Print on Cloth

- by Bruce E. McKinney

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Ephemera is a very large category.  By some estimates it’s at least a hundred times larger than old books.  More likely, it’s five hundred to a thousand times larger.  And it is a broad category that includes many sub-categories that are themselves significant.  Books require commitment and planning, ephemera a press and a few words to communicate.  For those who love books some ephemera is relevant.  Announcements of events and publications, letters by or to an author, as well as sundry related images are often appealing.  Such ephemera however, taken together, probably represents .001 of all that exists.  But what of the rest.

 

Within the ephemera category here are some of the sub-categories:

 

Prints

Broadsides

Manuscripts

Photographs

Trade Cards

Cartes-de-visite

Metals and Ribbons

Flags and buttons

Invoices and Receipts

Post Cards

 

And inevitably there are others including printing on cloth.

 

Some used and rare book dealers recognize that a few categories of ephemera are valuable and that Printing on Cloth is one of them.  A search for ‘satin’ finds 7,764 references in the RBHD, 1 for ‘cloth broadside,’ 7 for printed muslin, 1,070 for printed cloth in quotes, while the same without quotes is 273,198.  On the William Reese website, a search for “printed on silk” finds two very collectible pieces, a Jackson proclamation for $2,250 and a copy of Jefferson’s inaugural for $8,750.  Such silk material is a recognized, if quite scarce, category.

 

But there are many other works on cloth, more plebian, but also very interesting.  They seem to fall into three categories; advertising, notices and warnings.  These often-interesting advertising items were sometimes printed on cloth bags and have by-chance survived.  So too have notices and announcements printed on cloth because they were more durable than paper when posted out-of-doors.   

 

The printing, whether on paper, cardstock or cloth, seems to have been done on the same or similar presses that printed paper notices.  What seems most different are the numbers involved.  Works on cloth survive better but we assume much rarer because so few examples appear. 

 

As to why this category is generally unknown there are few reference books as well as few steady sources.  You can decide you are interested but you’ll be frustrated in your search for such material both because appearances are uncommon and descriptive words not yet codified into a category that sellers can use to identify and buyers use to search.  This will change. 

 

In my collecting area, the history of the Hudson Valley, such material exists and is generally neither important nor expensive.   It is simply rare.  This is a category that I happened upon in local Hudson River Valley sales and later found randomly at shows and online.  It’s extremely appealing.

 

Books are the lynchpin of collectible print but it turns out, only one, of many subcategories that are increasingly visible and therefore methodically collectible.

 

Here are some examples that I have acquired.

 

The first is a 15” x 9” silk broadside, prepared by Richard H. Pease of Albany, to commemorate the New-York, Albany and Troy Steam Boat Line.   A printed notation includes “Rebuilt in the Winter of 1836” [the 6 could be an 8].  It’s an early example, a marvelous survival that I purchased from Antipodean Books, Maps and Prints for $1,600.

 

The second is a 17’6” square advertisement on cloth for “The Celebrated Heidielburgh Portable Hurdle F E N C E  For Sale.  The firm is F. T. Rhoades, Milton, Ulster Co., N. Y.  It appears to date to about 1870. Mr. Rhoades’ facilities were probably located near the Hudson River as this advertisement mentions “Cash on Delivery, to any part of the City of Po’keepsie.”   Poughkeepsie is a few miles north on the east side of the Hudson River.  Milton is on the west side.

 

The third is James McKinney, Iron Founder – Store Fronts, Machine Castings, Iron Sash Weights, Window Cap and Sills, Roof Cresting, And all Castings Plain and Ornamental, used for Building Purposes.  Nos. 18 & 20 De Witt St., Albany.  24” wide x 16” high.  No date but probably 19th century.  Items 2 and 3 cost $75 together.  Both appear to be printed on muslin. 

 

The forth example is a 12” square notice on muslin apparently intended to be posted along roads and land lines.  N O T I C E – Take Warning!  Trespassing of Any Kind, or Hunting or Fishing Forbidden and will be Prosecuted.  It reads:

 

On Lands of J. E. Hasbrouck in Town of Plattekill, Bounded by State Highway running from Highland to Gardiner and State Highway running from Newburgh to Kingston, and Bounded by Lands of J. E. Hasbrouck, Jr., H. Alhusen, E. E. Miller, Albino Shultis, A. L. F. Deyo Est., Mary Deyo, Black Bros., Mrs. Anna LeFevre.

 

Dated August 2, 1928, J. E. Hasbrouck

 

The fifth, and final, example is a 15.5” wide by 21.5” high advertisement with a substantial image of the company’s facility for:

 

Judson, Parsons & Haskell, Wholesale Dealers in COFFEES SPICES &c. and Manufacturers of Ground Coffee, Spices, Mustard, Cream Tartar, Chocolate, Cocoa, Saleratus, &c.

 

Southeast Corner of Exchange and Dean Streets, Albany, N.Y.

 

Signed in print:  A. C. Judson, S. H. Parsons, Wm. H. Haskell

 

The material is, to my eye, deeply appealing.  If as you read this you remember having such material and would like to sell it I’m interested.

 

Print on cloth should become a subset of ephemera and I would hope, in five years, to see both dedicated dealer catalogues and auctions focusing on the category.

 

If you have older printed on cloth material to sell please let me know.  Contact me by phone at 415.823.6678 or by email at bmckinney@rarebookhub.com