Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - March - 2014 Issue

Nature Printing, Photography, Etc. from Antiquariats Banzhaf and Kuhn

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From the Fair.

Antiquariat Banzhaf and Antiquariat Michael Kuhn recently published a small catalogue for the California International Antiquarian Book Fair. They brought a selection of material from Germany to display at the show. It focuses on illustration, from works using the early precise process of nature printing to the the later developed use of photography. Other books use actual samples of items depicted. So, here are some samples of what can be found in this selection.

 

Item 17 is Monographie illustrée du baleinoptere trouvé le 29 Octobre 1865... It is an account of a beached whale, the first book with photographs of a blue whale. It was written by August Malm and published in 1867. The whale washed up on a beach outside of Gothenburg, Sweden, on October 29, 1865. It was about 50 feet long. Malm was a zoologist at the Natural History Museum in Gothenberg. He not only photographed the whale, he towed it into town and set about preserving it. This was not easy, the decaying carcass smelling terrible, but somehow Malm managed to stuff and preserve the giant creature. He then took it on tour, charging admission. Today it rests at the museum, still the only stuffed blue whale in the world. We are told that the “Malm Whale” (Malm insisted it be so called) is “one of the most popular museum artifacts in Sweden” and that its jaw can still be opened, allowing visitors inside the belly of the whale. They can relate to Jonah. Only 50 copies of this first and only edition were printed, 37 spoken for based on the subscriber list. It contains 29 mounted photographs. Priced at €17,000 (euros, or about $23,391 U.S. dollars).

 

These next sea swimmers are more appropriately sized for preservation. Item 2 is Laurens Gronovius' Museum Ichthyologicum, or what is known as the “fish cabinet.” Actually, Gronovius' cabinet possessed many more creatures, including corals, shells, frogs, snakes, turtles, plants and minerals. He developed a way to flatten and dry the fish skins like pressed leaves. This two-volume set, published in 1754 and 1756, includes engraved plates of his specimens. €4,200 (US $5,779).

 

Item 4 is an interesting example of the process of nature printing. Nature printing is where leaves or other natural objects are used to create a direct impression on printing plates. Item 4 is a drawing of a tree trunk and branches, to which leaves of 50 different trees have been nature printed in place. It was evidently made for educational purposes, though the creator of this circa 1780 German work is unknown. €2,800 (US $3,853).

 

This next item may be an example of the first use for nature printing. Rather than a work of art, this is a banknote. Item 7 is an 18-pence note printed in New Jersey in what was a momentous year for America – 1776. There was a shortage of coins in the colonies, but the use of paper currency led to another problem – counterfeiting. In this process, devised by – who else? - Benjamin Franklin, a sage leaf was nature printed onto the note to make it difficult to counterfeit. €900 (US $1,238).

 

This next one goes one better than nature printing. Item 9 is The profitable planter, a treatise on the theory and practice of planting forest trees in every description of soil and situation... This work was created by William Pontey in 1808. Pontey described himself as an “ornamental gardener, and planter and forest pruner to the late and present Duke of Bedford.” This is a second edition, and this one came with several timber samples. While the book itself is not rare, Banzhaf and Kuhn note that the samples are almost always missing. It includes samples of Larch, Scotch Fir, Abele, and Spruce Fir. €2,800 (US $3,853).

 

Antiquariat Banzhaf may be reached at 0049-(0)7071-552314 or Antiquariat-Banzhaf@t-online.de. Their website is found at www.antiquariat-banzhaf.de. Antiquariat Michael Kuhn may be contacted at 0049 – (0)30 86 39 69 34 or kuehn.rarebooks@arcor.de. The website is www.kuehn-books.de.

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