Henry Altemus Company

 

Altemus Bibles


 

Altemus Bibles

Certainly photographic albums were the mainstay of the publications on the Altemus imprint in the 1860's and 1870's. This imprint, Altemus & Co., appeared on scrapbooks and Altemus' Bibles in the 1870's. These latter Bibles are distinctly rare and were issued in a very different style than the Bibles on the Henry Altemus imprint that were published beginning in 1884. (See picture below). The covers of the earlier Bibles (pre-1884) were similar to the ornate covers of the photographic albums-only larger (See picture B59). The title page is also quite different and is seen below alongside the Henry Altemus Bible title pages and the A.J. Holman title pages. The one known Bible published after 1900 (for the Elks) has a very plain cover (B60) and a very different appearing title page. (See below)

Unfortunately, as with their later reprint books, it seems that the later Altemus Bibles (1884 and later) were not designed from original thought but were rather close copies of the Bibles published by A.J. Holman & Company. This is despite the fact that Henry Altemus had been a prolific binder of the Bibles of Harper Brothers, E.H. Butler & Co. and other publishers earlier in his career.

A brief pre-Altemus Bible publisher history

Jesper Harding, a Philadelphia publisher founded the firm of the same name in 1829. It was at one time the largest Bible publisher in the United States. He succeeded two earlier Bible publishers: Kimber, Conrad and Company and Kimber and Sharpless. Jesper Harding published Bibles and beginning in 1830 The Philadelphia Inquirer.

In 1853 Captain J. Parker Martin joined the firm as head of Bible production and a couple of years later William W. Harding, Jesper's son, also entered the company. A.J. Holman was employed by Jesper Harding as a superintendent of the manufacture and sales of Bibles.

In 1855 the firm was renamed Jesper Harding & Son reflecting the entry of William into the Company. In 1859 Jesper retired and the firm was renamed William W. Harding.

In 1872 George Lare, A.J. Holman and Captain J. Parker Martin started a new firm, A.J. Holman & Company. This firm was to specialize in the production of Bibles and Photographic Albums- both also specialties of the firm of William W. Harding. Harding remained in business competing with the new firm until he sold out in 1878 to Burk and McFetridge.

In 1883 J. Parker Martin left the A.J. Holman partnership and joined Henry Altemus as manager of their Bible Department. Henry Altemus published their first Bibles in the new style and formats that were brought over by Captain Parker in 1884. There is an incredible similarity between the Holman and Altemus Bibles. This can be seen not only in the oversized elaborate books and covers themselves but also by their title pages.

Two Holman title pages are shown below. One is from 1872 and the other from 1879. Both published while Captain Martin headed up the Bible department at Holman and well before Altemus published their first Bible under his stewardship in 1884. Note the emblem and the saying within it "Let There Be Light”. Now look at the emblems on the Altemus Bibles from 1884 and 1893 with the expression "And There Was Light”. The likeness is startling and can only mean that Captain Martin used a very similar approach (if not exact) when he began publishing Altemus Bibles. This is even more obvious when the pre-Martin title page of an 1873 Altemus Bible is compared.


1872 Titlepage

1873 Titlepage

1879 Titlepage

1884 Titlepage
 

1893 Titlepage

Post-1900 Titlepage

Thus, Henry Altemus as a publisher clearly copied in form and substance the A.J. Holman Bibles. Altemus published Bibles until 1896. At that time the listings of Bibles disappeared from their catalogues.

The Bibles

In 1884 Altemus published their first Bibles with Captain Martin . The plates for these books came from London. Also in 1884 Altemus added the Philadelphia Bible Warehouse to its moniker and its catalogues. Until 1896 Bible listings were prominently displayed in its catalogues . Thereafter, no Bibles were ever noted in the catalogues and Altemus stopped production on their own imprint.

In the 1890's Altemus also published an “Altemus' Edition” Bible for other publishers. The title page in these books is identical to the Altemus Bibles with the exception of the imprint which notes the other publisher.


 

 

An example of the importance of Bibles to Altemus can be seen by looking at the eighteen pages of Bible ads in the 1890 catalogue. Numerous styles are advertised including Pulpit Bibles, Illustrated Fine Editions, Cheap Pictorial Editions, New Popular Editions etc. Prices ranged from $1.50 to $32.50 for a New Imperial Quarto Bible with Levant Morocco and a fine engraved clasp. From Levant Morocco to plain cloth the variety is quite impressive. And of course the covers within the cloth and different morocco styles are unbelievably varied. The catalogues listed these books with various numbers for ordering ease. By my count there were 59 different cover styles over the years.

Over the years there were 12 different Bible editions (styles or formats). Each edition varied in content . Some had a Bible Dictionary, others had notes and commentary from well known theologians. The exact content of each edition is outlined below. What is of note is that the same covers were used throughout all the editions. Sometimes with rounded edges, sometimes with fancier gilt or morocco but the same covers nonetheless. Each Bible came in two styles. One with a "fine nickel clasp" and one without. Some styles were also "adapted for inserting family photographs". These Bibles were slightly more expensive.

