. Jasper52 image

Rugs are a big part of the style, and not just on the floor. Griffin says “the flat-weave kilim and dhurrie rugs that are now back with a vengeance move stylishly onto upholstered chairs, sofas and ottomans.”

Kilim rugs are admired for their bold, geometric flat-weave patterns. They’ve been hand-woven for generations in Turkey, North Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Indian dhurrie rug, 13 1/2 x 14 1/2 feet. Kaminski Auctions image

A lot of their appeal lies in the bold motifs and pigment dyes, with elements like wolf’s mouths, stars and fertility symbols interpreted in geometric patterns. Back in Victorian England, smoking rooms and nooks were rife with kilim-covered furniture.

British manufacturer George Smith is known for kilim upholstery marked by careful pattern alignment and crisply tucked edges. They make a range of armchairs and benches covered in detailed modern and vintage Turkish flat-weaves. Karma Living’s collection of smartly styled midcentury modern chairs and footstools are upholstered in bold strips and tribal patterns.

Both new and antique versions are interesting, working well not only as upholstery, but as wall hangings or table coverings. The handcrafted nature of kilims, Oriental and rag rugs plays well with woods and metals. White walls make them pop, while more saturated hues are complementary frames.

1900s Caucasian Kilim, all-wool, natural dyed with vegetable dye, detailed colorful design pattern, flat-woven rug. Jasper52 image

Joss & Main’s style director, Donna Garlough, says pouf ottomans are one of her favorite twists on the Bohemian-inspired trend.

“They’re a great way to add a pop of pattern to a room, and you can use them for extra seating if you’re having a party,” she says.

An added bonus of these materials is that they’re pretty tightly woven and durable, and the bright patterns often camouflage stains.

“You don’t have to worry as much about a toddler spilling juice on a kilim-covered cocktail ottoman as you would if the upholstery were linen or leather,” Garlough says.

Turkmen kilim wool rug, hand-knotted, 9 1/2 x 15 feet Afganistan, 2000s. Jasper52 image

Atlanta-based artist and textile designer Beth Lacefield has done a collection of kilim poufs for Surya in both muted tones and vibrant hues like raspberry, burnt orange and olive green.

Boston designer Jill Rosenwald’s pouf collection for the retailer is also inspired by Indian flat-weave rugs, with sophisticated chocolate browns, grays and other muted hues.

Crafters will find lots of ideas online for turning inexpensive rag rugs from big box stores into floor pillows, headboard covers and benches.

Courtney Schutz, a designer from Point Reyes, California, turned a staid, traditional, upholstered bench into a fun piece for a girls’ room by gilding the legs and covering the seat with a gumball-colored rag rug.

At Style Me Pretty, Toronto designer Jacquelyn Clark offers a simple tutorial on sewing throw-rug pieces into a square, filling it with foam beads, and then closing it up with thread or a zipper to make a big pillow.

While the kilims have an earthy rusticity, distressed wool, linen or silk rugs can make a more elegant piece. Pottery Barn has a cotton velvet line inspired by Persian carpeting. And West Elm‘s Ornament velvet pouf comes in sophisticated, soothing hues of ivory or platinum.


By KIM COOK, Associated Press
Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
AP-WF-02-21-17 1537GMT

Handcrafted Advertising Signs Now Attracting Collectors

Look carefully at any real-photo postcard of Main Street in an American town of the early 20th century and chances are you will see a number of hand-painted signs. These signs were hand-lettered by sign painters, now a near-obsolete occupation in an age of computerized graphics.

Collectors are drawn to the folky look of signs made with brush and paint, which stand out amid modern cookie-cutter signage of today. There has been a renewed interest in recent years in the visually captivating craft of sign painting.

A high illiteracy rate was the main reason early trade signs were formed as figural representations of the product or service the vendor provided. A butcher might display the carved-wood head of a bull. A dentist would hang a larger-than-life molar, complete with roots. A giant pocket watch represented a jeweler or clockmaker. Of all the figural trade signs of the 19th century, the most valuable is the iconic cigar store Indian, which stood at the entrance to the town tobacconist’s establishment.

