The original rock music. Guest post by Sally Rumsey

Johnson volunteer Sally Rumsey continues her series of posts inspired by musical instrument ephemera in the John Johnson Collection

Asked to name rock musicians and most people would probably think of Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, Freddie Mercury or some other great name from the rock music hall of fame. I suspect few would come up with Mr. Joseph Richardson.

To be fair, while Jagger and Co created music that is stylistically ‘rock’ music, the enterprising Mr Richardson was making music using real rocks. He was described as the inventor of the rock harmonicon (although note the previous work of Peter Crosthwaite), an instrument built using pieces of rock, more accurately, hornfels, collected from Skiddaw in what was then Cumberland, in the English Lake District. Richardson, a stone mason, hailed from Keswick, so the hills of the Lakes would have been close by.

I say ‘inventor,’ but using stones to make musical sounds was not new. The term ‘lithophone’ (from the Greek ‘lithos’ – stone) is the term for a musical instrument formed of a rock or pieces of rock which are struck to produce musical notes. The use of stone as the basis for musical percussion instruments may date back even as far as the neolithic period (New Scientist, P8, 10/1/1957) and has been used across the globe (for example a performance from Vietnam)

Having built his rock harmonicon, Mr Richardson set about demonstrating his glorious curiosity across the land. This was something of a family enterprise – father, Joseph being the builder of the instrument, and three of his sons engaged to perform a selection of pieces to show off its capabilities.

The John Johnson collection holds a number of items that shed light on the unconventional and notable contraption. The items are primarily advertisements enticing people to attend demonstrations of the instrument, or reviews of those demonstrations. They not only provide evidence of the sound and capabilities of the instrument, but also illustrate the elaborate prose and poetry of writing at the time – around 1840.

 

Advertisement for the Rock Harmonicon
Fig 1. Advertisement for the Rock Harmonicon. JJ Musical Instrument 3 (14)

One advertisement describes the instrument as an “Extraordinary musical novelty!” (fig. 2). The parts (the rocks) having been sourced in the Lake District, he took his invention to London and arranged demonstrations. The items in the John Johnson collection indicate that Richardson travelled to Ramsgate and Liverpool where ‘every variety of composition’ was ‘played upon this singular instrument.’

An 1842 advertisement for Richardson’s three sons’ demonstration at Mr. Stanley’s Rooms in Old Bond St suggest that they performed a wide-ranging programme daily from ten o’clock until seven – a full 9 hours per day. The sons are depicted in an engraving, seated on stools, two of them in tailcoats, before a colossal contraption which looks like rows of French baguettes on a stand. They appear to be tapping the ‘sticks of rock’ with mallets as a percussionist would play a xylophone. Equally notably, alongside such esteemed names as Mozart and Parry, is the item on their programme, ‘Mazurka and Galoppade’ composed, no less, by HRH the Duchess of Kent.

Compared to modern publicity materials, the advertisements are text heavy and verbose, but an entertaining read for the 21st

century reader.

The more fulsome critiques of the instrument that were published in the press demonstrate rich and colourful Victorian language. For example:

The rock harmonicon – The source of its effects is implied in its name; and thus, for the first time, are we made aware that after forcing all manner of treasures from the bowels of the earth – that after successfully ransacking stones for fuel, precious gems, not less precious metals, and even sermons, there is still music to be won for the trying.”

The Cumberland Packet from Whitehaven waxed even more lyrical:

This was a work of immense labour and time, and required much determination and industry for its accomplishment, and after many hard days’ labour in the mountains, Mr. Richardson denied himself the repose which exhausted nature required, and spent whole nights, after his family had retired to rest, in hammering and chiselling the rough stones, and in selecting and arranging them, ere he brought to its present state the sweet-toned instrument which cost him thirteen years of unwearied labour and perseverance, under circumstances such as few minds, not possessed of uncommon fortitude, could have surmounted.”

Imagine reading such a long and picturesque description in the reviews section of today’s newspapers. It makes one feel exhausted in sympathy with the industrious and tireless Mr. Richardson.

