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Book publishers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries used a number of means to promote their latest works. Trade magazines such as Publishers' Weekly were packed with the latest publishers' offerings. Some companies sent out fliers to bookstores and potential customers. Altemus mainly used inserts placed into books. Sometimes these consisted of a mini-catalogue of books. Other times the ads were a single sheet advertising several books. Although I have accumulated a number of these over the years, I am convinced that what you see here is just the tip of the ad iceberg.

During the 90 plus year history of the Altemus publishing firm it published more than books, photographic albums, Bibles etc. Altemus not only bound books for others in the early years but produced numerous items under the Altemus & Co. imprint for others needing paper items. In this section some of these items will be shown.


Click thumbnail images to enlarge.


Date Series Information
17 Dec 2009 NS

Gusky's Publication


The four volume Shakespeare non series set was first published in 1891. Interestingly this set has been discovered with the Gusky Store of Pittsburgh imprint on the title page and Henry Altemus 1891 on the copyright page. With the exception of the imprint and the elegantly decorated end papers in the Altemus book, the four volume Altemus set is identical to the four volume Gusky set. It would appear that Altemus published this set for Gusky to sell in his store. Although I have seen some non-Altemus advertising in several other Altemus books, I have never seen a book that Altemus published for a department store. This is especially interesting considering that the Gusky set potentially could compete with the Altemus set. It is unclear at this time exactly what year the Gusky set was published (I assume in the early 1890's) and what sort of deal the Gusky Store and Altemus had. Of note is that there are no books with the Gusky imprint listed for sale anywhere that I can find on the web.

J.M. Gusky (1845-1886) bought out a mercantile establishment called S. Cohen in 1882. He renamed it the Gusky Store. The Gusky Store is considered by most to be Pittsburgh's first department store. The store occupied five stories and sold mainly a variety clothing. After Gusky's death from pneumonia his wife owned the business and the De Wolf brothers managed it. By 1888 it had more than two million dollars in sales.


05 Aug 2009 NS

Stock Certificate


This stock certificate from the Packer Coal Company was printed by Altemus & Company. The signer, Israel Morris, bought 38 shares in 1885. Of note is that the Packer Coal Company which was located in South Bethlehem, Pennsylvania was founded by Asa Packer, the founder of Lehigh University. (My daughter's school). Of further interest is that the signer Israel Morris was a well known and well connected Philadelphia businessman.

As noted before, Altemus & Company did various types of printing in the 1800's. Stock certificates are only one example. This is the second different company's certificate printed by Altemus that I have located. I suspect that there are more. ( The Altemus & Co. imprint is on the lower left of the certificate.)


06 Jul 2009 50

Belles Lettres Series


Here is a nice little advertising piece (5.875 x 3. 375) for the Belles Lettres Series.

It lists 26 volumes in the series at 30 cents each. Since the first 28 volumes were published in 1896, this dates the flyer to 1896.


04 Jun 2009 164

Shakespeare's Plays


In the early 1900’s department stores were a popular place to buy books. Most large stores had impressive book departments. I remember even as late as the 1950’s in my hometown of Milwaukee Gimbels, The Boston Store and Schusters had these departments.

Here is a fascinating ephemera piece.

The Shakespeare Series (#164) was a 39 volume set published from 1899 until Altemus went out of business in 1933. The books were sold separately as well as by the set. Boxed sets were sold beginning in 1909. As of the date of this flyer in 1907 the hard cover books sold for 35 cents while the soft leather ones sold for 50 cents.

One of the things that I have noticed over the years is how common these books are. I am asked questions about this series almost as often as I am about any Altemus books. The only reasonable explanation is that they were a giant selling success for Altemus. Perhaps this flyer helps us understand a bit.

Here is a department store from Rochester (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sibley's) that is offering quite a deal. Sibley’s offers 27 volumes of this series at 15 cents each i.e. 56% off the retail price. This is on some payment plan that is not elucidated by the flyer but when the payments are done, the remaining 12 books are given to the buyer for no additional cost. This is a great deal. Effectively that is selling the whole set for $4.05 -a bit more than a dime per book.

The reverse side of the flyer allows the purchaser to select which 27 titles he wants.

This flyer which is 7.75 x 3.75 was found in a copy of one of the Shakespeare’s books. This is the only flyer I have seen that mentions Altemus books which was not an Altemus publication.


06 May 2009 0

1860 Ad for Book Bindery



13 Apr 2009 NS

Photographic Album


I found a new Altemus photographic advertising card today. All three cards seen here are very similar and yet there are subtle differences between the cards. This card has the familiar eagle on the front but above the eagle there is no writing as in card 2a. Below the ALTEMUS & COs lettering but above the words Photographic Albums, this card has the words Patent Hinge Back as does card 2a but not card 1a. Thus this card is different from the other two cards but not by much.

The reverse of this card is the same as card 2b. The card is 2.375 x 3.875.

The album this card was found in was the typical 1860's to 1890's album. It has 25 pages each of which hold two cards-one on each side. It is 6 x 5.5.

See below.





16 Mar 2009 100

Good Times Series


Another advertising flyer has been discovered. It is for Series #100- Good Times Series.

This flyer is 8 x 5.5 which is slightly larger than the page size of the actual Good Time Books. It was discovered within a book from the series.


20 Jan 2009 NS

Photographic Album


A new photographic album has been discovered. Although the copyright belongs to Henry Altemus 1888 it was actually published by the Lovell Manufacturing Company in Erie, Pennsylvania. It is unlike any Altemus album that I have seen. The copyright must stem from the use of Altemus' patented binding.

The history of the Lovell Manufacturing Company can be found at http://www.lovellplace.com/history.html in which the authors have written a great summary of the company.

The Album which is called Photo Art Gallery has 16 pages all 8 x 10. Each page can hold one cabinet card on the front and on the back. Surrounding the card on each side are the pictures of famous people in various areas of society. Each page is different and has 10 pictures. (See below) There is an index in the back which alphabetically lists all of the portraits. It does appear that each page has its own specialized area, That is, a presidents' page, an authors' page, a soldiers' page, etc.

The cover is made up of a red velvet material with embossed lettering on the front which says Photo Gallery.

This is indeed a very rare and special album.


01 Sep 2008 NS



This 1884 item printed by Altemus appears to be a promissory note. This "check" is different from previous ones seen as noted by the picture not present on others.


01 Sep 2008 NS



Here is an early check made out by an employee of Altemus & Co. Of interest is a reference seen which referred to J. S. Young and Altemus regarding an 1865 donation to Union causes.


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