Thursday, September 17, 2015

This Weekend in Brooklyn

Saturday and Sunday, September 19-20, I will be presenting an exhibition of American publishers' bindings at the Brooklyn Books, Art, Photos & Design Expo. At 2:00 pm each day I will be giving a talk.  I also will be signing my book, The Art of American Book Covers 1875-1930, and will have my limited and deluxe editions on this subject, which document more than 1,200 designs.

click here for a "friends of Minsky" complimentary VIP pass! 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

American Publishers' Bindings on the Books of Amelia E. Barr 1882-1918

Today hardly anybody knows the name Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr, yet a hundred years ago she was among the most prolific and popular women writing in America. If it were not for the decorated bindings on her books I would not have known she existed. Some of the best cover artists were assigned to her works, including Thomas Watson Ball, Alice Cordelia Morse, Evelyn W. Clark, Blanche McManus Mansfield, Amy Richards, William Snelling Hadaway, Harry B. Matthews, Theodore Brown Hapgood and the Decorative Designers.

After seeing her name on so many books, it struck me that searching for her titles might turn up some designs I had not seen before, and it was true! There are about a hundred items in the exhibition, including the complete original manuscript for one of the books, half typewritten and half handwritten.  Perhaps her typewriter broke halfway through?

Here is an unsigned design that I attribute to T. W. Ball, very much in his style of lettering and panelization, from the time he was doing a lot of work for Dodd:

 Thomas Watson Ball
Souls of Passage
by Amelia E. Barr
with illustrations by Emlen McConnell
New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1901

Amelia Barr was born in  England in 1831, she and her husband emigrated to America in 1853, had nine children, six of whom died, the last three of yellow fever in Galveston, along with her husband, in 1867. She and three daughters moved to New York, and she supported the family writing articles, stories and poems for magazines. The first book of hers I've located was published in 1882, an unattributed early post-Victorian design with Eastlake influence in the lettering:

The Young People of Shakespeare's Dramas
by Amelia E. Barr
New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1882

The exhibition includes only editions published during her lifetime.  She died in 1919 two weeks shy of her 88th birthday, having written about 70 books. This covers the period of greatest change in cover art.

Charles Buckles Falls
The Bell of Bowling Green by Amelia E. Barr
Illustrated by Walter H. Everett
New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1908

The unsigned design below on a small format reprint must have been on a large edition, because nice copies of it are plentiful:

 A Border Shepherdess
by Amelia E. Barr
Dodd, Mead and Company, n.d. ©1887
[likely 1895-1900}

Installation photos of this exhibition are now online. You also can subscribe to the catalog, where you also can read more about her and see additional cover images.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Photos of the exhibition at Brown University

For those who missed the exhibition of One Hundred Great Covers from the Brown UniversityLibrary, 1875-1930 in the John Hay Library (April 15—May 14), I've posted some snapshots on facebook.  Click here or on the photo below.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

At Brown University April 22

I'll be presenting an exhibition and talk on April 22 at the John Hay library at Brown University titled

The Art of American Bookcovers 1875 – 1930

Here's their announcement:

Richard Minsky--  photo by Richard Grosbard-4x4
On April 22, 2015 at 5:30 p.m. in the Lownes Room of the John Hay Library, Richard Minsky will give a talk, “The Art of American Bookcovers 1875 – 1930: One Hundred Great Covers from the Brown University Library.” Minsky will look at selections of books from the Library’s holdings that exemplify book cover styles and their changes during this time period. A Q&A, book sale and signing, and reception will follow the talk. This event is free and open to the public.

A complementary exhibit of the same name will be available for viewing in the Lownes Room cases from April 15 – May 14, 2015 by appointment only. To make an appointment to view the exhibit, please contact the John Hay Library at

In his presentation, Minsky will discuss how Modernism entered the American home on book covers. Proto-Constructivism and Futurism came in 1880, Art Nouveau in 1881. Surrealism and Abstraction in 1904. This period  saw the transition from covers designed by die-engravers to those created by visual artists, many of whom were women. The presentation will include stunning examples from Eastlake style, Arts and Crafts, Aesthetic movement, Poster style and Social Realism.

Richard Minsky is an internationally known book artist, author, historian, curator, and bibliographer. Minsky is the author of American Decorated Publishers’ Bindings 1872-1929, The Art of American Book Covers 1875-1930, The Art of the American Book, The Golden Age of American Book Design, The Book Cover Art of Thomas Watson Ball, and American Trade Bindings with Native American Themes, 1875-1933. In 1974 he founded the Center for Book Arts in New York City, the first organization of its kind.


The hardcover edition of The Art of American Book Covers 1875-1930 sold out two printings and won the Worldwide Books Award for Publications from the Art Libraries Society of North America in 2011.