We learn that Mrs Edward Thomas was so moved on hearing the instrument that she broke into verse, penning 22 lines of romantic poetry extolling the ‘organ of passion, anger, love,’ and praising the ‘glorious triumph’ of Mr Richardson.

Advertisement for Extraordinary Musical Novelty (rock harmonicon)
Extraordinary Musical Novelty. JJ Musical Instruments 3 (14)

Three of the items in the John Johnson (JJ) collection state that they were produced on the ‘Steam-press of W.H. Cox, 5 Great Queen Street’, highlighting other technology that had captured the Victorian imagination. A steam powered press was patented by Koenig in 1810 and became an early component in the production of mass newspapers.

Joseph Richardson died in 1855 aged 66 and, according to an obituary held in the JJ collection, “the surprising performances by the inventor’s three sons on these unique instruments have, in all parts of the country, created the greatest astonishment to all who have beheld their thrilling powers.” Joseph Richardson’s rock harmonicon can still be seen, and played, in its home at the Keswick Museum and Art Gallery. There is a book about the instrument written by one of Mr Richardson’s descendants (Phillips, J.H., The Rock, Bell and Steel Band – the story of Joseph Richardson and his Musical Stones, 0645141313). The melodious tones of the instrument live on – try a search for Keswick musical stones in a search engine to find more writings and videos.

 

Playing the pianola – the perfect pastime

We are absolutely delighted to welcome Sally Rumsey as a Johnson volunteer with special responsibility for blog posts. Sally is a musician, so where better to start than some of the uncatalogued, undigitised musical treasures in the Collection!

As autumn set in, the comfortably-off 1920’s family could happily bid farewell to their summer pursuits – angling, punting, golf, camping, playing cricket. They could contentedly leave behind their outdoor activities – hiking wearing the latest stylish plus fours and camping – knowing that their pianola awaits in their living room.

Front cover of a 4 page leaflet advertising the pianola John Johnson Collection: Musical Instru
Front cover of a 4 page leaflet advertising the pianola, 1928
John Johnson Collection: Musical Instruments 2 (17)

Having dressed for dinner, the whole family could be entertained by the concert at home on their very own Pianola. No musical skill was necessary – the instruments were self-playing by means of a perforated roll of paper and some pedal-power.

Although the beautifully attired lady is poised in this illustration as if she were playing the piano – her hands are resting near the keys – in fact it is her feet that are doing the ‘playing.’ By operating the two pedals, a suction mechanism operates the instrument. A rotating drum holds a perforated paper roll, the ‘music,’ which is loaded in the front of the piano.

The advertisement is a in fact a 4-page leaflet, with colourful prose – waxing lyrical about the heady days of summer and anticipating the ‘hygge’ of autumn. It entices potential buyers by tantalising images of what they would be able to play, if they only purchased ‘the cheapest luxury of a luxury loving age….Why not start now and let your home be a ‘Pianola’ home this winter?

If you missed your chance when the weather turned inclement in the Autumn, there was always the opportunity to purchase, or even hire a pianola, from the Orchestrelle Company in time for Christmas (A pianola for Christmas). Clearly the Orchestrelle pianola was an instrument for the more discerning player. When writing to request details one had to ask for the “Connoisseur” catalogue. At £65 in 1902 it would have been a significant purchase – equivalent to over 6 months wages of a skilled tradesman (source: TNA)

The earlier advert must have been produced when the Orchestrelle Company was an American firm with a branch in London, before it was taken over by the British Orchestrelle Co. Ltd. in July 1912 (Hoffman, 2004).

An Orchestrelle Company advertising leaflet promoting pianolas for Christmas. John Johnson Collection: Musical Instruments 2
An Orchestrelle Company advertising leaflet promoting pianolas for Christmas, 1902
John Johnson Collection: Musical Instruments 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In both adverts the individual playing the instrument was a woman. During the Victorian period ‘it was women who dominated home music-making, a fact acknowledged by Macmillan’s Magazine: ‘our young ladies . . . are the principle interpreters of our domestic music.’ (in Scott, D.B.2001). This practice appears to have continued into the early 20th century when entertainment was often home created. In the earlier image from 1904, all were wearing sizeable hats of lustrous rich fabric – no lady would have been seen without her hat in polite company. By the 1920’s the hats have gone, and it is possible to make out what is bobbed and Marcel waved hair on the women – the height of fashion – created using heated tongs.