Bible format controversy:

Remembering that the head of the Altemus Bible department, Captain J. Parker Martin,was formerly in charge of A.J. Holman's Bible production, it is not surprising that there were hard feelings. In October 1887 this animosity broke out in the pages of Publishers' Weekly. In a letter Henry Altemus claimed that Holman was using certain Altemus' Bible bindings. Holman retorted with a denial. Altemus followed up stating again that Holman appropriated Altemus binding designs. The last word was in a Holman letter stating that the binding was introduced prior to Altemus' claims. Clearly no love lost between the two companies.

Altemus Bible ads

In the 1880s and 1890s publishers had few reasonable options for advertising their wares. The most commonly used site were in trade journals. Altemus' Bible ads mirrored the Bible's importance to Altemus. Most of these ads are noted between 1884 and 1892. Thereafter, as other books became more important, very few Altemus Bible ads are seen. A sampling of ads is below.

1884

1885

1886

 

1886

1887

 

1888

1889

1890

 

1891

1892

1892



The Altemus Bible Formats:

Prior to 1884 Bibles were not a significant revenue generator for Altemus. As of this time I have only seen one Bible format published prior to 1884. B59 was published in 1873. The title page is above. This Bible is smaller (11.5" x 10") than the post-1884 books. It contains both the Old and New Testaments but not any other special sections. There are two pages for photographs and several blank pages for "family records". Between 1884 and 1896 Henry Altemus published twelve different Bible Series. Although the same 59 covers were dispersed among all the series, the series differed in content. There were a total of 10 possible features included in these Bibles. The series and their descriptions are below. All of the Bible covers as well as what years what covers were seen in the various series are also listed.

1. Old and New Testament
2. Dore Illustrations
3. Marriage Certificate and Family Registration

I have seen four different examples of these pages. There does not appear to be any significant pattern in regards to which Bibles which sets are placed in.


 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

4. Revised Version Appended
5. Apocrypha, Concordance, Psalms on Metre
6. Smith's Dictionary
7. Bible History and Analysis
8. Cyclopedia of the Bible
9. Dictionary of Names
10. Notes and commentary by Rev. Walter McGilvray

Below are the described series. Also noted are the covers that made up the series.

1. Cheap Edition for Domestic Reading (1884-1896)
Includes #1-3 above
Pica type with marginal references throughout.

2. New Popular Edition (1890-1896)
Includes # 1-6

3. Cheap Pictorial Edition (1884-1896)
Includes #1-5 above
Certain Bibles had pages adapted for the placement of photographs.

4. Fireside Edition (1884-1892)
Includes #1-6 above

5. Illustrated Medium Edition (1884-1890)
Includes #1-9 above.
Pica type with marginal references throughout.

6. Cheap Gilt Edition (1884-1888)
Includes #1-9 above.
Pica Type with marginal references throughout.

---- #5 and #6 are identical except that #5 is described as being on “fine white paper in a superior manner”.

7. Pulpit Bibles (1884-1896)
Includes #1, apocrypha and concordance. Is printed in “pica antique type”.
Printed on superior paper in large type.

8. Illustrated Fine Edition (1884-1896)
Includes #1-9 above. Printed on “Pica Antique Type”.

9. New German Bible Illustrated. (1884-1896)
Includes #1, 2, 5, 6, 7 above. (In German).

10. New Royal Quarto Bible-Copyrighted Oxford Edition (1884-1896)
Includes #1,2, 5, 10.
Some of the books in this series have pages for family pictures.
These books are bound in Turkey and Persian Morocco.
Printed on fine sized and calendered paper.

11. New Imperial Quarto Bible (1884-1896)
Enlarged Size
Includes #1, 2, 5.
Printed on fine sized and calendered paper

12. New Imperial Quarto Bible-Redline Edition (1884-1896)
Enlarged Size. Carmine and Gold Edges.
Includes #1, 2, 5, 10
Fine sized and calendered paper.
These are the most expensive of the Altemus Bibles priced from $20-35.

13. 1893 Bible
Includes #1, 4, 5 (Only B62)

Each of the Bibles in all the series were published in two styles: with and without a nickel metal clasp.

B1

B2

B3

B4

 

B5

B6

B7

B8

 

B9

B10

B11

B12

 

B13

B14

B15

B16

 

B17

B18

B19

B20

 

B21

B22

B23

B24

 

B25

B26

B27

B28

 

B29

B30

B31

B32

 

B33

B34

B35

B35a (variant)

 

B36

B37

B38

B39

 

B40

B41

B42

B43

 

B44

B45

B46

B47

 

B48

B49

B50

B51

 

B52

B53

B54

B55

 

B56

B57

B58

B59

 

B60

B61

B62

B63

 

1. Cheap Edition
B4--1890-1896
B5--1888-1892
B11--1895-1896
B12--1893
B17--1884-1890
B30--1884-1894
B34--1892-1896
B37--1895-1896

2. New Popular Edition
B1--1889-1896
B6--1892-1896
B10--1894-1896
B11--1895-1896
B38--1890
B41--1890-1896
B42--1892-1896
B43--1895-1896
B57--1893-1896

