Brown University’s John Hay Library Exhibition of ‘Illustrating the Good Life’

The Pissarros’ Eragny Press, 1894-1914

Note: The descriptions below are all by Dr. H. R. H. Beckwith.

Ten Spiritual Designs, enlarged from Proofs of the Originals on Copper, Wood and Stone of Thomas Calvert. Portland, Maine: Thomas Bird Mosher, 1913.

Mosher included a slip of paper in his Calvert book crediting Lucien Pissarro with the designs for ornaments used in the text. In his forward and on page three of the text, Mosher combined a floral band from the Pissarros’ Abregé de l’art poétique, with a red initial A from the Eragny Descent of Ishtar. Philip R. Bishop traced both of these books to Mosher’s collection. Following Eragny Press precedent, Mosher also carefully chose the paper for his books. It is not known why Mosher chose to acknowledge his use of Pissarro’s designs in this book, but it is one of his most visually impressive volumes. In 2000 it was chosen by Martin Hutner and Jerry Kelly as one of the hundred best books of the last hundred years in their A Century for the Century exhibition at the Grolier Club. Furthermore, in form and content it is very much in keeping with the pastoral, harmonious natural world found in Eragny Press illustrations and ornaments.

Brown University Library, gift of S. Foster Damon


Walt Whitman. Leaves of Grass. Portland, Maine: Thomas Bird Mosher, 1919.

Writing in the American Mercury in May of 1924, Harry Lyman Koopman proclaimed that “discussion of modern fine printing in America may well begin with the work of Mosher.” And indeed, Mosher’s careful choice of paper, good quality ink, and ornament borrowed from the Eragny Abregé de l’art poétique, epitomizes Anglo-French attitudes to fine printing as interpreted by Lucien Pissarro. Besides giving Mosher ideas about book ornamentation, Eragny books provided him with examples of how effective good paper and ink were in producing visual impact.

Brown University Library, gift of Philip D. Sherman in honor of his teacher Harry L. Koopman


James Lane Allen. The Last Christmas Tree – An Idyl of Immortality. Portland, Maine: Thomas Bird Mosher, 1914.

Printed at the beginning of World War I, this Mosher work concerns death, hope and remembrance. From Eragny Press books Mosher used form and colors that underscore these messages, red for blood and green for hope. He was probably also influenced by the traditional use of red and green during the Christmas season when these works were printed. On the cover of The Last Christmas Tree – An Idyl of Immortality, he used the repeating lotus-flower pattern from the Eragny Press settings of Perrault’s fairy tales.

Brown University Library