The Bibelot Series, 1893-1897

Note: The following catalogue list, with minor alterations, is taken from Vilain and Bishop’s Thomas Bird Mosher and the Art of the Book (Philadelphia: F. A Davis, 1992), pp. 11-54, with the kind permission of the publisher. Cross references to the illustrations which appear in the book have been eliminated.

Ten volumes were printed over these four years. Mosher had announced that they would not be reprinted, a strong hint to book-lovers to buy now these tall slender volumes, “modeled on the Aldine Books, and, like them entirely printed in Italics.” It appears that his clientele heeded Mosher’s warning, since the first six titles were sold out by 1896.

Of the first four titles, 725 copies were printed on Van Gelder paper, and 25, numbered, on Japan vellum. For each of the next two titles, Mosher printed 725 copies on Van Gelder plus 50 numbered on Japan vellum. Beginning in 1896 with the seventh title, Mosher raised the print run to 925 copies on Van Gelder paper and 100 numbered copies on Japan vellum. All copies measured 210 mm x 100 mm, had silk markers, and were bound in flexible Japan vellum with fumed edges (also called yapped edges). Original decorations of flowers and leaves, stylized and realistic, occupy the top quarter of the cover. The title is superimposed and at times, as in the case of songs of Adieu, hard to read.

Mosher had announced that the Bibelot Series would not be reprinted, but he did not say anything about individual titles; four were reissued, in different formats, in various series: Songs of Adieu, the Rubáiyát, Félise and The Blessed Damozel.

  1. SONGS OF ADIEU: A LITTLE BOOK OF FINALÉ AND FAREWELL. Portland, Maine, Thomas B Mosher, Mdcccxcij.
    Twenty-one manuscript leaves with a printed proof of the title page; bound in three sections; crudely sewn. The printed book (Bibelot 1, Hatch 3) has 68 pp.

This mock-up gives us insights into Mosher’s approach to book design. The trim size of the pages is that of the finished book. The title page has been set in its final format, printed in black and white in an old-style typeface ( unlike the subsequent volumes, the title is printed in black).

The table of contents estimates the number of pages to be assigned to each poem (some poems have been eliminated in the printed version, possibly for reasons of space). The rest of the handwritten pages are models for the printer to follow. Mosher wrestled with the number of copies to be printed, writing at first 800, then 650, and finally 725—the print run of the first four volumes in this series.

Interestingly, a longhand “note” by Mosher does not appear in the published volume.

Songs of Adieu is Mosher’s first anthology as well as the first book meant to be part of a series; the rubric of English Reprint was created after the first book in that series had already been published.

  1. LONG AGO, Michael Field [Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper]. Portland, Maine, Thomas B. Mosher, Mdcccxcvij.
    91 pp. Bibelot 9, Hatch 36. This is copy 46 of 100 on Japan vellum.

Michael Field was the pseudonym shared by Katherine Bradley and her niece, Edith Cooper, who were well-known London literary figures, friends of Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon (owners of the Vale Press), and whose works Elkin Mathews published at the Bodley Head. Long Ago is a series of lyrical poems extending the recently rediscovered fragments of Sappho’s works.

The title page is one of the most successful in this series; the title, in bold red, is separated from the author’s name by a Minoan sea wave, and is faced by a “portrait” of Sappho. The italic type of the text is less successful, due to its relative smallness on the tall and narrow page.