The 1904 advert is decorated with an Art Nouveau style border, very much in vogue at the time. The sales pitch is a lyrical description of how the purchase of this magnificent instrument enables anybody, even non-pianists, to ‘grasp the idea of a musical composition’ in the same way one would ‘appreciate the plot of a story.’

Although it is easy to dismiss such an instrument as a folly and deception for those who cannot play a ‘real’ piano, later player pianos enabled lifelike performances by such greats as Rachmaninov and Debussy to be captured. In the days when audio recorded music was in its infancy and, to be frank, the result was far from hi-fidelity, having a piano roll of a musical maestro really was like listening to live music played by a professional. These were known as reproducing pianos because they captured the nuances of the performer – pedalling, rubato and dynamics. For example, there is a remarkable recording of ‘Rhapsodie in Blue’ released in 1976 by the Columbia Jazz Band under Michael Tilson Thomas, accompanying the real George Gershwin at the keyboard in the form of a piano roll he recorded in 1925.

The paper rolls were either created by ‘recording’ the playing of a pianist performing the piece, or they could be created artificially by manually punching holes into the paper.

This opened up another opportunity presented by player pianos: that of being a superhuman pianist – performing works that can be captured by punctuated paper rolls that a human being could not physically play.

In a move that would be approved by modern standards enthusiasts, an agreement was made for a standard size of paper roll and the numbers of holes punched to the inch.

The history of the paper piano roll player piano like the ones in these adverts is relatively short. The first instruments were created around the 1890’s, they reached their heyday in the 1920’s, and went into decline in the depression of the 1930’s. This coincided with the rise in broadcast music (the BBC is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, 2022) and music electrically recorded for capture on discs.

Watch this space for some weird and wonderful examples from the John Johnson Collection’s boxes of ephemera relating to Musical Instruments.

Let’s buy: Some Cordial Balm of Gilead. Guest post by Lynda Mugglestone

Very many thanks to Lynda Mugglestone for this analytical post on an advertisement for Solomon’s Cordial Balm of Gilead. This item is not in the Art of Advertising exhibition.

In Jo Baker’s Longbourn (2013), a novel in which the events of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice are vividly retold from below stairs, it is perhaps fitting that Mrs. Bennet, sorely tried by the refusal of her daughter Elizabeth to marry Mr. Collins, retires to her dressing room in the company of a bottle of Cordial Balsam of Gilead. As an early nineteenth-century advertising in the John Johnson Collection persuasively asserts, this was an ‘admirable remedy’, suitable alike for ‘debilitated conditions’, ‘nervous weakness’, and ‘hypochondriacal afflictions’.

Two page advertisement for S. Solomon's Cordial Balm of Gilead, c. 1804. Page 1
The Cordial Balm of Gilead. S. Solomon, [c. 1804].
John Johnson Collection. Patent Medicines 6 (34a)
Female vulnerabilities were overtly addressed. Any women ‘affected with Langour, Headach, or Hysterical affections’ would benefit, contemporary readers were assured. So, too, would anyone in need of ‘relaxation from juvenile indiscretion’. Given Elizabeth’s intransigence, Mrs. Bennet’s self-medication is generous and abundant. In Baker’s novel, half a bottle swiftly disappears.

