The Book of Similitudes: Illustrated by a Series of Emblematic Engravings; also the Principal Events Connected with the Religious History

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BARBER, John W. (1798-1885). The Book of Similitudes: Illustrated by a Series of Emblematic Engravings; also the Principal Events Connected with the Religious History... New Haven, Conn.: By the author for Justus H. Bradley, 1860.


12mo., (7 3/8 x 5 inches). 2 sectional title pages (faint damp-staining to upper corners throughout). Fine folding frontispiece with original hand coloring in full (lightly toned at margins). Full-page engraved sectional frontispiece with original hand coloring in part (somewhat toned). 80 wood engravings. Fine American binding of crimson roan, elaborately embossed in blind on both covers. The smooth spine gilt-decorated in four panels, gilt-lettered in a fifth (a bit worn with one or two pale stains, the hinges starting near the head of the spine, but attractive).

Provenance: Manuscript inscriptions to recto of front free endpaper: “Not to be taken away from this book case / J.W.B.: June 30th 1881”; “Bought in N. Haven, Conn., with a large lot of books purchased for Add Ran Christian University, in June, 1892. Bot for 25¢.”

A lovely example of an early American binding, this attractive volume contains three distinct books, continuously paginated: The Book of Similitudes; Outline History; embracing all the leading events in the religious world: from the earliest period to the present time; and A Selection of Religious Events; From the commencement of the Christian era, with biographical sketches. Illustrated with two delightful hand-colored frontispieces, as well as wood engravings throughout, all drawn and engraved by the author. “Barber’s most productive work, however, was in history. In 1827 he traveled around the country in a horse and wagon, interviewing witnesses to local historical events and collecting data from books, newspapers, gravestones, and other sources that he thought would yield useful information on the nation's past. He published his findings in Historical Scenes in the United States and illustrated his text with his own engravings of scenes of America’s early settlement. Although the book was not well received, Barber’s use of local data became the methodology of his future historical work. He was more successful in 1831 with History and Antiquities of New Haven, which was followed in 1836 by a history of Connecticut. In 1839 he published Massachusetts Historical Collections, then in 1840 entered into a partnership with Henry Howe to write a history of New York State, which was followed by Historical Collections of the State of New Jersey in 1844. The team of Barber and Howe followed the same formula that was initially successful for Barber: they traveled around gathering material and conducting interviews, primarily of old people. They then compiled their data and divided states into geographic or political sections, described each with statistics, anecdotes, or long quotations from printed sources, and illustrated the material with engravings. The results were collections of history and folklore. Their goal was ‘to give faithful representations, rather than picturesque scenery, or beautiful specimens of art’” (Michael T. Johnson for ANB).

Justus H. Bradley (1812-?) was a traveling salesman based out of New Haven, hired by Barber in 1832 to sell subscriptions to his publications in the Northeastern United States and parts of Canada. An account of his travels while in Barber’s employ can be found in his private journals, housed at the Connecticut Historical Society.

A wonderful example of an early New Haven imprint, this copy was purchased in 1892 for the library of AddRan Christian University. AddRan was originally part of Texas Christian University, then known as AddRan Male & Female College, founded in 1873 as Texas’s first co-educational institution of higher learning. Following rapid growth, AddRan College formed an official partnership with what would become the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in 1889, changing its name to AddRan Christian University that same year.