Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Label of One's Own

Remember last week's post about Letraset, where I talked about the awesome packet of sheets I got from my friend Matt?  Well, he strikes again!

Talk about ephemera literally falling in your lap - Matt was searching through one of his antique books the other day, and this fell out:

Yes.  Oh my lordy-lord, YES.  It's a bookseller's label from E. Darrow, Bookseller & Stationer, at 103 E. Main Street, Rochester, NY (Estab. 1846). It's really tiny - only an inch wide and half an inch tall!  The four of us were at dinner last evening and when he handed it over, I nearly plotzed.  No one else at the table (including Matt) really knew what the big deal was, but I know my friend Chris Otto (author of the fantastic blog, Papergreat) will know the feeling!

In fact, it was Papergreat where I first discovered these booksellers' labels!  I have never had a book that contained one, so I didn't even know they existed.  But when I saw their antique tininess, I knew I wanted one.  Or two.  Or a thousand.  :D  There are wonderful examples on Chris' blog here, here, and here - and a whole bunch of other places, too!  Chris is a newspaper columnist, so he does a very thorough job of researching and citing sources - far, far better than I.  So you'll get a history lesson with each label, too!

I shall try my best with MY (I love saying that!) label - here's what I discovered, via the University of Rochester library site:
E. Darrow & Brother 
Erastus Darrow (Plymouth, Conn., January 29, 1823-Rochester, March 21, 1909) ran a bookstore in Rochester from January 1846 until his death. Several times during his career he had partners, including his brother Wallace from 1856 through 1866. His advertisements in the Rochester city directories from 1861 through 1867 mention his publishing fruit and flower plates for nurserymen. The Rochester Museum and Science Center Library has four of his plates, two bearing the imprint "E. Darrow & Brother" and two bearing the imprint "Darrow's Fruit and Flower Series." 
So that means that this label is dated somewhere between 1850 (approx.) and 1909! I also found this article in The Publishers' Weekly, dated March 14, 1891, announcing Erastus Darrow's 50th anniversary of bookselling.  Amazing!

Because of this tiny gift I have now learned a little something about Rochester's history.  Oh, and in case you're wondering, I did indeed look up the site on Google Earth and alas - it doesn't appear the original building still exists.  Such is progress.

If I've done my job at all today, I have now given you a new bit of ephemera to obsess about.  Hey, I'm just returning the favor from Chris Otto!  And thanks again, Matt - this tiny label is a TREASURE!!!!  :D