Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Letterforensics 101

In my last post about the mid-19th century alphabet, I gave acknowledgement to the printer/publisher, Charles Joseph Hullmandel and the likely British artist of these rustic landscape letters, who is known simply as "L.E.M. Jones". I even asserted that this Jones character was a man, which in retrospect, was rather presumptuous of me. It maddens me somewhat when artists of this caliber and standard can fall into relative obscurity, yet their work has survived in at least two of the world's leading art museums. My curiosity of L.E.M. Jones lead me to do some further sleuthing, and I located another similar work to those I posted yesterday. This single "graphite" drawing of the C&K is from the Metropolitan Museum of ArtJones is listed as "active" from 1800-1870, and the image is described as "Alphabet Book Design (Letters C and K)". The only distinguishing mark on the sheet is a blind stamp appearing on the lower right corner with the word "Bate" above a crown. 

Can you spot the differences?

Pardon my redundancy to repeat the last two images from yesterday's post again, but I wanted to draw a comparison between the two versions. On closer examination, it appears this C and the K from the British Museums' archives is just slightly different than the "graphite" CK drawing from the Met Museum seen at the top of this post. In addition to the ever-so-subtle differences, the CK version is drawn in two or more colors of grey it appears, and I am wondering now if this had anything to do with Hullmandel's invented method of adding "tone" to his lithographic prints, as I mentioned yesterday. This largely depends upon what his method was, but maybe the Jones CK drawing was a master guide to indicate where to add the 2nd color for the final print. If someone has further insight to add or correct me, I would love to hear it. I am not a lithographer or printer by any measure, but just have a curiosity about printing processes. All of this brings me no closer to identifying Jones, but I like to think that I am connecting a few of the dots here. Below, are two macro images of the graphite CK drawing for a much closer view. 

Update: Mystery Solved

Friend of Letterology, and face behind the scholarly Circuitous Root, Dr. David M. MacMillan has helped to solve the mystery behind the artist and the printing of Hullmandel's Landscape Alphabets. He sent me a text image from Michael Twyman's recently published book, A History of Chromolithography: Printed Colour for All, which explains much about the story. According to Tywman, Hullmandel found himself in a public spat with an associate of printer, Charles Engelmann, who was said to be the inventor of chromolithography in 1837. This rivalry between the two printing firms lead to some fierce competition. Engelmann published "an inventive little alphabet book with the title The Landscape Alphabet (Paris, 1830), each letter being drawn in a more-or-less contrived way within a landscape setting." Using the very same title, Hullmandel then published his own, more elaborate version of a landscape alphabet the very next year. It was for a charity publication using the beautiful crayon-drawn letters by a Miss L.E.M. Jones. (She was indeed a woman artist, as I second-guessed.) It would make sense then to believe that this 1831 edition, with the grey tone letters doubled up on each page, was Hullmandel's first printing. His second edition with just one letter per page printed black only, came later. I am grateful to Dr. MacMillan for bringing Michael Twymans' findings to light, and connecting all the dots.

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