Primitive boot maker’s sign, circa 1870s, wood with metal trim reinforcement, 36 x x 23in, stenciled name ‘J.E. Breeze.’ Brian Lebel’s Old West Events image

 

By the turn of the 20th century, most Americans could read, so accordingly, commercial signs incorporated text in eye-catching lettering. Sign painters were in high demand, whether to create a sign for display in a store window or a large advertisement to be painted, and viewed, high on the side of a building.

While the latter has often been covered up by development or faded into what some call a “ghost sign,” smaller hand-painted signs advertising goods and services do appear on the secondary market and are appreciated for their folk-art qualities.

The simplest are single boards, usually having an attached wooden frame, that have painted text on a contrasting background color. The expression “to hang out your shingle,” in the sense of starting your own business, may have originated with such a sign.

Nineteenth-century wooden trade sign, ‘O.B. Richards, M. D., Office,’ artist-signed ‘ALLEN,’ 12 x 23in. Copake Auction Inc. image

 

Signs to be placed out and over a store’s entrance or posted on a roadside were double-sided so they could be seen by passersby from two directions. It’s common to find that such signs are more weathered and faded on one side than the other, due to greater exposure to the sun and prevailing elements.

‘Tourists’ sign, probably intended for travelers seeking lodging, painted on both sides with red wood frame, early 20th century, 28 x 14 in. MB Abram Galleries

 

Signs posted in rural locales often have arrows directing motorists off the highway onto a side road to the desired location.

‘Sunset Farm Milk,’ painted wood, 1930s, 15.5in x 40.5in. Jasper52 image

 

Figural signs did not disappear entirely as the literacy rate increased; instead, they transitioned to include hand-painted lettering. Like weather vanes of the late 1800s, many signs simply became flat rather than three dimensional.

Folk art hollow body trade sign, double-sided fish with painted lettering ‘Fishing Tackle and Ammunition,’ 44-1/2in long. Conestoga Auction Co.

 

For added visual appeal, many sign painters depicted the product being sold by the vendor, such as fruits and vegetables.

Double-sided farm stand sign, on plywood, 24 inches square, circa 1930. Jasper52 image

 

Reverse-painting on glass gave a sign a formal look and preserved the lettering from wear, since it was often protected by a frame.

Early 1900s reverse-painted sign, 18 x 37 1/2in. Copake Auction Inc. image

 

Expect to find usual wear, weathering and fading on signs that were used outdoors. Avoid the temptation to repaint or even touch-up old paint. It is better to leave a vintage sign in “as found” condition, which speaks to its character.

Vintage painted wooden antiques trade sign having applied carved letters on long rectangular reserve, old painted surface, now weathered, mid-20th century. 20 1/4 x 89in. Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates image

For a fascinating look into the world of antique signs and advertising turn to the Picker’s Pocket Guide: Signs by Eric Bradley (2014: Krause Publications, 800-258-0929).


For more handcrafted antique signs, take a look at our weekly Americana and Folk Art auctions.

 

How Youth Literature Became Big Business

The Many Pens Behind Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and Other Youth Fiction Heroes

Juvenile literature is big business. Of the top 10 most successful authors of all time – both in terms of books sold and total revenue generated – three wrote for young audiences. Those titans of youth fiction include Britain’s Enid Blyton, illustrator/cartoonist-turned-writer Dr. Seuss, and, of course, Harry Potter mastermind J.K. Rowling, whose book sales surpass all but those of William Shakespeare, Agatha Christie and a few other long-established authors, including Barbara Cartland, Danielle Steele and Harold Robbins.

Today, the names of successful writers of youth-oriented literature – Stephenie Meyer, Veronica Roth, etc. – are virtual “brands” of their own and known the world over. But there was a time when book publishers owned the authors’ invented names and used salaried, in-house ghostwriters to pen the riveting tales of young but confident characters like Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and the earliest protagonists of the late-19th/early 20th-century adolescent-fiction genre: the Rover Boys. The writers were interchangeable, but the tone of each series remained remarkably consistent throughout.

