Letterpress Inspiration

The other day I came across a very worn book in the bins at the Goodwill Outlet. The pages had holes and it was bound by a leather string. Inside were words of inspiration by prominent writers of the time, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Emerson, and others.

Letterpress is a specialized kind of relief printing, in which ink is literally punched into paper leaving an indented impression of color. Back when letterpress was the chief process used in newsprint, for instance, this impression was avoided as much as possible because physical space was a commodity – a deep impression could render many square inches of printable space nearly useless. Since content-focused, large-scale print publications now use the much cheaper offset and digital print methods (if they use any print method at all), the so-called imperfections of letterpress are now more highly sought after by graphic designers, as many view this indentation as letterpress’ distinctive characteristic. Letterpress excels at type, line work, and patterns but not so much at photographic images or large fields of color (which can have a salty, mottled appearance)*. This gives letterpress a clean, simple, and modern aesthetic and makes it one of the only tactile methods of print – where one can not only appreciate the art with one’s eyes, but also with one’s hands.


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50 Plants Precious to Man

These four pages are from a 1930’s encyclopedia. From a botany standpoint, they’ve got the basics covered; fruit, flowers, leaves, seeds, and roots. They are quite scientific! But what I really like about them, is how artfully they are arranged, how they fill the space of the page. Aren’t they pretty?

449_botanicalThis page shows familiar spice plants: ginger, clove, caper, arrowroot, black pepper, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, logwood, corn, cinnamon, allspice, or pimento, madder, and millet.

449_botanical_djpgHere you have important medicines: senna, jalap, castor oil, peruvian bark, opium poppy, nux vomica, turkey rhubarb, aloe, ipecauanha, sasparilla, squill, and gamboge.

449_botanical_cThis page shows coffee, tea, date-palm, banana, cacao, jack fruit, breadfruit, pistachio, pandanus, guava, litchi, brazil nut, and mango.

449_botanical_bAnd lastly, gum arabic, sumac, benzoin, tragacanth, caoutchouc, jute, cotton, flax, gutta-percha, hemp, manioc, or cassave, sweet potato, and yam. I sell many unique botanical prints in my Etsy shop, available as digital downloads for you to print.

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Famous Travels circa 1902

Following are some illustrations from the book ‘Famous Travels’,  edition 12 of the twenty volumes of the Young Folk’s Library, published in 1902.  Imagine reading this book at that time, with stories by Charles Dickens, Washington Irving, R. W. Emerson, and the Marquis of Lorne, that had titles like ‘Four Months in Uganda’, ‘Life in the Australian Bush’, and ‘Hardships of Arctic Travel’.  There is no credit given to the illustrator, which is a shame, as they are so beautifully done.


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Nouveau Petit Larousse Illustre-Dictionnaire Encyclopedique 1956

I love these illustrations from the 1956 edition of the French Larousse dictionary. They are so detailed and colorful!


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The Femminiello by Giuseppe Bonito

I’ve been going to the Portland Art Museum the last Friday of each month because it was free, fun, and I love art. Since October 2015 though, the day has changed to the first Thursday evening for free admission, with all Friday evenings just five dollars. On these evenings be sure go to the lower level ‘pub’ for a drink first. Good wine, good art, good friends, what more can you ask for!

Just before closing, this painting caught my eye, so I snapped a quick photo to remember it. It is by Giuseppe Bonito (Italian, 1707-1789) and is titled ‘The Femminiello’. It is an oil on canvas, a gift of the Ross Family Fund of Equity Foundation, in 2014.


Here is the description of the painting, as written word for word, next to the painting.

“This recently discovered painting is a testament to the exceptional social acceptance of tranvestites known as femminielli in the city of Naples. The term, which might be translated “little female-men,” is not derogatory, but rather an expression of endearment. Femminielli come from the Spanish Quarter, the most impoverished neighborhood of the city, as is evidenced by this individual’s missing tooth and goitre, a hereditary condition among the poor. Although femminielli cross-dress from an early age, they do not try to conceal their birth sex completely. Rather than being stigmatized, they are deemed special and are accepted as almost a third sex. In particular,  femminielli are thought to bring good luck, so Neapolitans often take them gambling. This association is represented by the necklace of red coral, which is also thought to bring good fortune. Owing to social prejudice, transvestites were rarely depicted until the modern era. In spite of Neapolitan acceptance, this is the only representation of a femmeniello before photographs made at the end of the nineteenth century. “

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Japan, The Tourist Land.

