Blog posts by Ian Brabner

Ian Brabner is a dealer of historical Americana and has been in the trade for twenty years. He specializes in antiquarian and rare books, American letters and manuscripts, ephemera, and visual culture—all of American origin or context.

Selections from Member's stock

In 1868 America you had to pay your bills in America just like you do now. If you were the tidy type, you might have this collapsible pocket bill organizer on your desk. This unusual survival —an expandable pocket bill organizer— was manufactured from gilt-stamped and lettered black cloth (closely matching book cloth seen on publisher's trade bindings for the period) and stiff cardstock. Commercially produced and patented in 1868, think of this as a Victorian office's pre-iPhone utility app. Simply constructed (without any design input from Sir Jonathan Ive), this item functioned as an expanding and collapsible document holder. Each of the bill holder's pockets are indexed for two letters of the alphabet. The index tabs are arranged in pairs. The final pocket, however, held all of those bills indexed for W, X, Y, and Z. (The dreaded b... [more Paying Your Bills in 1868 America – Expansively]

It is circa 1788. An American lawyer, Archippus Seele (1765–1789) of Easton, Massachusetts, is apparently in a grumpy mood. The reasons could be many. Some in the community accused Archie's father, a sawyer, of employing the imps of Satan to keep things running. That could make you unhappy. If Archippus had been a precog perhaps he had a freak when he intuited his mother would become a distant ancestor to the creator of Tarzan, Edgar Rice Burroughs. Basically, and to the point, Archippus doesn't like women. We know this because he left behind a strange manuscript we've given a caption title of The Discription {sic} of the Female Sect. – A Woman Is As Full Of Failings As A Spider's Nest of Eggs. Why Did Esquire Seele write this manuscript and for whom? We may not ever know, but we surmise it was written in jest and we speculate his “... [more What’s Eating Archippus Seele? A 1788 Lawyer’s Misogynistic Manuscript]

Printed American broadsides of the 18th and 19th centuries—what we might think of today as “posters”—were an important public means of spreading news and information within a community. A broadside might print a political manifesto, a religious sermon, a military declaration, news of a great battle, or a Presidential proclamation. A broadside might advertise a newly arrived shipment of goods or a new production of a play or circus. Merchants and inventors used broadsides to sell their wares or to attract investors. American broadsides fall under the broader category of historical ephemera—printed items created and intended only for temporary, fleeting use. These ephemeral artifacts documented the beliefs, activities, and concerns of a very specific time and place in American history. Eighteenth and nineteenth century American br... [more American Broadsides, History on a Sheet of Paper]