3. Cheap Pictorial Edition
B1--1889
B2--1884-1896
B10--1895-1896
B16--1887-1896
B17--1884-1896
B35--1894
B35a--1893
B36--1894-1896
B40--1892-1896
B58--1890-1896

4. Fireside Edition
B18-1884-1892

 

5. Illustrated Medium Edition

B2-1886-1888
B4--1886-1890
B8--1889-1890
B9--1889-1890
B18--1886
B19--1886-1890
B21--1889-1890
B22--1887-1888
B28--1886-1890
B29--1889-1890
B32--1889-1890
B33--1889-1890

B34--1889-1890
B42--1889-1890

6. Cheap Gilt Edition
B18--1884-1896
B28--1886-1888

7. Pulpit Bibles
B2--1884-1896
B4--1884-1896
B7--1890-1896
B20--1884-1896
B27--1887-1896
B28--1884-1886

8. Illustrated Fine Edition

B1--1884-1889
B3--1884-1890
B8--1892-1896
B9--1892-1893
B10--1894-1896
B11--1894-1896
B14--1884-1890
B18--1884-1890
B19--1884-1894
B21--1884-1888
B22--1884-1896
B23--1884-1890

B24--1884-1890
B25--1884-1890
B28--1892-1896
B31--1890
B32--1892-1896
B33--1892-1896
B35--1892-1896
B36--1889-1890
B40--1892-1896
B49--1895
B50--1893-1896
B51--1892-1896

 

9. New German Bible
B44--1884-1896
B45--1884-1896
B55--1884-1896

10. New Royal Quarto Bible

B1--1884-1890
B3--1892
B7--1889-1890
B13--1884-1890
B14--1884-1896
B19--1892-1896
B23--1884-1887
B24--1884-1892
B25--1884-1896
B31--1892-1896
B33--1884-1890
B35--1895

B36--1892-1896
B39--1892-1896
B40--1890
B46--1884-1890
B47--1888-1890
B52--1892
B53--1895-1896
B56-1884-1890

11. New Imperial Quarto
B7--1893-1896
B13--1884-1896
B14--1884-1896
B20--1884-1886
B25--1884-1896
B33--1884-1896
B47--1887-1896

12. Imperial Quarto-RED LINE Edition
B13--1884-1896
B14--1884-1896
B15--1884-1896
B21--1884-1896
B25--1884-1896
B26-1884-1896
B33--1884-1896
B48--1884-1896

Type styles

Certain types were used with certain Bible Series. Some of the known examples of type are shown below with their corresponding series.


Series #1, 2, 3, 4, 6

Series #5, 8
 

Series #10

Series #11, 12

 

Henry Altemus Bibles in German

Between 1884 and the late 1890's Altemus published six different German language Bibles. Their contents varied, containing some or all of the items noted below. The Bibles are numbered 1G to 6G. These gold gilt initials are at the bottom of the spine (example is below).

The German Henry Altemus Bibles are much scarcer than the Bibles in English.

Bible contents:
1. Old and New Testament
2. Dore Illustrations (and others)
3. Marriage Certificate and Family Registration
4. Revised Version Appended
5. Apocrypha, Concordance, Psalms on Metre
6. Smith's Dictionary
7. Bible History and Analysis
8. Cyclopedia of the Bible
9. Dictionary of Names

Books 1G and 2G only contain the Old and New Testaments and Apocrypha, Family Register and the Dore Engravings. These Bibles cost $3.25 and $3.75 respectively.

Bibles 3G-6G contain all of the above contents but vary in the quality of the leather covers. They range in price from $4.50 for Bible 3G to Bible 6G which cost $10.50.

Here is German Bible 6G. The cover is the same as that used for the English Bible B28. (See above)


 

 

Note the 6G identification at the base of the spine

Title page

These are the family register pages. They are different from the ones found in the English Henry Altemus Bibles.

Montgomery Ward & Co. Publication (Bible)

As has been noted before, Altemus occasionally did publishing for other companies. It did a Shakespeare's Works for Gusky's Department Store. Here is an example of a Bible that was published for Montgomery Ward & Co. The cover is B11 (See above) which was published between 1894 and 1896. It appears that all Altemus did is replace its imprint with that of the department store giant.

 

Burrows Brothers Company, Cleveland

As noted above, Altemus published Bibles for other firms. Here is an example of a Bible that Altemus published for this Cleveland firm. The cover is shown above as B43. It is not dated but appears to have been published in the mid-1890's.

This Bible contains:
Old and New Testament
Dore illustrations
Marriage Certificate and Family Registration
Revised Verson Appended
Apocrypha
Smith's Dictionary
Dictionary of names

Chas. W. and Harris B. Burrows opened their book and stationery store in November, 1872. Charles was a West Point graduate and had previously worked with the Boston publisher Lee and Shepard.

Their publishing business began by 1875. Burrows incorporated in 1886 and absorbed the business of a competitor, E. L. Schinkel, formerly of Brooks, Schinkel and Company. The brothers sold out in 1912. The publishing business was discontinued at that time.

 

 

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Last Revision January 19, 2016