Saturday, May 21, 2011

Two More Balls

This week a Ball arrived that I have been after a decent copy of for several years:

 Thomas Watson Ball
A Romance of Summer Seas
by Varina Anne Jefferson-Davis
Harper & Brothers, New York, 1898

The book is scarce for several reasons. Besides the beautiful cover and any literary merit, the author was the daughter of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, and lived a short and tumultuous life.  

The spine is simply stamped in gold lettering. The nautical art on the cover is in light blue, off-white, and creamy light yellow, with lettering, shell motif, and border in the creamy color.

How do we know that this unsigned design is a Ball, besides that it looks like his work? The cover panel is in Ball's portfolio, which is in the rare book collection of the University of Rochester.  While in Rochester for The Future of Reading Symposium at RIT last year I went to the UR Special Collections, which has a strong interest in American book covers and a nice website on the subject, and went through the actual Ball portfolio. One revelation was the discovery of a Ball monnogram I had never seen. He rarely signed his covers, and the only two monograms I have had were T.W.B. in simple lettering. Fortunately I was able to find a decent copy of this book

Thomas Watson Ball
Robin Brilliant
by Mrs. Henry Dudeny
Dodd, Mead & Company, New York, 1903

Detail:  Monogram of T. W. Ball

If it were not in the portfolio, this device, or logo, would not likely be interpreted as TB or TWB--it looks like AB. Perhaps he was trying to blend it into the Art Nouveau styling of the design and lettering.


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