Some of the pages contain samples consistent with 19th century styles, such as baleen stays or the straw and grass trims pictured at left. Others, such as these ribbons, or "franzisisches (sp?)," may be from the early 20th century. The columns to the right and left of the samples probably contain prices and quantities, and the consistency of the handwriting begs the question whether a single person was responsible for keeping this ledger.
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In the latter half of the 19th century, the city of Leipzig experienced burst of rapid industrial growth, particularly in the areas of printing and textile manufacturing. It makes sense, therefore, that a sample book such as this could have been assembled by a manufacturers to either archive or showcase the full extent of their production line. The incredible variety of materials collected in this book also suggests that the book could have been assembled by a salesman or shopkeeper to easily exhibit their range of offerings from multiple factories in place of cumbersome bolts and spools.
The travels the Leipzig swatch book took in the early 20th century are easier to decode. The book came to us in a custom-made cardboard box labeled, “The Addis Co.” The W.I. Addis Co. clothing store was founded in 1916 in Syracuse, NY, and merged with Dey Bros. department store before going bankrupt in 1992.
The book then traveled down to New York City--a label inside the box cover reads, “Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc, 980 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10021.” The Parke-Bernet Galleries began in 1937 and quickly became New York’s largest auction house. They were purchased in 1964 by Sotheby’s & Co.
Just above the paper label is an intriguing inscription reading “Textile: Museum: ‘Cooper Union’ Downtown N.Y.” We will never know whether the book belonged to the Cooper Union prior to arriving at Parke-Bernet, or was purchased on auction by the school.
The Leipzig swatch book was given to its current owner by his grandfather in the 1980s. Although the owner had only opened the box a dozen times since, and had stored it in a cool and dry place, the book and box were showing signs of ageing. Because the paper and binding of the book were in generally stable condition, paper conservator Bryan Owen referred the owner to MTS to determine the preservation needs of the textiles inside.
Soot and particulate matter were removed from the paper and textile samples using a HEPA vacuum and vulcanized rubber sponges. Interleaving the pages of the book with archival tissue was decided against due to the stress that it would place on the binding. Treatment concluded by wrapping the book in rayon tissue and placing it in a new custom box lined with Volara. Both the new and original boxes were returned to the owner.