1903 photo portrait of Edward Stratemeyer from the Stratemeyer Syndicate records, Manuscripts and Archives Division. Public domain image

The first book packager to aim its books at children rather than adults was the Stratemeyer Syndicate, founded by New Jersey publisher Edward Stratemeyer. A national survey conducted in 1922 revealed that, by far, most books read at leisure by American children were titles produced by Stratemeyer.

What made Stratemeyer’s books different was their focus on entertainment, as opposed to moral instruction. Children could tap into their imaginations and mentally immerse themselves into the adventures of sci-fi savant Tom Swift or boarding school sleuths the Dana Girls, or for the very young, the Bobbsey Twins.

 

 

Scan of the cover of the original 1910 book Tom Swift and His Motorcycle, 1910, from a series ghostwritten by numerous Stratemeyer Syndicate in-house writers using the pen name Victor Appleton. Public domain image

No fewer than 15 ghostwriters produced the hugely successful Nancy Drew books under the pen name “Carolyn Keene,” although Mildred Wirt (later Mildred Wirt Benson) is credited as having been the principal writer. The writers initially were paid $125 for each book and were required by their contract to relinquish all rights to their work and to maintain confidentiality. That’s a far cry from, say, J.K. Rowling’s lucrative deals, which have led to her astounding net worth of an estimated $750 million.

15 Nancy Drew titles actually used in the filming of the opening sequence of the movie ‘Nancy Drew: Mystery in the Hollywood Hills.’ Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and PBA Galleries

The Stratemeyer series of books about teenage detective Nancy Drew began in 1930 with The Secret of the Old Clock. It was followed with a new book release every year for the next 26 years. A joint publishing venture between Stratemeyer and Grosset & Dunlap added 21 more titles from 1959 through 1979, followed by the last 22 books of the series, which were issued as a Stratemeyer/Simon & Schuster collaboration, from 1979 through 1985.

‘The Secret of the Old Clock,’ Nancy Drew mystery originally published in 1930. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and Gray’s Auctioneers

A cultural icon, Nancy Drew is cited as a formative influence by a number of successful women, from Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Sonia Sotomayor to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former First Lady Laura Bush. Feminist literary critics have analyzed the character’s enduring appeal, arguing variously that Nancy Drew is a mythic hero, an expression of wish fulfillment, or an embodiment of contradictory ideas about femininity.

‘The Secret of the Golden Pavilion,’ Nancy Drew mystery originally published in 1959. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and PBA Galleries

Where Nancy Drew appealed mostly to girls, amateur detectives Frank and Joe Hardy – the Hardy Boys – attracted a mostly male readership. Like the Nancy Drew books, which all carried the Carolyn Keene byline, the Hardy Boys titles were created by a number of different ghostwriters who used the pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon. Nineteen of the first 25 Hardy Boys books were the work of Canadian journalist Leslie McFarlane. The series enjoyed a long original-print run lasting from 1927 through 2005. Worldwide, more than 70 million copies of Hardy Boys books have been sold, and the first title of the series, The Tower Treasure, still sells over 100,000 copies per year worldwide.

‘The Disappearing Floor,’ first edition Hardy Boys mystery published in 1940. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and Heritage Auctions

Both Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys have reappeared in other forms of entertainment, including feature films, TV shows, board games, and video games. But to collectors, the most imaginative way to experience their teen heroes’ adventures is still through a book from the original series, especially with the colorful dust jacket still intact.


On the hunt for vintage youth books? View this week’s antiquarian book auction and discover your next treasure.

4 Names To Know When Collecting Photogravures

Early photographs are appealing for several reasons. They have artistic value, sometimes historical relevance, and often a connection to personal and societal moments captured in time. An element sometimes forgotten among the other qualities of early photographs is the scientific innovation within photographic processes. Remarkably intricate processes shaped the evolution of photography, and one of those processes is photogravure.

