The Acquisitions Table: The Columbiad

Barlow, Joel, 1754-1812. The Columbiad: a poem. Philadelphia: Fry and Kammerer for C. and A. Conrad …, 1807.

Rarely does one see “Papantonio-quality” early American bindings on the market any more, but we were fortunate to add this example to AAS’s celebrated Bindings Collection, which boasts the Michael Papantonio collection as its nucleus. John Bidwell has described the 1807 edition of Barlow’s Columbiad as “the first American-made deluxe book to be manufactured on a cost-is-no-object basis.” It was not a financial success, however, and a large portion of the 1,000 copies were remaindered in the mid-1810s. A surprising number of the remaindered copies were dressed before purchase in extra-gilt leather bindings, no doubt so that they could be marketed in bookshops as luxury objects. This example now joins the several already in the AAS Bindings Collection. Bound in full mottled calf, with marbled edges and lavender endleaves, the binding has extensive blind tooling not visible in the image. The volume’s bookbinder is unidentified, though it shares a gilt roll with another binding signed by J. Katez of Philadelphia. We first saw this volume—unfortunately, five minutes too late—at the secondary Boston “Garage” book fair last November. But its lucky purchaser (and stalwart AAS member) Joseph F. Felcone has now permitted us to acquire it on very favorable terms.

Published by

David Whitesell

Curator of Books, American Antiquarian Society

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *