This week's "52" sale by Stack's included the story of an interesting "book", which was unfortunately broken up for the sale. Here are some excerpts from the catalog.
Featured within The 52 Collection is a special section of amazing and unique plates from an archive scrapbook originally put together by inventor Cyrus Durand, brother of famous American painter Asher B. Durand. The plates are composed of India paper proof elements affixed to pages in fascinating arrays to display the technology and artistry of the Durand patents alongside the work he did with several companies he was with from the 1830s until his death in 1868. The 96 different plates feature advertising pieces, intricate large cyclodials, smaller counter and die proofs, and full color proof banknotes.
Historically, Cyrus Durand is barely known. He was a member of an important family and his brother Asher Brown Durand was an iconic member of the esteemed Hudson River School of American painters. Asher Durand worked with his brother as an engraver for several years. Many of those 1820s Asher Durand signed engravings are featured in this auction. Eventually, for his mindset, it made much more sense for him to become one of the great American painters of the period and not toil away as an engraver.
In John Durand’s The Life and Times of A. B. Durand (1894, Charles Scribner’s & Sons, New York), Cyrus gets little mention and is lightly researched. Unfortunately, this seems to be the fate of many engineers who did not create inventions that changed the world or made men richer, like a Franklin, Fulton, Morse, or Edison for example.
When first encountered, the archive book was mostly disbound, without a spine, and with the covers separated, though the internal page contents were actually quite fine. It started as an empty square stock scrapbook with pages (and covers) 260mm by 260mm (10.25 by 10.25 inches) with integral tissue guards between each of the pages.
The book was likely put together during the 1855-1860 period, at minimum under the supervision of Cyrus Durand, if not physically by him. Each plate consists of affixed India paper elements, anywhere from one to many, formed into “mini-sample” sheets.
The book is roughly chronological in imprint style with early lathe work and two early C. Durand advertising pieces in the front. Towards the early middle and center of the book are the majority of the Danforth, Wright & Co. imprinted and associated elements including color proof essay notes. The book closes out with lathe panels and radiating color backs.
Many questions are answered through the contents of these plates and their relationship with many superb obsolete banknotes from the late 1850s. However, this subject matter is so broad in scope that the contents published and offered here will hopefully create future dialogue and advanced research on this subject.
The mysterious white haired gentleman, once concealed within the pages of this security printing primer of great historical importance and beauty, has finally emerged into the light. Each plate within this book is a unique item and a record of the immense genius and mechanical artistry of Cyrus Durand, who hopefully will no longer be obscured by the shadow of his famous brother.
To view the complete online catalog description, see:
The Cyrus Durand Archive Plates from the 52 Collection
Wayne Homren, Editor
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