When asked about the simplest definition of the complex process of photogravure, Wm. B. Becker, director of The American Museum of Photography, provided this explanation:

“It’s a way of printing photographs in ink instead of using chemicals. There is no dot pattern like you’d see in a photo printed in a newspaper or magazine.”

Karl Blossfeldt (German, 1865-1932), lot of 30 black and white photogravures of flowers, 1928, 1932, 1942. Estimate: $350-$450. Featured in the Feb. 4, 2017 Fine Prints & Multiples Auction by Jasper52. (Jasper52 image)

Becker, who has curated exhibitions and published two books and dozens of articles about the history of photography, further explained that the photomechanical process results in prints that are made in ink on a printing press. The process involves transferring the photographic image onto a copper printing plate. The plate is then etched to retain ink in areas corresponding to the black sections of a picture.

The process, patented by Karl Klič in 1879, has inspired generations of  photographers and produced a multitude of impressive gravures. The process Klič formalized expanded on the method of photoglyphic engraving developed by William Henry Fox Talbot.

RIGHT: Karl Blossfeldt (German, 1865-1932), Anemone Blanda, First Edition, 1829. Estimate: $100-$250.
CENTER + LEFT: One of a group lot of 30 Karl Blossfeldt, black and white photogravures of flowers, 1928, 1932, 1942. Group lot estimate: $350-$450.
Featured in the Feb. 4, 2017 Fine Prints & Multiples Auction by Jasper52. (Jasper52 images)

As with many forms of art, there are names that are commonly cited as leaders in the field. The history of photogravure is no exception, and among its most referenced pioneers and champions are:

Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) is an American photographer whose contributions to the advancement and appreciation of photography are numerous. He founded the Photo-Secession Movement, which, according to information from The J. Paul Getty Museum site, is defined as an attempt “to prove that pictorialist photography was a fine art form.”

Alfred Stieglitz (American 1864-1946), The Terminal, photogravure on tissue, dated 1892 in lower right margin. Sold for $72,000 + buyer’s premium on Dec. 1, 2012 by Leland Little Auctions. (LiveAuctioneers/Leland Little Auctions image)

Stieglitz’s archive of early work seems to serve as a diary of his travels. In the 1890s his photographs included scenes taken in various European countries as well as the bustling streets of New York City, just ahead of the turn of the 20th century.

Upon his return from studying in Germany, Stieglitz’s father helped secure a job for him at the New-York Photogravure Co., Becker explained. It’s believed that this company published Stieglitz’s first portfolio. Stieglitz went on to also head the very popular periodical, Camera Work magazine.

Gertrude Kasebier (American, 1852-1934), Portrait of Miss Minnie Ashley from Camera Work 10, 1905, photogravure on laid tissue. Sold for $200 + buyer’s premium on May 20, 2011 by Skinner Inc. (LiveAuctioneers/Skinner Inc. image)

Gertrude Kasebier (1852-1934) was among the early modernists who were members of the Photo-Secession group, said Becker. Before producing revered photographs, she was an art student at the Pratt Institute. She was also one of the first two women to be elected to the British Linked Ring (also referred to as The Brotherhood of the Linked Ring).  The group’s focus, similar to that of the Photo-Secession Movement, was to present and promote photography as a form of fine art, that drew on science to continually improve and evolve.

Becker cites “The Manger” and “Blessed Art Thou Amongst Women” as some of Kasebier’s most creative photographs turned into gravures for Camera Work magazine.

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) was a native of Luxembourg, who moved with his family to the United States when he was a child. Early on, teachers identified his artistic talents. Eventually he worked as an apprentice at the American Fine Art Company, which resulted in his exposure to photography. In short order, he was exhibiting his photography at shows. According to information at the International Photography Hall of Fame website, he participated in his first show when he was just 19, and the single juror of that show was another famed photographer and practitioners of the photogravure process, Clarence White.

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973), Gloria Swanson, photogravure, 1924, printed 1930. Sold for $1,200 + buyer’s premium on Oct. 15, 2016 by Stanford Auctioneers. (LiveAuctioneers/Stanford Auctioneers image)

At the age of 20, Steichen sold his first photographs to none other than Alfred Stieglitz, and a couple years later he joined Stieglitz in forming the Photo-Secession. His work appeared in Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Art et Decoration. Subjects of his portraits included Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin, and George Gershwin, among others.

Becker points to works including “The Flatiron,” “J P Morgan,” and “Pond – Moonlight,” as beautiful and innovative examples of Steichen’s work.

Peter Henry Emerson (1856-1936) began life in Cuba, lived in the United States for a time during his youth, and ultimately moved to England as a teen. His dedication and promotion of the naturalistic approach to photography is at the cornerstone of his career portfolio.

As Becker points out, Emerson was among the first to use photogravure as a means of distributing his photographs. They were included in bound volumes and at least one portfolio. His book titled Naturalistic Photography for Students of the Art was published in 1889. Among the profound statements Emerson makes in this highly sought-after reference is, “Many photographers think they are photographing nature when they are only caricaturing her.”

Whether looking for examples by these oft-referenced iconic photographers, or contemporary photographers, Becker says the collector should start by knowing exactly what they are buying — and the best way to do that is to ask questions. He suggests these queries:

  1. Where did the gravure originate?
  2. If it was taken from a book or magazine, which one, and how many copies were printed?
  3. Is it signed by the photographer — and if not, why not?
  4. Was the intent of the photographer to see it removed from the context of the book and framed on someone’s wall, or was it intended to be seen in a particular order with other illustrations?
  5. Is there any advantage to purchasing a photogravure of this image over a modern-day print that might, because of improved technology, more accurately capture the nuances of the original (darkroom-made) photograph?

View this week’s Vintage Gravures auction and find your next artwork.


Wm. B. Becker is a journalist, writer, collector and historian of photography. In addition to serving as director of the award-winning online museum The American Museum of Photography, images from his collection have been exhibited at museums in the United States and Europe, and have appeared in numerous publications. His 25-year career in media resulted in four Emmy® Awards and led to two terms as a National Trustee of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He currently serves on the board of the Michigan Photographic Historical Society.

Online Resources: The American Museum of Photography, Museum of Modern Art, Collectors Weekly, The J. Paul Getty Museum, International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum, Art of the Photogravure

7 Fine Prints That Scream Springtime

As we round the corner into February, we can’t help but feel a natural wistful-ness for sunnier skies, warmer weather, and greenery. Winter is certainly a precious time of year, but one that drags on far too long. Luckily for us, this week’s fine print auction is full of spring-time inspiration from flowers to birds to prints of outdoor scenes. Mixed in with the impressive Keith Haring prints and the unique “Head of a Woman” by Pablo Picasso are elements of the upcoming season.

Find some spring excitement with the below 7 prints.

Wildflowers by Mary Vaux Walcott

This lot of 29 prints wildflower prints stunningly portrays the beauty of spring flowers.

Lot of 29 Wildflower Prints from North American Wildflowers, Volume I by Mary Vaux Walcott, published by Smithsonian Institute, 1925. Estimate: $100-$300

 

Glaucis Lanceoalota (Lanceolate Hermit) by John Gould

Nothing says spring like a chirping bird.

Glaucis Lanceoalota (Lanceolate Hermit) by John Gould, First Edition, Published by London, 1849. Estimate: $900-$1,000

 

Fiery Rosebay Rhododendron by Robert Sweet

Fiery? Yes, please.

‘Fiery Rosebay Rhododendron’ by Robert Sweet, from The British Flower Garden, 1838. Estimate: $350-$450

 

Eye-of-the-Sun Tulip (Tulipa Oculus Solis) by Pancrace Bessa

This hand colored print dazzles with color.