Date: Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Location: Lownes Room, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A New Exhibition of Publishers' Bindings, 1880-1934

There will be no printed catalog of the new exhibition. Some of the books were cataloged in previous exhibitions, others here on the blog.  Some are new discoveries, and I'll add those to this blog as time permits.

Some installation photos are on my website and more are in a facebook album that has public access. Here are  few to get you going. The website and album have descriptions and commentary.



Hey--this isn't American, it's French!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Evangeline Mary Daniell

I only know of one cover by Evangeline Mary Daniell, who also went by the signature "Eva," but it is such an exceptional Art Nouveau design that it's likely there are others to be found. Please do post a comment if you know of any. Her monogram EMD is on both the cover and dust jacket of the first printing of The Seven Seas by Rudyard Kipling, the first American edition, published by Appleton in 1896. The monogram was removed from the cover on the 1897 and subsequent editions, but remained on the jacket. Three copies were in the first exhibition of American Decorated Publishers' Bindings 1872-1929 (2005).

The design was issued in two variants in 1896, orange cloth and a smooth grey-green fine weave cloth. The orange variant was in the 2005 exhibition. An interesting aspect of this design is the darkened area within the seaweed.  On the grey-green cloth it appears to be accomplished by blind stamping. On the orange cloth, which has more texture, it appears to be stamped with varnish or a similar clear gloss finish.

 Evangeline Mary Daniell
The Seven Seas
by Rudyard Kipling
New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1896
[EMD monogram at the bottom center, detail below]

A  worn reference copy of the 1897 edition in olive green buckram was also in the exhibition, with its dust jacket quite chipped. No monogram on the cover, but it is on the dj:

and a copy of the 1899 edition in grey-green cloth:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A previously unknown Amy M. Sacker cover

I am pleased to let you know that the entire exhibition of American Trade Bindings with Native American Themes 1875-1933 has been acquired by the Eberly Family Special Collections Library at Pennsylvania State University. This is the same library that acquired the previous exhibition, The Book Cover Art of Thomas Watson Ball.

It's been three months since the previous post—in addition to packing and delivering the books I was finishing my new work, Notes, which is a Featured Artist Exhibition at the Center for Book Arts in New York City through December 20. Also presented two talks and taught a Master Class there. 

Now that things are calming down, there is space again in the studio/gallery to open some of the cartons of books purchased from the Mercantile Library five years ago. They kept the covers in miraculous condition. Some volumes are pristine, as though they just came from the bindery. Even books that were read to the point of falling apart were re-sewn and cased into the original covers.

One exciting find was Amy M. Sacker's design on Sweet Peggy by Linnie S. Harris [Little, Brown & Company, 1904]. Like many of their rebound books, the replacement endpapers are acidic, have turned brown and are disintegrating, but this does not affect the cover art. Considering the amount of use this volume must have had, the design remains bright on the cover and spine, with just a few smudges that can be cleaned.

Amy M. Sacker
Sweet Peggy by Linnie S. Harris
Frontis.and illus. by Henry J. Peck
Chapter headings also illus with music notation
Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1904, October
[AMS monogram in right stem between ribbons]

What's exciting about it? It's not just that it's a good cover design by an important artist, and one that adopts Thomas Watson Ball's style of clouds. This is a rare book. WorldCat shows just two copies, one in Special Collections at the University of Washington and one in Rare Books at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA. Amy Sacker's work has been superbly documented by Mark Schumacher. If you've never clicked the link on the left to his Amy Sacker website, this would be a good time to explore it. Sweet Peggy was not in his list. I wrote to him. He was not familiar with it, so I sent him a photo.  He replied, "This is, for some reason, a very scarce title. Most libraries own a microfilm version of it !!" Mark is a librarian at UNCG, which has a fabulous collection of trade bindings, with over 1,800 in their Digital Collection.

I looked everywhere for another copy to see if I could find one with the original endpapers, and found one! But it has a different cover. Clearly a later printing, it has no date on the title page. Little, Brown used the same AMS spine design. Evidently they didn't want to spend the additional cost of stamping four colors, and used a design with just two. This printing has the same frontispiece, but not the additional illustration opposite page 220.

Amy M. Sacker
Sweet Peggy by Linnie S. Harris
Frontis. by Henry J. Peck
Chapter headings also illus with music notation
Boston: Little, Brown & Company, ©1904

Why is this book so scarce? We know of only three extant copies with the AMS cover (assuming the two others have the original cover in good condition) and just this one copy of a later printing.  What happened to all the others?  Clearly it was a popular book—the Mercantile copy was read so much it needed rebinding, and sales were strong enough to do at least one other printing. 22 libraries have the microfilm of it, and one library, OSU, has a microform of an A. L. Burt reprint, though no physical copies of that edition are listed anywhere.