Guest Post by Brenda Thompson
If you peek inside the front cover of select books in the University of Nashville collection , you might see one of these “tiny graphic gems” (as one aficionado calls them):
In the field of special collections, these are known as bookseller labels or tickets, a form of rare book ephemera, and a collector’s item for many rare book enthusiasts. They may be collected for their artistic value, historical interest, or both. As one Tennessee antiques dealer noted: “Used as a form of identification and advertising in a time of rising competition in the bookbinding world, these tickets provide a glimpse at the publishing and bookbinding activities of a city,” a glimpse that might otherwise be “lost to history for the most part.”
Interestingly, books with Eichbaum tickets (much like those in our collection) were among the lot of vintage books the dealer mentioned above was selling. A quick Google search yielded a bit of history about Eichbaum. In the early 1800s, William A. Eichbaum emigrated to the U.S. from Ireland. He eventually made his way to Nashville and began a bookselling business, soon becoming “the chief book and stationer in the city.” He also loved history and, in 1849, became one of the founding fathers of the Nashville Historical Society.
Back to bookseller tickets: One of the more intriguing tickets I discovered is this one, dated 1875-76 and part of the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) collection. It comes from the Bronson, Michigan store of J. Francis Ruggles who, according to this AAS blog post, was “the most unusual bibliopole ever working in Bronson” and “undoubtedly would have tried to provide his customers with any book ever printed.”