Eye-of-the-Sun Tulip (Tulipa Oculus Solis) by Pancrace Bessa, from Flore des Jardiniers, Amateurs, et Manufacturiers, 1836. Estimate: $400-$600

 

Bass Wood by Pancrace Bessa & J.P. Redoute

We all crave some greenery in springtime after a bare winter of white.

Bass Wood by Pancrace Bessa & J.P. Redoute, published by F.A. Michaux, Philadelphia, 1865. Estimate: $50-$100

 

Yellow Canary by James Bolton

Waking up to the chirps of the canary is so sweet.

Yellow Canary by James Bolton, from Harmonia Ruralis, 1824, framed. Estimate: $400-$600

 

Myrtle Beach Dunes Golf by Mark King

Hurry up, it’s almost tee time!

Myrtle Beach Dunes Golf, XL/CXLV, by Mark King, 1991. Estimate: $800 – $1,000

 

Explore the full catalog of fine prints and register to bid in this weekend’s auction.

How Dust Jackets Play a Key Role in Value of Collectible Books

In this throwaway society it seems ironic that the 19th-century innovation known as a dust jacket is no longer discarded once the book it was designed to protect is brought home. In collector circles, the paper wrapper is regarded as an integral part of a book.

By definition, the dust jacket is a book’s detachable outer cover, usually made of paper and printed with text and illustrations. This outer cover has folded flaps that secure it inside the front and back book covers.

LEFT: One of the most important literary works of the 20th century and Ernest Hemingway’s most difficult first edition to find with its dust jacket is ‘The Sun Also Rises.’ This first edition with the proper first-edition dust jacket sold at a PBA Galleries auction for $42,000 in 2006. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers and PBA Galleries
RIGHT: A first edition of ‘The Sun Also Rises’ without its dust jacket sold at auction in 2006 for only $168. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers and PBA Galleries

Early dust jackets looked much different than they do today. After book publishers began using cloth bindings in the 1820s, they started providing dust wrappers, which protected books while being transported from the merchant to the buyer’s home. Because jackets of this type were torn when opened, they were normally discarded. Since they were not intended to be re-used, few survived.

Publishers’ dust jackets of the modern style, which covered just the binding and left the text block exposed, were in wide use by the 1890s.

After 1900, as bookbindings became less decorative, publishers paid greater attention to dust jackets, adding multiple colors, graphics, information and advertising. As dust jackets became more attractive than the bindings, more people began to keep the jackets on their books.

Today it would be unthinkable to discard a book’s dust jacket. Booksellers and collectors generally consider it essential to the package. A dust jacket on a book can be compared to the original finish on a fine piece of antique furniture.

“Not all dust jackets are created equal. It matters most with books that are avidly collected – that usually means some 20th-century literary first editions and fine press books. It can matter much less where the content is the major factor when purchasing the book,” said Dale A. Sorenson, PhD, ISA AM, a rare book expert and former owner of Waverly Auctions Inc. (now Waverly Rare Books).

“Of course, condition of the book and condition of dust jacket – or lack of a dust jacket – can play an important part in determining value. Recent literary first editions without a dust jacket become very difficult to sell unless priced at a few dollars,” said Sorenson.

In many instances a book with its dust jacket will appeal to collectors, but without it? Not so much. “It matters most where the dust jacket becomes the wide swing factor in value – first editions by Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, where depending upon the condition of the dust jacket, the presence of one can raise the price 5, 10, sometimes 20 or more times than one without dust jacket,” said Sorenson.

A dust jacket can also support the distinction of whether or not the book is a first edition. As an example, a short statement by Truman Capote is printed in green on the inside front flap of first-edition dust jackets of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Such examples are scarce and highly prized.

“On Our way” by Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1934, hardcover with dust jacket. Sold for $1,000 by Jasper52.

