Friday, April 3, 2009

Basic print reference books

Reference books and articles are an important resource for anyone interested in antique prints. In recent years there has been an significant number of new books coming out on all sorts of print-related topics and there is also, of course, a library of classic references which are still relevant. The journal Imprint contains new articles twice a year and more articles appear in other periodicals on a fairly regular basis. Luckily, in 2006 there appeared an excellent Bibliography on American Prints of the Seventeenth through the Nineteenth Centuries , compiled and edited by Georgia Barnhill. Divided into subject categories, this work lists virtually every text on American prints from the period noted that had been published up to 2006, providing an excellent means of finding references on topics of interest.

In a regular series of blogs, I plan to post annotated lists of print references on different topics. As with this blog, the lists I will compile will be focused similarly to Barnhill’s bibliography, that is, on references related to American prints from the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. These lists are not intended to be comprehensive, but rather to call attention to the most useful print references that are relatively easy for someone to either purchase or find in a library. Most of the references are on specific topics, such as Civil War images, prints by various printmakers, or views of particular locations, but I will start by considering general print references.

  • Frank Weitenkampf. American Graphic Art. 1912. Out of print. The classic history of American graphic art from colonial times to the beginning of the twentieth century. Though somewhat dated, this is the place to start when considering most aspects of American prints. It belongs in every collector’s library, though this volume is now available on-line.

  • Carl W. Drepperd. Early American Prints. 1930. Out of print. This is a nice introductory book intended for print collectors. It covers American prints from the colonial period up through Currier & Ives and contains chapters with useful information for a collector, including how prints are made and lists of different printmakers and their works.

  • A. Hyatt Mayor. Popular Prints of the Americas. 1973. Out of print. A large, well illustrated book with brief essays on different subjects. Not that well organized nor comprehensive, but with lots of interesting information and a wide selection of topics, including printmaking in Spanish America. A nice book as an introduction to the subject, but not for a serious researcher.

  • John & Katherine Ebert. Old American Prints for Collectors. 1974. Out of print. Another general book intended for the collector, this work has its flaws, but it also contains much of interest. Designed for a beginner collector, it does show a wide variety of different types of prints and has some useful information included, such as a glossary of print terms.

  • E. McSherry Fowble. Two Centuries of Prints in America, 1680-1880. 1987. Out of print. One of my personal favorite print references. Though limited to a selection of prints from the Winterthur Museum collection, the extent and quality of that collection and the variety of prints selected by Fowble means that this book still provides an excellent over view of prints in the period noted. Fowble includes two insightful introductory essays and each print is beautifully illustrated and well described. Along with Weitenkampf, I would recommend this as an essential book for anyone interested in the topic.

  • Christopher W. Lane with Donald H. Cresswell and Carolyn Cades. A Guide to Collecting Antique Historical Prints. 1995. Designed as an inexpensive, basic guide on the subject. Though fairly short, this guide covers most subjects that a collector should know about. Most of the content of this guide likely will eventually find its way into this blog...

  • Leila Lyons. Collecting Prints. 2006. An “Instant Expert” guide, similar in intent and content to Lane’s. Contains useful lists of museums and collections, places to purchase prints, and a glossary of print terms.

    All but the last two of these books are out of print, but they can still often be found for sale from print dealers or in used books shops around the country. Here, and in future blogs, I will use this symbol [] to indicate that the Philadelphia Print Shop sells a particular reference work mentioned. Just click on the symbol to go to our listing of that book. Also, these are fairly basic works, so many good libraries will have a copy of these books.
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