Two page advertisement for S. Solomon's Cordial Balm of Gilead, c. 1804. Page 2

The medicinal qualities of balms can, in term of language, be traced to medieval times. A balm is an ‘aromatic ointment for soothing pain or healing wounds’, the OED confirms. Balm of Gilead has, however, its origin in Biblical authority. ‘Is there no balme at Gilead? is there no Physician there?’ as Book 8, Verse 22 of Jeremiah demands. The Liverpool-based Samuel Solomon (c.1768-1819) would, from c.1796, provide a very profitable response. On one hand, Solomon’s tactical appropriation of Balm of Gilead was used to denote one of the most prominent quack products of the late eighteenth century  and nineteenth centuries. On the other, a decision to appropriate the status and learning of the ‘physician’ was deployed to equally good effect, as in the ‘M.D.’ which followed Solomon’s name in the various promotional publications and pamphlets he produced. A quack, as Samuel Johnson had stated in 1755 was, by definition, ‘a Boastful pretender to arts which he does not understand’. A doctor, in contrast, brought an undisputable claim to authority.

Boastfulness is perhaps an inevitable property of the language of advertising. Even so, Solomon’s preferred diction in advertising his ‘Cordial Balm of Gilead’ remains striking. Prefixes (‘inestimable’, ‘unprecedented’) deftly remind of the unparalleled qualities now offered to the consumer. Efficacy (‘wonderful success’) is extolled in similar ways, in remedial effects marked by their speed (‘instantaneously receives’) and unqualified strength (‘braces the nervous system…disburdens the viscera’ while throwing off ‘viscid strong humours’). Its popularity was lauded to equal effect. Sales, Solomon declares, have been ‘wonderfully great’, with ‘demand far exceeding any medicine ever published’, and a geographic range that includes ‘Europe’ and ‘America’. Advertising can easily become eulogy: ‘Thousands at this moment live to praise the day they first applied to this remedy, and enjoy the blessings of health, who might have dropped into an untimely grave’. A balm, Solomon stresses, can be a ‘social benefit’. The Cordial Balm of Gilead, was undoubtedly expensive —but, given its range of uses, it was also promoted as a bargain at half a guinea a bottle.

As a cordial balm moreover, its branding usefully harnessed antithetic qualities. Balms are conventionally solids, applied externally in order to soothe and restore. Cordials, in contrast, were traditionally depicted as fortifying from within, quickening the circulation or increasing the power of the heart. A cordial is ‘any medicine that increases strength’, Johnson explained in 1755. A cordial balm, at least rhetorically, could suggest its own innovatory synthesis, able to calm as well as fortify, sooth as well as invigorate — in ways that gave substance to the diverse lists of ailments for which restitution was promised, whether ‘Flatulence’ or ‘Palpitations’, ‘pain’, or ‘Difficulty of Respiration’. A conspicuous clustering of Latinate terminology (‘viscid’, ‘viscera’), and a catalogue of diagnostic nouns (deglutition referred, for example, to ‘The act or power of swallowing’) brought their own implied authority. Price and polysyllables both reinforced the elite status of the patent medicine purveyed.

We might note, even so, some interesting absences. The advertisement details, across two pages, the diverse conditions for which remedy is now apparently provided. The rhetorical power of lists, and their cumulative effect, is plain. So, too, is the range of human debility and the anxieties that can thereby be manipulated, as in the deliberately affecting details by which, for those denied this medical miracle, ‘the body is weakened’ while other symptoms (‘paleness, bodily decay, emaciation, and the eyes sink into the head’) await the hapless sufferer. The power of purchase might intentionally be secured on several levels. But the purchaser is, in reality, no wiser about what is being bought. Conviction must rest on credulity, rather than on a list of ingredients and their tried and tested benefits. If, in other accounts, Solomon stresses the presence of ‘some of the choicest balsams and strengtheners’ as components of his ‘noble Medicine’, alongside its scientific basis (‘reiterated experiments, and close application to practical chemistry’), advertising maintained a determined non-specificity. As William Helfand suggests, the ‘Cordial Balm’ was, in reality, probably a composite of ‘a few herbs and spices dissolved in a substantial percentage of old French brandy’. Certainly, Mrs Bennet in Baker’s fictional account, quaffs it with alacrity, finding her troubles eased. A cordial, as Johnson added, can be ‘anything that comforts, gladdens, and exhilerates’. Ease can, however, also be addictive – evident perhaps in the invitation to purchase by the case for those who, whether by accident or design, had become regular consumers.

