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Etched Books & Miniatures by Bernhardt Wall

In the annals of etching and fine press books, Bernhardt Wall (1872-1956) is acknowledged as a pioneer, and his work is unique in the art of the book. He acknowledged his debt to Dard Hunter, the master handcraft printer and bookmaker who resided near Wall in Lime Rock, Connecticut. Like Hunter, Wall oversaw every aspect of his books: "Wall wrote and illustrated his books, designed them, etched the plates, printed and signed each etching, then cut, folded, gathered, sewed, bound, lettered, and labeled them" (Lowman, Printing Arts in Texas). Lowman and others have compared Wall’s etched books to those of William Blake. Will Ransom (Selective Check Lists of Press Books) describes Wall’s work as follows: "A series of publications produced by a method very rare in bookmaking; instead of the usual letterpress, each page is printed by hand from an etched plate, including text as well as illustrations." Wall lived and worked in New York, Connecticut, Texas, and California.

Wall’s work has a wide appeal, and the array of subjects he addressed through his art is remarkable. The breadth of Wall’s own interests makes his art fascinating to people of all ages, persuasions, and classes. One of Wall’s primary concerns was American history and its heroes. He devoted nearly a hundred individual volumes to Lincoln alone, and in his work we glimpse the lives of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, Robert E. Lee, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Lafayette, and many, many others. His interests also carried him into the field of literature, with etchings about Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Walt Whitman, and many others. We also find documentation of military history and heroes, musicians, artists, actors, sports figures, scientists, religious figures, and, very often, the common man and the little glories of every day life. For more on Wall see Msgr. Francis J. Weber's Following Bernhardt Wall (Austin: Book Club of Texas, 1994). We have in process a catalogue raisonné listing all of Wall's etchings. We are pleased to offer a good selection of Wall's etched books and miniatures, as follows:

 

Etched Books

123. WALL, Bernhardt. Following Abraham Lincoln, 1809–1865. Lime Rock, [1946]. 535 etchings, 531 signed by Wall + 2 pp. (typescript). 4to, original hand-bound full red levant morocco gilt, spine gilt with raised bands, inner gilt dentelles. Maroon cloth slipcase. Other than light wear to spine and extremities, an excellent copy. Color photograph of Wall tipped onto a preliminary leaf. Wall's typed signed foreword to subscribers bound in at front. The most desirable copy. Wall's own retained Copy No. 1 of his most important work.
        Limited edition, large paper issue (#1 of 6 signed copies). In his foreword, Wall states: "In early November of 1942 we moved to California, taking with us a thousand copper plates with etchings thereon... And then our idle hands began assembling the pages of Following Abraham Lincoln into a chronological sequence and readable as any other biography... In 1946 we brought out the 534 pages bound into one volume weighing nearly eleven pounds by the scales. This big volume is one of the biggest tomes on Lincoln." Weber, p. 44: "In 1946, the etcher issued a single chronological volume comprising all or at least most of the etchings that had been issued in eighty-five volumes between 1931 and 1942." This one-volume edition contains three plates which are not present in the 85 parts issue. ($15,000-25,000)

 

124. WALL, Bernhardt. Following Andrew Jackson 1767–1845. Lime Rock, 1937. 46 etchings (plus cover etching and etcher's slip), 40 signed by Wall. Small 4to, original hand-bound grey cloth over plain grey boards, etching on upper cover. Dust jacket with etched spine label. Very fine. Preserved in original boards slipcase.
        Limited edition (#17 of 200 signed copies). Weber, p. 43: "The plates for this book were etched at Houston and printed and bound at Lime Rock.... This book was also printed in Texas." ($2,000-3,000)

 

125. WALL, Bernhardt. Following Fra Junipero Serra and Others. Sierra Madre, 1943. 40 etchings, 25 signed by Wall. Small 4to, disbound and preserved in acid-free mylar envelopes. Small library ink stamp on title-page. The plates are very fine. Lacking plate of Mission San Fernando de Espana. Laid in is a Xerox of 2-page letter from Wall dated April 1943 relating progress on the Serra book, visiting Markham's grave, U.S. role in international affairs, etc
        Limited edition (#19 of 200 signed copies). ($1,000-2,000)

 

126. [WALL, Bernhardt (etcher)]. GLEASON, J. Duncan. "Windjammers." [Fullerton, 1973]. 18 leaves (15 etchings, each printed on heavy paper stock and mounted onto a leaf of the book). Small folio, within clamshell binding of navy blue cloth over printed blue cloth-covered boards, blue printed spine label. Laid in are certification leaf, original pencil sketch by Gleason of a ship under full sail, and an additional etching of "The Crossing of the Ways." Signed on colophon page by designer.
        Limited edition (#10 of 25 numbered copies). The etchings were executed by Gallery Easel, Rancho Santa Fe, California. Wall created the etched text for Gleason's illustrations. ($700-900)

 

127. WALL, Bernhardt. Following General Sam Houston 1793–1863. Lime Rock, [ca. 1937]. 73 etchings. Small folio, original three-quarter navy blue leather over light blue cloth-covered boards, gilt lettering on upper cover. Spine worn with small strip missing near foot of spine, otherwise fine. Front free endpaper with gift inscription from Fred Buford to his former teacher Ernest Langford dated 1958. ($1,200-2,400)

 

128. WALL, Bernhardt. Following Thomas Jefferson 1743–1826. Lime Rock, [1933–38]. 12 parts in 3 vols.: 167 etchings (90 signed by Wall). The first volume (4to, contemporary green morocco) consists of parts 1 through 10, and the second and third volumes contain parts 11 and 12 (4to, original grey cloth over plain boards, etchings on upper covers). Parts 1, 2, 4, 5, and 9 have presentation leaves inscribed from Bernhardt Wall to Hon. Claude E. Bowers (dedicatee of Part 3). Fine.
        Limited edition (#10 of 100 signed copies). The limitation copy number of the repeated Part 10 and Part 12 is "Personal" in Wall's handwriting. ($3,000-5,000)

