“Have you Grangerized?” might have been a question asked in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, mostly by people in the United Kingdom and United States. Rev. James Granger (1723–76), an English cleric and print collector, started a fad when in 1769 he published his Biographical History of England, from Egbert the Great to the Revolution. The book is essentially a catalog of portrait prints of noteworthy English people, including royalty, scientists, politicians, and commoners, who had somehow achieved distinction. In Biographical History, Granger supplemented his text with illustrations, incorporating portraits originally published elsewhere, thus creating an extra-illustrated book and beginning an unintended craze that lasted for decades.
Grangerizing was not without its critics. Bibliophiles and their sympathizers decried the destruction of books— books that were dismantled to create extra-illustrated volumes and books that were cut up, so their prints could be harvested for extra-illustrated projects. Englishman of letters, art historian, and antiquarian Horace Walpole went so far as to suggest that Grangerizing was responsible for driving up the price of engravings since publishers produced them expressly for the increasingly popular Grangerizing market. As well, dealers occasionally produced extra-illustrated books with a view to selling them at enhanced prices. Other dealers and collectors clipped signatures from handwritten letters and documents, ruining the originals for all time.
Extra-illustrated books typically include prints, autographs, small pamphlets, maps, original art, and handwritten letters. Many of these items are not special, but occasionally important ones turn up. For example, while assembling an exhibition of extra-illustrated books at the Huntington Library, curators Stephen Tabor and Lori Anne Ferrell discovered a pre-Revolutionary letter George Washington had written to his brother Samuel. It was thought to have been lost. An autograph collector purchased it in 1886 and had it bound in an extra-illustrated book. Henry Huntington acquired the book in 1922.
Winterthur Library’s holdings of extra-illustrated books may be modest in size, but there are noteworthy examples. An edition of The Call of the Wild, by Jack London, has an envelope addressed to a relative of book illustrator Edna Cooke Shoemaker, identifying the owner of the volume. In Description of a Plan for the Improvement of the Central Park, a letter pasted in at the front, addressed to civil engineer Montgomery Meigs, identifies Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux as park planners. And, together with annotations and pencil corrections, Box Furniture: How to Make a Hundred Useful Articles for the Home, by Louise Brigham, has a tipped-in copy of a pamphlet of Brigham’s lectures.
The most impressive extra-illustrated volume in the library, however, is Book of the Artists… (New York: G. P. Putnam & Son, 1867), by Henry T. Tuckerman (1813–71), a Boston-born writer, critic, and essayist. His 639-page single-volume work, monumental enough in its own right, was taken by Alfred Stebbins, a librarian at the San Francisco Mercantile Library Association, and Grangerized into an extra-illustrated two-volume work that includes prints, autographs, and letters from many of the artists portrayed by Tuckerman.
Most of the artists are well known to us today: John Vanderlyn, Thomas Sully, S. F. B. Morse, Asher B. Durand, Thomas Cole, Horatio Greenough, Hiram Powers, Albert Bierstadt, Delawarean F. O. C. Darley, and the list goes on. To supplement Tuckerman’s words, Stebbins contacted the artists to ask for their autographs, engravings of their work, and portrait prints. Many of the artists seemed accustomed to responding to such a request. For example, Thomas Sully wrote: “I did not receive your first letter, which requested my autograph, or would readily have obeyed the request.” Morse went even further, stating that if he discovered autographs of other artists among his papers he would send them along. Daniel Huntington, president of the National Academy of Design, actually did, forwarding a note he had from John Kensett. It took portrait, miniature, and genre painter Louis Lang, who had mislaid Stebbins’s request, a year to respond, but he did.
Illustrator Thomas Nast, known to us today for his iconic Christmas and political images, was perhaps the most generous of all, sending a handwritten reminiscence—unfortunately, now incomplete—about the beginning of his career. In it he wrote about his teenage experiences at Mr. Bryan’s gallery in New York, where he had gone to copy pictures that were on display and where, at 14 years of age, he was hired as doorkeeper. While employed he still copied: “There were seldom more than half a dozen visitors in a day, so that the taking of their money would cause but a very slight interruption to the labors of the young artist.” Two years later, Nast approached newspaper publisher Frank Leslie about a job as a draftsman. “What, my boy, said he [Leslie], so you think you can draw well enough for my paper, do you?” To which Nast responded: “I would like to try.” Leslie then asked Nast to go to the Hoboken, New Jersey, ferry terminal and “bring me a drawing of the scene just as the boat is coming into the dock.” Nast concluded his story by saying, “Mr. Leslie saw at a glance its merits and defects, and at once made a place for him in his establishment, at boy’s wages of five dollars a week.”
Alfred Stebbins’s Grangerized two volumes are part of another collection, that of art historian John Davis Hatch, who collected material documenting the development of American painting. Anyone interested in seeing Stebbins’s books or Hatch’s records should ask for Collection 331 in the Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera.
Post by E. Richard McKinstry, Library Director and Andrew W. Mellon Senior Librarian at Winterthur
Additional Reference Information:
James Granger: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Granger
Grangerized books: http://huntington.org/huntingtonlibrary_02.aspx?id=12996
Book of the artists (not extra-illustrated): http://archive.org/stream/bookofartistsame00tuckerm#page/n7/mode/2up
Thomas Nast: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Nast
Hatch finding aid: http://findingaid.winterthur.org/html/HTML_Finding_Aids/COL0331.htm