It's Mardis Gras time in Louisiana and time I share these ornate Carnival keepsakes which recently appeared at auction here. This 1897 Mardis Gras Ball invitation featuring Poseidon-on-the-halfshell, has a very lovely monogrammed date at the bottom. All of the exclusive ball invitations featured in the auction catalog were considered to be from the Golden Age of Mardis Gras (1870s to 1890s). These early masterpieces of color lithography were originally printed in Paris, and are prized for their many-colored designs with die-cut shapes and multiple folds. Enclosed inside each folded design, would be an admit card, a dance card with pencil, and at times a souvenir. Because they've always been printed in limited quantities, these early invitations have become increasingly scarce and expensive; especially in light of Hurricane Katrina. Even today, the Carnival Ball continues to be the most secretive and exclusive gala event in New Orleans. If you haven't received an invitation by now, you probably aren't invited.
This 1892 invitation is, I'm guessing, in the shape of a pumpkin. It was designed by Bror Anders Wikstrom.
This 1891 invitation is listed as "Demonology."
The 1884 invitation is listed as "The Aenid."
This visually striking version from 1902 is designed in the art nouveau style which was popular at that time. It includes the original envelope and two dance cards.
This 1886 invitation with dance card, featuring "Visions of Other Worlds", was perhaps influenced by Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
This 1890 invitation reflects some of the early Arts and Crafts styles of William Morris. It is listed as "Rulers of Ancient Times."
1883 "Atlantis, the Antediluvian World" invitation.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Monday, March 3, 2014
|Source: Ink on Paper|
The "Cub", an adorable little toy printing press from the Superior Marking Equipment Company (SEMCO) of Chicago, was marketed to young children for a good part of the early 20th century. It, along with many other rotary press models like it, had all the markings of a great educational tool for young boys and girls alike. Various model press kits included tiny rubber type, spacers, ink, adhesive back picture dies, tweezers for handling type, an inking brush, ink ribbon, mounting slugs, the rotary press and paper. Instruction manuals encouraged kids to print up handbills and postcards to advertise their yardwork and baby-sitting services, and to write and publish home, school and club activities in newspapers. These toy rotary presses actually worked as advertised, yet required a great degree of perseverance and tireless dedication on the part of the budding young printer. This was not a toy for the high-strung or overactive child, as they would quickly grow weary and impatient. The process was not terribly difficult; it was just tedious.
|Photo source: eBay|
Working with delicate pieces of rubber type smaller than the size of a chocolate chip, and not nearly as tasty—young composers with nimble fingers would have to ply the letters apart and sandwich them into place with tweezers.
|Source: Modern Mechanix|
For those determined young typesetters and printers who could manage the tools, SEMCO offered cold cash prize money for inventive and artfully crafted printing examples. Neatness counted...as did "artistic taste in selection and arrangement of type faces and pictures, grammar, spelling and appropriateness of copy." A junior pressman in training was cut no slack.
The bi-monthly Swiftset Rotary Printers' Journal was a subscription newsletter published by the Superior Marking Equipment Co. This sample copy below was included in my own "Cub" Superior press kit, given to me by a good friend. A subscription could be had for 25¢ per year in 1951.
Yes kids. Type can "talk".
The 1951 instruction manual included an order form for these affordable "picture dies". Each picture set was 50¢, while assorted type fonts cost between 50¢ and $1. The "Cub" press price was $2.25 and the largest model, the "Ace", was $8 with all postage paid.
I admit, I'm somewhat tempted to fire up my own little "Cub" press at times, though the rubber tires on either side of the drum have hardened considerably. Many of these toy presses can still be found in reasonable condition and price on auction sites and elsewhere. Some even come with printed job work from previous owners such as this fun discovery. Somewhere there must be a rotary toy printer group willing to participate in an invitational postcard print-off show sometime. If not, it's time there was. Meanwhile, this PRESS RELEASE: A television advertisement from the early 1960s showcases another style of toy printer modeled on a litho press. Made by toy manufacturer, Ideal, it originally cost $11.44 when first released.
Friday, February 28, 2014
This makes me smile. Mona Lisa is seen through the eyes of 6 and 7 year-olds and a few grown-ups. Another great project from illustrator Marion Deuchers, with animation by studio aka in the UK. The book makes me happy too.
Some of my favorite Mona Lisa smiles. More can be seen here.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Google celebrates the 112th birthday today of the great American writer, John Steinbeck, with this inspired set of illustration work. I tried my best to Google the name of the talented artist responsible for them, but all I got was "we have a team of doodlers." 'Fess up Google! These artworks are not mere doodles. To see them all in live action, today only, visit the Google of my wrath. Meanwhile, it is my pleasure to share them with you here: