A Bibliographical Adventure Across Centuries

Ron Tyler, retired director of the museum, is researching a book on Texas-related lithographs and recently contacted the museum’s research library to help him get a copy of a book manuscript, American View Books Printed by the Glaser/Frey Lithographic Process: Including Architecture, Local History, and Scenes Along the Early American Railroads: a Bibliographical History (1985) by Herman H. Henkle. The Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University holds the only known copy. A couple of weeks ago while in New York attending the Art Libraries Society of North America’s annual conference, I made arrangements to visit the Avery Library’s rare book collection to digitize the manuscript for him.

2018-03-02_sam-duncan-avery-library-scanning-henkle-book.jpg^ Sam Duncan, Head of the Library and Archives at the Amon Carter, stands beside a book scanner in the Avery Library rare books room at Columbia University

The manuscript reveals that Henkle was very near publishing his book. He had been working for years to locate, acquire, and write about viewbooks published in the United States in the late nineteenth century that were printed by either of two German firms using a special lithographic process. He later enlisted the help of Herbert Mitchell, a bibliographer at the Avery. Henkle died in 1987 shortly after he finished his manuscript.

Louis Glaser of Leipzig and Charles Frey of Frankfort both developed and used a distinctive form of lithography that was able to produce small images with fine photograph-like detailing printed in a range of sepia/brown inks. Henkle concludes that the images were based on photographs sourced from a wide range of photographers and asserts they were not likely produced using a photolithographic process. The resulting "souvenir" viewbooks were small in size with the images printed on an accordion fold sheet so that when unfurled, the long procession of images countered the diminutive size of the closed book.

2018-03-13_over-the-south-park-unfolded.jpg^ Over the South Park to Leadville. Denver: Chain & Hardy, 1880 (printed by Louis Glaser, Leipzig, for Wittemann Brothers, New York). ACMAA Research Library, F781 .M39 folder 88, item 1

2018-03-13_over-the-south-park-detail.jpg^ Over the South Park to Leadville. (detail of "Chestnut Street, Leadville"). Denver: Chain & Hardy, 1880 (printed by Louis Glaser, Leipzig, for Wittemann Brothers, New York). ACMAA Research Library, F781 .M39 folder 88, item 1

2018-03-13_over-the-south-park-cover.jpg^ Over the South Park to Leadville. (cover). Denver: Chain & Hardy, 1880 (printed by Louis Glaser, Leipzig, for Wittemann Brothers, New York). ACMAA Research Library, F781 .M39 folder 88, item 1

2018-03-10_henkle-glaser-frey-sepia-ink-analysis.png^ Ink analysis from American View Books Printed by the Glaser/Frey Lithographic Process: Including Architecture, Local History, and Scenes Along the Early American Railroads: a Bibliographical History (1985)

Henkle and Mitchell’s unprecedented study analyzes a moment in American printing when a cadre of publishers, eager to feed and profit from the public’s desire for viewbooks, created a cross-continental printing arrangement with specialized lithographers in Germany. They produced a remarkable set of books that now are important records of urban and rural America, along with being interesting examples of an unusual printing technique.

One of the book’s chief contributions is the thorough bibliography of all known examples produced by the German firms. Imagine my surprise to find an announcement on page 116 saying that, "pages 116-195 of the bibliography are formatted in the computer, but were withheld for decision on whether to reformat to 7 lines instead of the present 6 lines per inch …" Avery catalogers quickly changed their description of the manuscript to reflect the missing pages. This significant lacuna is perhaps a lesson on the enduring value of paper and the ephemeral nature of digital files: we’re lucky that Henkle printed a paper copy and that it survives, but we’re now faced with the possibility that the digital file with the missing section of the bibliography is lost. Henkle provides a few clues about the digital file in the printed manuscript: it was "formatted on an IBM personal computer using Hammerlab Corporation’s LETTRIX typefaces: Gothic and Orator …" A letter included with the manuscript from Henkle’s son, David, may lead to the missing section of the bibliography. Ron and I intend to reach out to the son to see if he can find a copy of the digital file. Ultimately we hope to reunite the missing section of the bibliography with the larger manuscript.

It also turns out that museum’s research library has a number of these little books in its collection (not all in this result set are examples printed by Glaser or Frey). Years ago I discovered our cache while working with a library practicum student, who was cataloging materials from the Mazzulla Collection, which contains a preponderance of material on Colorado and the railroads, common subjects of the Glaser/Frey-printed viewbooks. These little marvels captivated me enough to wonder how they were printed, and now through Henkle’s manuscript, many of my questions have been answered.