The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 15, Number 21, May 20, 2012, Article 5


Megan Fenselau of the American Numismatic Society also forwarded a press release about a new trade edition of Mark Tomasko's book on banknote engraving in the U.S. This is a great opportunity for those who missed out on the high-end first edition, which sold for a whopping $600! -Editor

Feel of Steel The Feel of Steel: The Art and History of Bank-Note Engraving in the United States
by Mark D. Tomasko (2012)

Hardcover, 180 pp.
ISBN-13: 978 089722 321 8
List Price: US$120.00
Member Price: US$84.00
This is a pre-order publication that will ship in August 2012.

The Feel of Steel provides an unusual look into the two-hundred-year history and the process of bank-note engraving in the United States, a beautiful art brought to its peak in America in the nineteenth century. Part I traces the history, with particular attention to the American Bank Note Company, the small bank-note firms founded after the Civil War, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The decline of the industry in the late twentieth century closes the history.

Part II lays out the process of designing, engraving, and printing bank-note-engraved documents. Part II also contains an extended discussion of the artwork origins of the picture engraving, information found in few other places. Part III introduces the members of American Bank Note's picture-engraving department at thirty-year intervals in the twentieth century, shown in group photographs and with an illustration of each man's work.

Tomasko Feel of Steel Frontispiece This revised edition has 50% more illustrations than the original Bird and Bull fine press limited edition published in 2009. Besides the numerous illustrations (many in color), there are copious notes, a bibliography, and an extensive index, all adding to the volume's research value. As no book on bank-note engraving would be complete without at least one sample of actual engraving, the frontispiece of the ANS edition of The Feel of Steel is the reprinted title and vignette from a nineteenth-century stock certificate. The reader can therefore actually experience the "feel of steel," the tactile quality of intaglio printing.

Mark D. Tomasko is a collector, writer, and researcher on bank-note engraving, who has written more than thirty articles on the subject, in addition to giving many talks and mounting several museum exhibits.

Mark is an E-Sylum subscriber, so I asked him for some more background information on the new edition. -Editor

Mark Tomasko writes:

I thought it would be desirable to make the information in The Feel of Steel: the Art and History of Bank-Note Engraving in the United States more available to both collectors and libraries because there is little similar literature. While the Bird and Bull Press edition of the book is in some major research libraries, an expensive fine-press book in a very small edition is not a generally available reference work.

Fortunately the American Numismatic Society was interested in publishing a trade edition of the book. The biggest change is 50% more illustration than in the fine-press edition. Since security engraving is a graphic art, illustrations are critical, and the revised edition provides some important additional graphic matter. Among the additions are a full-page illustration of the Fairman Draper Underwood broadside with the Audubon grouse engraving; an 1856 letterpress price sheet from Jocelyn Draper Welsh listing prices in great detail for engraving and printing bank notes; the Columbian Exposition award diploma of 1892-93, one of the Bureau's finest products; progressive proofs for a Major Tint (the colored background) for a Brazilian note of 1919; a number of additional examples of vignettes, portraits, bank notes, and other documents; and, as well, examples of vignettes or portraits done by virtually every engraver shown in the three photographs of the American Bank Note Company picture-engraving department in Part III.

A book on security engraving would be incomplete without at least one intaglio print, and every copy of the trade edition of The Feel of Steel has an engraved frontispiece, the engraved header for the National Bank of Commerce in New York stock certificate.

In terms of text and arrangement, the trade edition of The Feel of Steel is similar to the fine-press edition, with Part I consisting of a summary history of the bank-note industry in the United States; Part II describing the process of designing, engraving and printing the documents, with particular attention to vignettes and their artwork; and Part III showing the three photographs of the ABN picture-engraving department in the twentieth century. The major changes in the text relate to discussion of the additional illustrations. As in the original edition, there is a useful bibliography and many footnotes. The trade edition also includes a much more extensive index.

For more information or to order, see:

To read about the first edition, see: NEW BOOK: THE FEEL OF STEEL - BANK NOTE ENGRAVING IN THE U.S. (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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