Since the mid-20th century, it has become a widespread practice for publishers to print the price of a book on the inside flap on the dust jacket, and for many years it was common for the buyer to clip off the corner of the jacket bearing the price. Most book collectors frown upon this practice. In some cases – one being John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath – the lower inside corner of the dust jacket states “First Edition.” Sorenson says,“If clipped, much of the value is gone, as it becomes unclear if the dust jacket is the one that was actually issued with a first-edition copy.”

Another problematic practice is matching a found dust jacket with a book that lacks one. “It is done, but there could be a subtle difference between the original dust jacket and the one supplied, negating the value hoped for by supplying the dust jacket from another source,” said Sorenson, adding that the marriage should be noted along with the source.

Sorenson said that the subject of just jackets is complicated and that there are many exceptions to be considered. Dust jackets add only nominal monetary value to books in general circulation. They function as intended, i.e., to attract the initial buyer and to protect the book from too much direct handling and wear. “Where they do become important is when the book is a title that attracts collectors as opposed to readers,” Sorenson said.

For more information, Sorenson recommends Book Collecting 2000 by Allen and Patricia Ahearn. The first section contains extensive detail on the various aspects of collecting books. He also recommends Collected Books The Guide to Identification and Values by the same authors. It contains less detail about collecting and is primarily an extensive list of books in various categories, with current market prices.

Check out this week’s book auction for excellent antiquarian book finds.


Dale A. Sorenson, Ph.D., is former owner of Waverly Auctions Inc. and currently an ISA accredited personal property appraiser of used and rare books, maps, prints and autographs.

Key Facts and Tips About Collecting Books by U.S. Presidents

The inauguration of the 45th president of the United States is a fitting time in which to compile a few fascinating facts about books written by presidents of the past and present.

Books authored by presidents are a popular choice with collectors, and for good reason. The depth and diversity of topics addressed in such books is simply staggering. Books penned by American presidents appeal to an immeasurable cross section of people. From die-hard bibliophiles and historians, to educators and even the most casual of readers, there is a shared interest in the memoirs from the Oval Office perspective. Below are a few interesting facts on these presidential books:

Fact #1: The first U.S. president put pen – likely a quill pen – to parchment paper well before he was elected to the nation’s highest office. President George Washington wrote “The Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior In Company and Conversation” before he celebrated his 16th birthday. The “Rules,” of which there are 110, are said to be an extension of a list compiled by French Jesuits in the late 16th century. President Washington reportedly copied the rules as part of a writing assignment. Washington’s version of the “Rules” was first published as a book in 1888, according to an article from The Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington by Katrina Schoorl.

Tip #1: Collecting autobiographies written by presidents, especially modern-era presidents, is often a more affordable option if collecting presidential ephemera is the goal. The investment in a president-written book is often less expensive than presidential signatures, according to Ken Gloss, owner of Brattle Book Shop, in an article in The Journal of Antiques and Collectibles.

The Winning of the West, Daniel Boone Edition, leather-bound four-volume set, Theodore Roosevelt, G.P. Putnam & Sons, New York and London, 1900, sold for $9,000 during a 2013 auction conducted by Wiederseim Associates, Inc.

Fact #2: Many presidents opted to write memoirs or autobiographies, or assist in biographies about them. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter both took this approach. In addition, their prolific literary paths also included writing adventure tales or fiction, respectively. Roosevelt, reportedly the author of more than 30 books, wrote about the settlement of the Western U.S. in the multi-volume work “The Winning of the West.” In addition, Carter’s tale “The Hornet’s Nest,” was the first fiction novel written by a U.S. president.

The Winning of the West, Daniel Boone Edition, leather-bound four-volume set, Theodore Roosevelt, G.P. Putnam & Sons, New York and London, 1900, sold for $9,000 during a 2013 auction conducted by Wiederseim Associates, Inc.

Fact#3: Various U.S. presidents’ writings have achieved bestseller status, but only one has garnered a Pulitzer Prize. President John F. Kennedy was awarded the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for Biography for his book Profiles in Courage, although for years there have been rumblings about the book having been written by a ghostwriter.

