Sunday, January 15, 2012

Odd: Family History For Sale, By a Stranger

I was doing some idle family-name searching this weekend and came across a person on Etsy selling illustrations by my grandmother from a book published in 1929.
This gorgeous double-sided plate features the work of the artist Isabel Cooper from specimens at the American Museum of Natural History. One side features seashells from tropical waters and the other American specimens.
Isabel Cooper was an artist and illustrator who provided paintings for a variety of publications, created murals for public buildings, and traveled to remote outposts with scientists where she fulfilled the role later filled by color photography.

As near as I can tell, these are plates cut from a book my grandmother did illustrations for in the years before her marriage to Charles Mahaffie

I'm not sure how I feel about this sort of thing appearing for sale. My grandmother was paid for her work back in the 1920s, so that's not an issue. But I hate to think of great old books being cut apart and mined like this. Also, I always thought of Etsy as a site for artists and artisans to sell things they created themselves.


Unknown said...

I agree, your find would have been a shock

Sandra Margret said...

I am the seller of the above paper and have been active on Etsy since 2008 as a vintage retailer. I understand your concern. I am foremost a book dealer of rare and unusual books (on another site) and salvage basket-case books that are headed for the trash/recycling bins -- never to be seen again. I thought I might rescue the illustrations and offer them for sale at a very reasonable price. The quality and color are amazing and are better than modern day prints. What I discovered is that there are very few original copies of the illustrations and most have been lost. This is particularly true for female illustrators, some who have barely been recognized for their contributions to the artistic and scientific community.

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