The Joy of the Hunt for…

The Joy of the Hunt for…

Tuesday, Jun 28, 2022

Ask almost any bookseller, and they will tell you that one of the biggest thrills in bookselling is...

…hunting for a rare book.

Not necessarily a particular rare book, but keeping one’s eyes open for the unusual, the heretofore-unseen, the (perhaps?) last remaining copy of…well, just about anything.

During my trip to New England I visited many colleagues, both those with open shops and those without.  During one of those visits, after combing through shelf after shelf of books, and bin after bin of ephemera, what did my little eye spy?

January 1910, Fifteen Cents.  With an illustration of a rooster in black on an orange ground, the mark a simple black square.  A modest little pamphlet of only eight leaves.

Consultation with a friend who is an expert in illustrator and trade binding marks enabled me to put a name to the illustrator:  Charles Buckles Falls (1874-1960) who was, per Wiki, “an American artist, most known for his illustrations and writings. He is the author and illustrator of several books, including The ABC Book. He is also known for his World War I poster advertisements, such as Books Wanted.”

But…his ABC Book was published in 1923, this little periodical in 1910 – thirteen years prior.  Well, that was interesting.  So is the fact that no copies can be found online.  A search of OCLC indicates nine institutions hold a copy, but they state the title as simply 1910 (sans “January”).

Then my eyes lit upon the publisher:  “[p]ublished by the Nineteen-Ten Publishers, 27 E 22nd Street, New York City.  No matter is printed in Nineteen-Ten except by invitation.  Hal Marchbanks, Printer, New York.”

So who is Hal Marchbanks?  Per a blog on the web site of Paul Shaw Letter Design, Marchbanks began printing at the age of eight years old, as an assistant at his town’s weekly newspaper.  He worked for a time as a printer in Dallas, Texas, and in 1902 moved to Lockport, New York, establishing his first printing office.  “A few years later he moved again to New York City were he became the manager of Hill’s Print Shop.  In late 1913 John A. Hill (1858-1916) sold the business to Marchbanks who renamed it Hal Marchbanks, Printer.  The following year it became The Marchbanks Press.”

Per the Shaw blog, “In its time – roughly the quarter-century after 1919 – The Marchbanks Press was considered one of the best printers not only in New York City but throughout the entire United States. Yet today, it and its owner are virtually forgotten.”

The blog continues thus:  “The Marchbanks Press dominated the 1920 AIGA Printing Exhibition, overshadowing more famous printers such as The Merrymount Press, John Henry Nash, and Carl Purington Rollins.  Fifty of the 1457 items chosen for display were either composed or printed by the press.”

So…my scarce little January 1910 represents the collaboration of a well-known illustrator and one of the best printers of the early 20th century. 

This, my friends, is what makes my heart beat faster.  Finding these clues and the stories behind them, stories of those who gave so much to the world of printing and illustration art.