just scraps

all things related to design ephemera interests me. running across collections of things fascinates me. in my wanderings i often find these monogram scrapbooks. i waste no time buying these books. after all i do collect ‘collections of collections’. it was quite a common practice to write letters and request replies to get the monograms from a variety of places: individual, institutions, official offices and the like. this particular scrapbook has the many lovely examples of 19th century monograms, primarily engraved initials. i am never bored in trying to decipher the intwined letterforms, some more complex than others. however what makes this book special is the pages of signatures and addresses. the contrast between the regular grid of the monograms versus the random collage of the these few unusual pages compelled me purchase this crest scrapbook. i have a couple dozen of these books, this example is typical of the majority of what i find. over the years i find less and less of these. ebay used to be a resource but i rarely check there anymore and my collecting maybe more specific at the moment. these scrapbooks are a great resource for me. when my studio did a hotel identity they proved extremely helpful and inspiring. i found this book in a book stall off portobello road in london. i had the chance to walk portobello road last october. it was a beautifully sunny and full of people. it has always been crowded to my memory and i can always find something. i recall items that i missed out on too. as there are many high end dealers along the road. often there is some dialogue when you are purchasing an antique. the dealer is interested in your collecting. the dealer parting knowledge about what your buying, telling you it’s valuable and they have priced it too low. when there is no price the dealer will look you over and the priced is determined by more than just the object in hand. this time the owner wasn’t around and twenty pounds was the price. i was happy with that and i was off to the next stall. now to my next post.





question marks


where did you find it? who designed that? did you ever see this? so many questions and often not many answers. there is so much to love: books, collections, cancelation marks—too many to name. the hunt reveals many surprises. when i pulled this book from a shelf, opened it and discovered that someone had created his own book of collections, i was thrilled. of course the book had to be mine. i bought this in a random book store, possibly the strand here in new york city, though upon reflection it may have been the midway bookstore in st paul. i have mentioned before that in my past travels, when i arrived at the airport, i would simply tear out the used book section of the yellow pages (when was the last time someone mentioned that?!) and then i’d head off to the various bookstores with this list in hand. one of my favorites in the minneapolis/st paul area is the midway bookstore. i have had countless great finds there. many used books stores have sections devoted to ‘leather bindings.’ the value or interest in these books is primarily derived from their bindings (another amazing category of book collecting) and the subject matter doesn’t warrant it being placed anywhere. often this is puzzling to me. in any case, i will browse this section from time to time. when i pulled this slim edition off the shelf and peeked inside, i was rewarded to see it filled with cancelation marks. these were not cut from covers or letters but appeared to have been cut from a reference book and one that was fairly old. scott’s reference books for stamps and cancelations have been around a long time. since i collected coins as a kid, i was more familiar with the red and blue books of coin collecting, but i am also acquainted with scott’s. i am never bored by the world of philatelic collectors. the endless permutations fascinate me, though not enough to become a collector myself. recently, i have been reading a very interesting book, a history of britain in thirty-six postage stamps by chris west. i believe it was spawned from the bbc radio program, a history of the world in a 100 objects. if you’ve never listened to it, you should. it can be fascinating. looking at these pages and cancelations brings to light interesting design questions. who designed these? i know many special fancy cancels were designed by postal agents themselves. they cut them right into rubber. many of these scraps are from all categories of ‘marks’ that are placed on an envelope during its life in the mail. each one tells a story. just like this book does.




seal the deal


i’m a sucker for seals especially when they have been collected in a single book. as i have said before, my official listing with the ephemera society of america is as a collector of “collections of collections.” i just love when things of all sorts are placed carefully in a book and form a collection. this particular book has page after page of wonderful city and business seals. this is a huge area of collecting with the postal label and stamp groups but what does it for me is the book itself. old and messy, which says someone spent the time to collect these, place and number them. the numbers have no obvious reasoning or meaning to me, but they surely did for the collector. i am always thrilled when i visit a book fair and start looking at the spines and shelves. there is always a shelf with books that have no reference to them. common labels are: new york; printing; philosophy; world war two, just to name a few. i take note when a shelf is not labeled and contains books that have no particular category. i start from right to left and start pulling each book out a few inches to determine if it’s worth opening. usually they are offbeat titles but once in awhile, as with this one, there is no title on the cover and I am intrigued enough to see what’s inside. when it has a collection of some sort, i am hard pressed to contain my excitement. then, of course, comes the price. i don’t remember how much this book was. that’s a good thing that usually indicates i didn’t pay too much.


step and repeat


repetition. i love when someone has amassed a collection of a particular item and pasted it down in a book. in this case, it’s cigar bands. i’m not usually attracted to tobacciana but I find that I have several such collections: matchbox labels, old cigarette packaging. this wonderful album of cigar bands was collected by hazel wagner and is dated october 30, 1907. there are 30 pages of wonderful examples, many using stone lithography and lots of gold, which seems to the main requirement. my jennifer aniston pokies father smoked cigars and whenever i smell a cigar i think of him. however i never saved or collected the bands. frankly, they weren’t as nice as these. i believe there used to be the international seal, label and cigar band society but i could not find it. i didn’t try too hard except for the quick google search but I did locate the cigar band museum which might be worth a visit if you’re interested. enjoy another one of my collections of a collection.