The Iris
John S. Hart, 1852
HART, John S., editor (1810-1877). The Iris: an Illuminated Souvenir for MDCCCLII. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Co., 1852.

A lovely example of the short-lived genre of gift books and annuals which were produced in vast numbers in mid-19th century America, invariably with elaborate bindings and other aspects of ornamental book production. "Sometime in 1849 an enterprising bookseller got the idea of adapting a technique used in the manufacture of small furniture and objects, a form of lacquer ware with inlaid mother-of-pearl design, as the cover a book, generally a volume given as a gift to a woman [...] As quickly as the idea blossomed, it died. The vogue remained through 1855, and [...] [v]irtually no examples produced post 1855 are known" (Zinman). The present volume includes twelve chromolithographs in ten colors, printed by P.S. Duval. "Produced in full Victorian splendor, the book was mainly a vehicle for the romantic fictions of Indian life in Minnesota by Mary Eastman, with accompanying illustrations by her soldier-painter husband, Capt. Seth Eastman. The editor proudly boasted that the lithographer, Peter S. Duval, used ten separate stones to create the chromolithographs, overprinting some colors to create varied effects. The result shows the difficulty even the best craftsmen still had in controlling so many colors; or perhaps, as Daniel McGrath commented, 'Duval selected for the printing colors guaranteed to appeal to the insensate'" (Stamped with a National Character). This segment of the book, and the plates, reappeared the next year as The Romance of Indian Life. Stamped with a National Character, 30; Zinman, Annals of Collecting: 5, p. 1.

Large octavo (230 x 153mm). 12 chromolithographs, including presentation plate and title page. (Front hinge cracked.) Cover painted and inlaid with mother of pearl, gilt edges. Provenance: Sarah E. [?] (ownership inscription) – Mary Holmes (ownership inscription) – Emma Hilder Bangs (ownership inscription) – Lucy Bangs Campbell (ownership inscription).

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