Tip #2: One way to enhance a collection of works written by U.S. presidents is to consider including books written by first ladies. In the 2015 blog post Collecting Rare Books and Autographs of American Presidents, from Bauman Rare Books’, author Rebecca Romney refers to books by Eleanor Roosevelt and Jackie Kennedy Onassis. Romney states, “Books signed or written by Jackie O. and other first ladies are naturally a rewarding path to explore as well.”

Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, Ulysses S. Grant, Charles L. Webster & Company, New York, 1885, first edition, two-volume set, sold for $676 through Early American History Auctions in 2015.

Fact #4: Thomas Jefferson, the man credited with authoring the Declaration of Independence, was also a serious bibliophile. At one time, his personal library included nearly 10,000 books. In a letter he wrote to John Adams, Jefferson stated, “I cannot live without books,” according to an article by Endrina Tay appearing on the Encyclopedia Virginia site. In addition to published letters, he completed one full manuscript, “Notes on the State of Virginia.” This work was published in 1785, with an initial run of 200 copies paid for by Jefferson, according to information on the Massachusetts Historical Society site.

A video from the Massachusetts Historical Society about the conservation of Jefferson’s “Notes on the State of Virginia” can be viewed on YouTube.

Interested in viewing rare books by presidents and prolific authors alike? Take a look at this week’s Jasper52 books auction. You’re “bound” to find something to enjoy. 

Discover 19th Century United States in 13 Antiquarian Maps

One interesting way to understand historical picture is through antiquarian maps. Maps can tell stories with a unique geographical, objective perspective in a way no other medium can. And they make great wall art.

Today, we’re traveling back in time through these 13 historical maps of US states from the 19th century:

Florida, 1835

Map of Florida by Illustrator and Cartographer Thomas G. Bradford, First Edition, 1835. Estimate: $200-$250

 

Arkansas, 1841

‘Tanner Map of Arkansas – A New Map of Arkansas with its Canals Roads & Distances,’ Cartographer: Henry S. Tanner, 1841. Estimate: $200-$250

 

Atlas Map of Texas, 1873

Gray’s Atlas Map of Texas, Illustrator: O. W. Gray, 1873. Estimate: $250-$300

 

New York, 1846

A New Map of New York with its Canals, Roads & Distances, Cartographer S. Augustus Mitchell, Illustrator H. Burroughs, First Edition, 1846. Estimate: $150-$200

 

New Jersey, 1814

The State of New Jersey, Compiled from the Most Authentic Information, Cartographer M. Carey, 1814. Estimate: $600-$800

 

Illinois, 1874

Warner Beers Map of Illinois: Political and Geological – Political Map of Illinois / Worthen’s Geological and Climate Map of Illinois, ca 1874. Estimate: $100-$150

 

Indiana, 1846

A New Map of Indiana with Its Roads & Distances, Cartographer: S. Augustus Mitchell, Illustrator H.N. Burroughs, 1846. Estimate: $100-$150

 

Iowa, 1853

A New Map of the State of Iowa, Cartographer: S. Augustus Mitchell, Publisher: Thomas Cowperthwait & Co, 1853. Estimate: $150-$200

 

Nebraska & Kanzas, 1855

Nebraska and Kanzas, Cartographer: J. H. Colton, 1855. Estimate: $200-$250

 

Minnesota, 1882

Rand McNally Map of Minnesota – Rand McNally & Company’s Indexed Atlas of the World, 1882. Estimate: $100-$150

 

Ohio, 1887

J.T. Barker’s Rail Road and Township Map of Ohio, 1887. Estimate: $100-$150

 

California, 1892

New Business Atlas Map of California, Rand McNally, 1892. Estimate: $150-$200

 

Texas, 1883

Texas, Cartographer: George F. Cram, 1883. Estimate: $120-$200

 

Want to explore more of the United States or perhaps jump continents? Check out this week’s Antiquarian Map auction for beautiful map prints.