Grolier Club, The Art Exemplar

William Stannard’s The Art Exemplar (London, 1859?) is a mid-nineteenth-century encyclopedia of illustration processes. In addition to describing traditional processes, such as etching and wood engraving, The Art Exemplar covers techniques that were new and experimental at the time. Some of these processes, such as Anaglyptography—a mechanical process of converting a three-dimensional design to an engraved plate—were in use for only a short time and are otherwise difficult to research. The techniques are thoroughly described, and nearly all are illustrated with an original print from Stannard’s own collection. Due to the finite number of original prints that Stannard could contribute to the publication, the edition was apparently limited to ten copies, including four large paper copies and six regular copies. Nine of the ten copies—including all four large paper copies—are held by institutions, and the tenth copy is in private hands. The Grolier Club copy, also from a private collection, is apparently outside the edition of ten, increasing the number of known copies to eleven. Four of the institutional copies are in England (three in London); one is in Toronto, Canada; and five are in east coast U.S. libraries (Grolier Club, Library of Congress, RIT, UVA, National Gallery of Art). The rarity of The Art Exemplar, combined with the fairly limited geographic distribution of the copies, makes it a difficult work for scholars to access. This relative inaccessibility, combined with the importance of this work for the history of graphic processes and book illustration, makes it an ideal candidate for digitization. I have found no evidence to date that any of the other holding institutions have digitized their copy, although RIT has mounted a few images on their website.

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