Monday, February 6, 2012

The Mourner's Gift (1837)

Connie King writes:
Much as we send sympathy cards today, Americans gave small volumes of consolation literature to people who were in mourning during the early decades of the 19th century. In recent years, the Library Company has been able to acquire numerous examples of the genre in order to preserve this aspect of the elaborate cultural response to death in the antebellum years. Recently, with funding from the Davida T. Deutsch Women’s History Fund, we acquired a title that had eluded us previously: The Mourner’s Gift (New York, 1837). The book is small (less than 3 x 5”), which is typical, because the books were intended to be very personal. Edited by a woman, The Mourner’s Gift contains poetry by various writers including Mrs. Sigourney (“A Father to His Motherless Children”), Hannah Gould (“The Widow’s Lullaby”), and others.
When the book arrived, we discovered that The Mourner’s Gift had many gifts in store for us.
Close-up with raking light

Andrea Krupp writes:
This little book is beautiful in so many ways.  As a conservator with a special interest in 19th-century bookcloth, I noticed that the silk had been lined with a thin paper, which was common practice for silk bindings. But the cloth itself was unusual. Typically, silk-covered bindings from this period are decorated with a moirĂ©, or “watered” pattern, a type of fabric which was probably borrowed from the dressmaker’s stock and brought into service as a book covering material.  But this is the first example I’ve seen of a damask woven silk cloth on a book. The wear around the edges demonstrates why this delicate material was not well-suited for bookbinding. Another unusual feature is the stamped design on the front and back covers. The result is awkward compared to other blind stamping from this period, but it is the first time I have seen such stamping on a silk-covered binding. But beautiful it is– and an extraordinary example of the out-of-the-box thinking that characterized bindery operations in the 1830s.

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