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Harper Brothers in 1855, A Treasure Trove of Images

Harper Brothers in 1855, A Treasure Trove of Images

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Published by steinbl

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Published by: steinbl on Jul 02, 2011
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07/10/2013

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 WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 26, 2007
Harper Brothers in 1855, A Treasure Trove of Images
DESTRUCTIVE FIRE.THE ESTABLISHMENTOF HARPER &BROTHERS IN RUINS.
OVER 
 
$1,000,000
OF PROPERTY DESTROYED!
"The enormous Printing, Stereotyping, Binding, and Publishing Establishment of HARPER BROTHERS, which has been for many years one of the most magnificent monuments of private enterprise which our City, and indeed our country, could boast, was entirely destroyed by fire on Saturday last,-and now lies a shapeless mass of mouldering ruins..."So the headlines of December 12, 1853 read inThe New York Times. The four brothers posefor Matthew Brady about 1860. I'm not sure which one is which.
Harper & Brothers
was a prominent New York City book and magazine publishing firm which founded
 Harper's Magazine
, and published books for decades, surviving today in theMurdoch publishing empire as HarperCollins.James Harperand his brother John, printers by training, started their book publishing business J. & J. Harper in 1817. Their two brothers, Joseph Wesley Harper andFletcherHarper, joined them in the mid 1820s. The company changed its name to "Harper &Brothers" in 1833. The headquarters of the publishing house were located at 331 PearlStreet, facing Franklin Square in Lower Manhattan (about where the Manhattan approachto the Brooklyn Bridge lies today).On the night the old building burned down, the brothers met and unanimously decided torebuild on the original location. According to the family, they ordered 20 new presses, and
 
sent notices to the newspapers that Harper & Brothers would remain in business.
The Harper  Establishment; or, How the Story Booksare Made
, by Jacob Abbott (1855)
On completion of the new cast-iron building housing HarperBrothers, children's author Jacob Abbott turned his talent forthorough description to explainingthe mechanics of how books wereproduced. This heavily illustrated work explores everything fromhow type is made to the mechanics behind the building's wrought ironstructure.Many of the detailed engravings of the building and the machinery are linked to high-resolution versions. The first image is of the Cliff Street front. The second is a wonderfully detailedcutaway of the same building.Of course, there are some wonderful engravings of printingand bookbinding, but also detailsof paper marbling, typecasting,sewing, gilding, etc. I had neverheard of this book until an original1855 printing came across ebay. Ilost the auction; I had no idea what the book was worth.I ventured over to my favorite book search engine, bookfinder.com, and discoveredthere have been a couple reprints.One in 1956, and another in 2001

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