I found this little box of postcards at a flea market recently. The man selling them said they belonged to his father who served in Japan after World War II. He held on to them all his life, along with two other little boxes of scenes of Japan, which I’ll share soon. The pictorial map was folded inside, to give you a sense of the geography of the islands. I hope “You shall be able to understand Japan by seeing these pictures”.


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Once upon a time, people believed in Unicorns.

Once upon a time, for nearly two thousand years, everybody believed in unicorns. Aristotle, Pliny the Elder, and Julius Caesar were all believers. If people did not believe, we have no way of knowing because they didn’t leave evidence of their doubt.  The most well-known evidence of the belief in unicorns are found in the tapestries woven in the fifteenth century, the Lady with the Unicorn at the Cluny Museum in Paris and the Hunt of the Unicorn at the Cloisters in New York.


Lesser known are etchings that I came across in an old book found at the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

antique unicorn printThese were alongside illustrations of credible mammals, and I think if I were reading the book back then, I’d be a believer.  antique unicorn print antique unicorn print

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20 Free Printable Antique Maps- easy to download

I have a love affair with antique maps, and I’ve been building up a collection of hundreds over the years, many of which I sell in my Etsy shop ArtDeco. I’ve seen all sorts of creative projects from journal-making, gift wrapping, and map bunting being done with them, some of those ideas can be found at Remodelaholic and at DIYready. Here are a selection of my favorites for you to download and print out to use. Click on the link below each map for a printable high resolution file that is easy to download. maps_blog155_blogwonderful map of political Asia from around 1915


the German Empire from around the same time

162_blogmap of The World from a 1904 encyclopedia


Cuba from 1891

238_blogArizona from 1891


another beautiful map of The World

Gorgeous colors in this old one of Scandinavia336_scandinavia

New Jersey, from 1904.


And Saint Paul, Minnesota.


Vermont is so beautiful!315_vermont

Pretty pastel colors in this one of Mexico.927_mexico

Intense antique colors in New England335_new_england_states from a 1916 Geography book.

The Balkan Peninsula from the 1920’s.547_balkan_peninsula


South America1009_south_america




Where my Dad grew up, Wisconsin.313_wisconsin

and lastly Montana, a beautiful state.764_montana

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Gorgeous c.1911 paintings of “The Women of the Bible”

These intriguing and colorful paintings of women come from an old edition of The Women of the Bible: A Portrait Gallery by Margaret E. Sangster (The Christian Herald, 1911). I can’t help but be drawn to each woman’s eyes – the averted gaze, the straight-on stare, the sad, defiant – or even sultry – eyes. Each woman appears to have quite a story to tell, which is exactly what Margaret E. Sangster hoped would draw us in.

220px-Margaret_Elizabeth_Sangster_001Margaret E. Sangster (1838 – 1912) was an American writer and editor, noted in her day for her stories and books that mingled Christian devotion with homely wisdom. She wrote essays and letters reflecting her belief that she had a “mission to girlhood” to be a Christian leader and became editor of the family page of the Christian Intelligencer in 1876. In 1889 she succeeded Mary Louise Booth as editor of Harper’s Bazaar, where she remained until the magazine failed in 1899.

From Sangster’s 1911 “Foreword” to The Women of the Bible:

“In studying the women of the Bible we are brought face to face with many types of character and many diverse periods of history. A thread of similarity, the subtle and indefinable feeling of sex, runs through the successive biographies of the women whose stories are told briefly or at length on the sacred page. No two women in the list are precisely alike, yet not one, whether she be saint or sinner, prophetess or queen, daughter of antiquity or child of the early Christian era, fails in being distinctly and wholly feminine.”

Browse a digital version of The Women of the Bible here.

Buy the original prints here.

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More Pictorial Maps by Jacques Liozu

Here are some more pictorial maps by French illustrator Jacques Liozu. I’ve blogged before about Liozu and posted some of his pictorial maps of American states, but here we have some maps he drew from a totally different region of the world: northern Africa!

Since my last post about Liozu, I found out a little more about the man behind the maps. But just a little! It turns out very little is known about Jacques Liozu, just that he was born in Albi in the south of France in 1910 and died in Bourg-Madame in 1974. He is best known for his maps, but he also illustrated postcards as well as educational and historical stories for young people. He was most active in the 1940s and ’50s. I wonder if he traveled to all the places he drew maps of, or if he just worked out of a library…

You can see more scans of his work on this website. You can also purchase high-quality scans of his maps in my Etsy shop where I specialize in antique maps.

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976_saharab 978_rio_de_oro3.5x3.5b 980_cairob 981_alexandriab 982_moroccob 997__casablancab 998_constantinopleb spanish_moroccob

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