References:

William Helfand, ‘Samuel Solomon and the Cordial Balm of Gilead’, Pharmacy in History 31 (1989), 151-59.

 

Let’s buy: An Antipestilential Quilt. Guest post by Lynda Mugglestone

Many thanks to Prof Lynda Mugglestone (Pembroke College, Oxford) for a fascinating analysis of one of the earliest exhibits in the Art of Advertising exhibition. The language of advertising is the focus of Lynda’s chapter in the accompanying book, The Art of Advertising.

Manner of Wearing the Antipestilential Quilt, [1690]
Manner of Wearing the Antipestilential Quilt, [1690]. JJColl: Patent Medicines 16 (19)
For modern readers, the Antipestilential Quilts advertised in the eighteenth century might perhaps suggest a more powerful version of an anti-allergy duvet –– a tempting fusion of warmth and protection in which unwanted symptoms are warded off as one sleeps. The reality was, however, rather different. Quilts of this kind were not comfortable coverings for a bed but portable artefacts worn on the body (near ‘the Pit of the Stomach’, as the advertisement above helpfully clarifies). As the Oxford English Dictionary explains, they are pads or dressings, layers of material used in the aim of medical treatment, and often coated with an unguent or ointment. For the OED, quilts of this kind were last recorded in 1684. The Antipestilential Quilts of Georgian England display, as such, surprising longevity.

They are surprising in other ways, too. ‘The great Art in Writing Advertisements is the finding out of a proper method to catch the reader’s Eye’, Addison declared in the Tatler in 1710. This advertisement proceeds, however, by stealth. The heading suggests, at first glance, a set of instructions for use — a piece of informative prose rather than persuasion. We are told where the quilt is to be worn, and how we might secure it (‘with a Ribband or Fillet’). We might, it indicates, need another ‘Ribband’, too, to go round the body. We are also told the best way to dry it, and the requirements of weekly application. Only gradually are its persuasive claims revealed, along with its stated efficacy against ‘the Small Pox’.

‘An eruptive distemper of great malignity’, as defined by Samuel Johnson in his own Dictionary of 1755, smallpox was the most dreaded – and most infectious — disease of the eighteenth century. Thought to be implicated in circa 1 in every 5 deaths, it displayed two-yearly cycles of virulence between 1750-1800.  In the advertisement above, it is woven into the text on four separate occasions, an insistent reminder of what is at stake. Like Covid-19, it was an air-borne and viral infection, a disease of proximity and contact which accounted for a third of childhood deaths in the seventeenth century, and some 400,000 deaths a year across Europe in the eighteenth. Those who survived were scarred for life.  A ‘pit or scar made by the smallpox’ was a pockhole, another entry in Johnson’s Dictionary confirms. Yet, at least within this advertisement, immunity from pocks and disease alike was extended to those in possession of a quilt of this kind, and who don it as directed. ‘No person who has not had the Small-Pox, or is obliged by his Profession to visit infected Places, ought to be without it’, readers were informed. Anxiety and reassurance are carefully balanced in the narrative which unfolds. For those with an Antipestilential Quilt, infection holds no fear. The quilt is a tangible form of shielding, actively ‘fortifying’ those who purchase it. Conversely, those without such protection are both vulnerable and exposed. Deft, too, is the reference to ‘Convulsion’. For infant sufferers of smallpox, convulsions were a telling – and dangerous – symptom; the ‘Cradle’ referred to in line 19 evokes innocence (and the prospect of innocent suffering) alongside a calculated prompt to parental responsibility and guilt. Being quiltless is made a calculated risk. Across the advertisement, positive verbal constructions work to the same ends, reinforcing the stated efficacy of a product that ‘will preserve … from Convulsions’ and by means of which ‘the Blood purges itself of malignant Humours’ to leave the body at ease.  If further ‘Equilibrium’ is required, a little ‘Wine and Water’ is all that is needed.