 

129. WALL, Bernhardt. One Midnight with Roosevelt. New York City, 1922. 18 etchings (plus cover label). 4to, original hand-bound black cloth over mottled teal paper-covered boards, etched label on cover. Head of spine chipped, minor shelf wear, cover label rubbed, interior very fine, with Wall's manuscript note at front: "Etched Printed Bound by Bernhardt Wall."
        Limited edition (#29 of 250 signed copies). ($300-500)

 

130. WALL, Bernhardt. Wall's Etched Monthly. 5 issues: January, February, March, April & September, 1921. 75 etchings. 5 vols., 4to, original wrappers with etched label on upper covers. Some chipping to fragile wrappers, but overall very good to very fine, all etchings in excellent condition. Some presentation copies, etcher's own copies, or association copies.
        Limited editions. More than any other of Wall's works, his periodicals give an overall flavor of the variety of his artistry, with portraits of the famous (including Gauguin, Whitman, and Twain), a few of Wall's etched-on-the-spot scenes that are so full of life, etched poetry, scenes from his sojourn in New York, abroad, and the West (e.g., a Wyoming cowboy with his horse, and one of a Native American by his fellow artist, Couse). All issues are rare. ($900-1,800)

 

131. [WALL, Bernhardt (etcher)]. LINCOLN, Abraham. The Gettysburg Speech. New York, 1924. 24 etchings. Small 4to, original hand-bound grey cloth over plain grey boards with original cancelled copper plates inset inside of covers, etching on upper cover. Light marginal browning (more noticeable on boards, only slightly affecting blank margin of etchings). Original d.j. (worn and tape repairs) with Wall's manuscript title on spine (incorrectly citing this copy as No. 9 rather than No. 8).
        Limited edition (#8 of 11 signed copies with two original cancelled copper plates: (1) Dead on the battlefield, (2) struggled here, have consecrated it...). Occasionally Wall created special copies like this one, and they are among the most difficult of Wall's works to acquire. The presence of Wall's original plates, plus the fact that the piece relates to Lincoln, make this a most desirable collector's item. For those seeking unusual additions to add to their Grolier American Hundred holdings, this is an excellent choice. ($1,200-2,400)

 

132. [WALL, Bernhardt (etcher)]. MARKHAM, Edwin. Lincoln: The Man of the People. New York, 1922. 16 etchings, one signed by Wall. 4to, original hand-bound light slate blue wrappers with Wall's calligraphic title on upper cover. Other than slight discoloration to wrappers, very fine.
        A large paper reissue of Wall's Markham-Lincoln book, with added etchings dated as late as 1947. ($600-800)

 

Etched Miniature Books

In 1946 Wall began etching in miniature format. Wall's miniature books are rare and sought-after prizes in the fields of miniature books and fine press books. The miniature etchings were published in fifteen titles, including a miniature periodical (one issue of which is offered below, in the rare etched wrappers).

 

133. WALL, Bernhardt. Abraham Lincoln: A Chronology. Sierra Madre, 1946. Miniature book. 36 miniature etchings (plus cover label and etcher's slip). Original hand-bound green paper covered boards, etched label on upper cover. Corners lightly bumped, lower hinge broken, interior and etchings fine.
        Limited edition (#36 of 200 signed copies). ($700-900)

 

134. WALL, Bernhardt. The Californian Missions. Sierra Madre, 1947. Miniature book. 33 miniature etchings. Original hand-bound red paper-covered boards. Front pastedown loose, front free endpaper missing, several leaves detached, slight shelf wear to extremities, etchings very fine.
        Limited edition (#77 of a signed "numbered unlimited edition"). ($800-1,200)

 

135. WALL, Bernhardt. The Etcht Miniature Monthly Magazine. Sierra Madre, August 1948. Miniature periodical. 34 miniature etchings. Original hand-bound sienna paper wrappers with title etched on upper wrapper and spine. Very fine.
        Limited edition (#5 of 60 signed copies). Weber, Following Bernhardt Wall (Book Club of Texas, 1994): "Bernhardt Wall’s Etcht Miniature Monthly Magazine stands majestically alone in the world of printed media. Its uniqueness comes not from its being a publication about miniature books, but from its being a miniature itself.... It remains the only miniature monthly publication ever recorded." ($600-800)

 

136. WALL, Bernhardt. Gen. Robert E. Lee. Sierra Madre, 1949. Miniature book. 36 miniature etchings (plus cover label). Original hand-bound green paper-covered boards, etched label on upper cover. Very fine.
        Limited edition (#2 of 100 signed copies). ($800-1,200)

 

137. WALL, Bernhardt. A Lincoln Reprimand. [Sierra Madre], 1950. Miniature book. 20 miniature etchings (plus cover label). Original hand-bound red paper-covered boards, etched label on upper cover. Very fine.
        Limited edition (100 signed copies, "Trial Copy No. One"). ($400-600)

 

138. WALL, Bernhardt. Lincoln's Gettysburg Speech. Sierra Madre, 1946. Miniature book. 34 miniature etchings (plus cover label and etcher's slip). Original hand-bound green paper-covered boards, etched label on upper cover. Light shelf wear, otherwise very fine, with 3-cent Lincoln commemorative postage stamp on front pastedown.
        Limited edition (#24 of 200 signed copies). A Grolier American Hundred title. Here is an unusual edition of that most noble oration to enrich a collection. ($500-700)