What are these old copper printing plates?
May 10, 2009 5:24 PM   Subscribe

Anyone recognize these old copper printing plates? They were used to print some sort of encyclopedia or other information book, but which one?

In the late 90s, my mom and I picked up some old copper printing plates [link goes to Flickr set] from an estate sale in Connecticut. We spent an hour or so picking out a few neat-looking ones from a huge set (I would estimate about 100-150) of these printing plates, stored in boxes and wrapped in old newspaper (the newspaper was from the 1950s, if I remember right). Each plate has a volume designation and a number. I did some serious looking in libraries and such at the time, but couldn't find anything about what these plates might have been used for. I have looked less seriously every few years since, but haven't found anything useful.

It looks like the copper plates were used for an encyclopedia type book, but the text from the plates isn't turning up anywhere online. For example, one of the plates says that Richard Wagner told Franz Liszt "Your God makes a lot of noise". But I can only find one place online that even mentions that Wagner quote, in a book from 1921. I only took photos of the ones I have hanging on my wall. I have two more plates in the closet - one is a picture and text about Tian Tan in Beijing, the other is a picture and text about the Great Wall of China.

I know it's a long shot, but do these plates look familiar to anyone? Any ideas what book they might have been used to print? Any suggestions for finding more information would also be appreciated. Thanks!
posted by gemmy to Society & Culture (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Feed bits of the text through Google Books (your quote gets me hits from 1943 and 1970). It's a resource that will only grow... eventually, they'll be in there.
posted by Leon at 5:40 PM on May 10, 2009

I took the liberty of flopping the photo left to right and inverting the luminosity (in Lab mode, keeping the color unchanged) to see the portraits better

posted by jfrancis at 8:57 PM on May 10, 2009

Maybe that photo by Rischgitz credit in the upper corner is a goo clue.
posted by jfrancis at 9:02 PM on May 10, 2009

They look to me more like a juvenile textbook or omnibus of some sort. As such, they are slightly less likely to end up in libraries or to be kept if they do.
posted by dhartung at 11:12 PM on May 10, 2009

For dating purposes:
Alinari 1852-present
Keystone View Company 1892-1963
Rischgitz 1828-1908
Einstein: "Greatest scientist of our day" 1879 - 1955

So I'd put it between 1892 and 1955. We also know there were at least 7 volumes. Also, it is organized by topic not alphabetically (i.e. a regular encyclopedia would have Einstein and Galileo under E and G, not next to each other).

The Children's Encyclopedia fits the bill. The same goes for Newnes' Pictorial Knowledge, Compton's Pictured Encyclopedia, Our Wonder World, American Reference Library Encyclopedic, and Pictured Knowledge.

Unfortunately I have to run to a meeting but the topic lists for those books are available on Ebay. You might try matching them up. Volume three should be music and seven is science.
posted by jwells at 6:58 AM on May 11, 2009

Oh wow, jfrancis, I never even thought to fix them in an image program to read the text better/see the portraits! A lot easier than trying to read it backwards and mirror imaged... ;)

I think, jwells, that you are on the right track. This "Photo of a white coyote from "The Children's Encyclopedia" (1927) edited by Arthur Mee." looks very similar to the plates I have. I will do some additional digging for the topic lists when I get back from work.
posted by gemmy at 12:52 PM on May 11, 2009

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