Brocade Series

Thomas B. Mosher (Portland, ME, US)
Series dates: 1895-1905
Size: 5.25″ x 3.5″

A Portland, Maine stationery store owner, Thomas Bird Mosher began issuing books in 1891, the first an edition of George Meridith’s poem “Modern Love.” This title, like many others to follow, was printed and sold without the author’s permission, leading to Mosher being known as the “Pirate Prince of Publishers.” The quality of Mosher’s books was sometimes indifferent and some of the “limited editions” were limited, in essence, to how many books could be sold. Pater’s The Child in the House (see below), for example, was issued in 13 editions, each limited to 425 copies. Mosher’s books have also survived in quantity, possibly because they were designed to be collectible (like Beanie Babies) and issued in relatively large numbers. These various factors have somewhat tarnished Mosher’s publications and in some cases limited their value.

By 1895 Mosher had published 16 titles and that year sold his stationery store to devote himself to full-time publishing. Mosher played a significant role in the private press movement in the United States. He favored Pre-Raphaelite and related Victorian authors. Mosher often copied the designs of other books, such as those issued by William Morris, although he was typically less exacting in the quality of his publications. When Mosher died in 1923, he had issued over 700 titles, many in limited editions.

The Mosher Press website provides extensive information on Mosher and his publications. Regarding the Brocade Series, that site indicates that:

“The whole series consists of 50 titles, most of which were reprinted more than once (there are 13 editions of Pater’s The Child in the House, for example), for a total of 160 volumes.”

“All volumes had a similar trim size of 134 mm x 89 mm. For each volume, 425 copies were printed by George Loring on Imperial Mills Japan vellum especially imported by Mosher and bound in flexible vellum. Each volume was wrapped in sealed parchment and enclosed in a slide case.”

“Mosher also offered for sale sets in cabinet boxes, at no additional cost for the boxes. Sets contained any three, six, or more volumes, each wrapped and in a slide case. Sometimes Mosher offered the works of a single author in that series for sale in a cabinet box.”

In essence, the Brocade Series were small-format, brief literary works printed and bound in a style reflecting the late-19th century Arts and Crafts movement, and that of William Morris in particular.

Copies of two titles from, it appears, the Brocade Series, are shown below. Oddly, the books do not include the series name. It is possible that these books were part of one of the many Brocade Series sets Mosher sold, which means they were boxed titles placed in a larger box for the set. The series name is included on such boxes. These books seem to be identical to those listed in WorldCat which include the Brocade Series name.

The Child in the House: An Imaginary Portrait by Walter Pater is #1 in the series, first published in 1895 (this copy, 1896). The Story of Cupid and Psyche, translated from the Latin of Apuleius by Walter Pater is #4 in the series, published in 1897. Both books are in boxes with Arts & Crafts-inspired paper glued to the covers. A notch in the boxes assists with the removal of the book. The title of the book is printed, in red, on the box spine.

The cover of the box:

The books are soft-bound, with heavy cream paper wrappers over cardboard book covers. The wrapper is glued to the spine. The spine includes the book title, like the box. The title and author are on the front of the wrapper, of a Morris-inspired design. A colophon is printed on the back cover. Both wrapper flaps are blank.

The front wrapper flap (left) and card binding (right) of the book:

Two blank pages follow the card cover, the third page is the half-title page.

The page facing the title page reads:

Originally printed in Macmillan’s Magazine, August 1878 under the title ‘Imaginary Portraits. I. The Child in the House.’ Reprinted by H. Daniel at his Private Press, Oxford, 1894, with the title ‘An Imaginary Portrait.’ (250 copies)

The title page is in red and black, with a colophon and year (1896).

The reverse of the title page is blank:

“Four hundred and twenty-five copies of this book (fifth edition) have been printed on Japan vellum, and type distributed, in the month of December, AD MDCCCXCVI at the press of George D. Loring, Portland, Maine.”