We are, of course, in the realm of quackery rather than medicine proper. Even so, embedded medical diction draws on the Latinate and authoritative (‘insensible Perspiration’) as well on the time-honoured and traditional. As such, it deploys not the new-fangled inoculation — a word used after 1700 in relation to smallpox, and a process adopted by the pioneering Lady Mary Wortley Montagu in 1718 — but the familiar model of the bodily ‘humours’, and the salience of sweating out ‘ill humours’ such that the balance that illness has disrupted is restored. Superlatives (it ‘may be worn … with the greatest Safety’) as well as economy (with careful use, it will last for ‘twenty Years or more’) do their own persuasive work. Only in the final paragraph do the clinching details appear of where this extraordinary, and exclusive, commodity can be obtained, and by which the ‘Manner of Wearing the Antipestilential Quilt’ is extended to anyone who can afford it. We might begin therefore with apparent instruction in something we already own.  We end with the details by which this potent object of desire can be acquired, alongside the promise it brings.

Promise is, of course, a weasel word in its own right. On one hand, as Johnson noted, it is a ‘declaration of some benefit to be conferred’. Nevertheless, as he added, it is equally bound to ‘hope’ and ‘expectation’ – and to that anticipated but not by any means realized. Here, too, the Antipestilential Quilt proves exemplary. Purchase might, at least temporarily, allay concern but striding into ‘infected places’, even if wearing an Antipestilential Quilt, risked highly adverse consequences. Few, in this light, would be in use for twenty years. The projected discourse of economy was, quite literally, false, as, of course, were the protective merits urged upon potential consumers. As other advertisements for this product in the late eighteenth century make plain, the real promise of the Antipestilential Quilt relied on credulity and the power of belief. It might, as in the London Chronicle in 1773, hence be depicted as ‘an infallible ANTIDOTE against the SMALL POX’ but, ‘worn by way of an Amulet’, it is, in essence, a talisman against infection. In this further strand of advertising, the details of ‘insensible Perspiration’ were removed in favour of prominent scare-mongering. Amulets, like the processes of infection, work in invisible ways. Empirical evidence is provided by an experiment ‘tried in Paris’ in which medical ethics – and childhood safeguarding — are conspicuously absent. Instead, six healthy children ‘put to Sleep with persons who had the Small Pox in the most inveterate Degree’, present proof of efficacy (and pressure to buy). Given the protective immunity of a Quilt, three children retain ‘perfect Health’. Those denied ‘this Preservative’ are less fortunate, being ‘seized with this Disease within 48 Hours’. For susceptible readers, the moral of was plain. The text – and the sales pitch — conclude with directions for purchase, and a reminder to acquire only the genuine article, available from Mr Baldwin in Fleet Street whose monopoly was thereby rendered secure.

Notes

*On the historical background to smallpox in Britain, see S. R. Duncan, Susan Scott, and C. J. Duncan, ‘The Dynamics of Smallpox Epidemics in Britain, 1550-1800’, Demography vol.30 (1993), 405-23.

** Edward Jenner’s introduction of vaccination for smallpox at the very end of the eighteenth century gradually reduced mortality. Smallpox was formally eradicated in 1980.

 

 

 

A War Bride Story: a guest post by John G. Sayers

A very tiny piece of ephemera in The Sayers Collection represents a very big story.

Queen Mary cabin assignment for E. Appell, recto
Queen Mary cabin assignment for E. Appell, recto

The document, a piece of cardboard 3 x 2 inches, appears to be nothing more than a cabin assignment on board Cunard’s wonderful Queen Mary for a person named ‘E. Appell’.

This person was assigned to Cabin M71, in an Upper Berth. The possibility of a lower berth has been crossed out. “So, what”, you may think. “What makes this so special?”

What makes it special is the stamped franking on the back. It was applied in Southampton, so the passenger was travelling westbound. And the date? On 22 May 1946, the Queen Mary was totally engaged in ferrying War Brides – thousands of them – from Britain to North America at the end of the Second World War.

Queen Mary Cabin assignement for E. Appell, verso
Queen Mary Cabin assignement for E. Appell, verso

It took a lot of courage to travel from the U.K. to join a man who would not be wearing a handsome uniform when you were reunited with him, in an unfamiliar town or city where the language was the same but the houses and cars were different and people had a ‘a funny accent’.

In The Sayers Collection there is more ephemera from War Bride journeys – menus, postcards, Cunard Captain greetings, and even a note from one of the cabin crew reminiscing that they carried War Brides westward, and on the eastbound return trips they carried German Prisoners of War being repatriated to their homeland.

Ephemera brings new life to historical events. If a member of your family was a War Bride, you can now add more information to your genealogical resources.

This ephemera and a large number of other Ocean Liner items is contained in The Sayers Collection in the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library. A vast quantity of other ocean liner ephemera capturing social, shipping, historical, and commercial information in The Sayers Collection, continues to migrate across the Atlantic to the John Johnson Collection.

 

The magic of chromolithography

An alternative approach to colour wood engraving was chromolithography, which became the main means of producing coloured advertising after the introduction of machine printing in the late 1860s. The design was drawn by a team of artists on a set of stones (later plates), each one devoted to a particular colour and parts of the image. These colours were then printed one after another so that they blended visually. The variety of lithographic markmaking and the far greater number of colours used (often 8 to 15 in advertising) meant that the end product could be richer and more subtle than a colour wood engraving. In this print the colours are shown separately in the margin.

Adams’s Furniture polish, [c. 1900], [1 p.], 202 x 326 mm. Ten-colour chromolithography with colour tablets
Adams’s Furniture polish, [c. 1900], [1 p.], 202 x 326 mm. Ten-colour chromolithography with colour tablets. JJ Advertising adds folder (1)
Adams's Furniture polish (detail)
Adams’s Furniture polish (detail)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As many as fifteen hues (ten in this case), printed from as many different stones, were routinely used by advertisers. This proof, still displaying its set of colour tablets, uses stippled dots to fuse the colours.

Like ‘ephemera’, the term ‘chromolithography’ is perhaps off-putting.  Both terms represent, however, items that are both familiar and immediately appealing.

Chromolithography is a magical process, resulting in (at best) beautiful images in colour, the richness of which results from the successive layers of colours and tones inherent in their printing.

Chromolithography was anything but simple: large, sometimes huge, slabs of stone had to be quarried (usually in Bavaria) and transported. The stones had to be prepared for printing. The desired image had to be divided into its component colours and tones for printing, each on a separate stone. All needed perfect registration. It is almost miraculous that it worked, never mind that it became commercially viable.  The (rare) surviving key-line drawings and ‘progressives’ are crucial to understanding the process. Although two colours are combined on each card, the Liebig series of collectable cards devoted to the creation of a twelve-colour chromolithograph shows something of its complexity.  We have this series, from 1906, in Italian.

iebig Chromolithography series (1)
Liebig Chromolithography series (1). JJ Food 10 (11a)
Liebig Chromolithography series (2)
Liebig Chromolithography series (2). JJ Food 10 (11b)
Liebig Chromolithography series (3)
Liebig Chromolithography series (3). JJ Food 10 (11c)
Liebig Chromolithography series (4)
Liebig Chromolithography series (4). JJ Food 10 (11d)
Liebig Chromolithography series (5)
Liebig Chromolithography series (5). JJ Food 10 (11e)
Liebig Chromolithography series (6)
Liebig Chromolithography series (6). JJ Food 10 (11f)

Around 1,881 series of Liebig cards were produced in several languages from 1872 to 1975, with some isolated later series in the 1990s and early 2000s.

It has been a privilege to benefit from the expertise of the world authority on lithography and chromolithography, Michael Twyman, who has identified the printing processes of all the exhibits in ‘The Art of Advertising’ including the number of colours in the (high proportion of) chromolithographs.  These analyses are available through the image captions in the online version of the exhibition and give an insight into typical practices of the time.