In the early years of Altemus
& Company the main order of business was as a book bindery.
Examples of early work however are hard to find.
This is mainly because a fair percentage (?most) of the books bound by
Altemus have no indication of their bindery anywhere on or in the book.
can be seen below occasionally Altemus is mentioned as the binder
within the book in a preface. See Leaflets of Memory.
The Altemus name is sometimes placed within the gilt on the cover as
noted on the Christmas Blossoms 1849 published by E. H. Butler. Other
books have the Altemus name embossed on the front cover. See below the
Poetical Works book top of the front cover published by Grigg and
Occasionally it is noted in an advertisement that Altemus did a
particular book's binding. Rarely the Altemus name is stamped into the
corner of an endpaper.
At this time the following companies are known to have used Altemus
Geo. C. Appleton
E. H. Butler
Grigg and Elliot
Willis P. Hazard
Kay and Brother
H. Cowperthwait & Co.
Peck and Bliss
Hayes and Zell
Fireside Publishing Company
Presbyterian Board of Publication
New York Publishers
D. Appleton & Co.
Dunigan & Brother
Leavitt & Allen
Wiley and Putnam
John Murphy & Company
T. Newton Kurtz
Phillips and Sampson
B. A. Fowler & Co.
Baird and Dillon
Taylor & Maury
Leaflets of Memory Published by E.
H. Butler and Co. 1847
This earlier "Leaflets" was also bound by Altemus. As opposed to the
books below, this binding actually is signed by Altemus. In the middle
of the spine it says "Altemus". The later books note in the
advertisement (preface) that Altemus was the binder.
The publisher of all the Leaflets of Memory was E. H. Butler. It would
seem that all of these books (1840's and 1850's) were bound by Altemus
but it is not proven as of yet.
Leaflets of Memory edited by Reynell Coates. Published by E.
Altemus named as binder in the "advertisement".
Leaflets of Memory edited by Reynell Coates. Published by E. H. Butler 1851
Altemus named as binder in the "advertisement".
The Leaflets of Memory books
were published yearly during the 1840's and 1850's. Previously an 1850
book bound by Altemus has been shown. Now from the same series an 1851
book also published by E.H. Butler has been discovered. As with the
previous book, there is nothing that indicates the Altemus bindery on
the cover. Mr. Altemus is mentioned in the "advertisement" (preface) of
the book as the binder.
The 1851 book is the seventh in the series. I do not know how many (if
any) other books beside the 1850 and 1851 were bound by Altemus.
Poetical Works of
Rogers, Campbell, J. Montgomery, Lamb and Kirke White. Published by Grigg
and Elliot, Phila in 1847
Here is an example of the Altemus book bindery. This book, The Poetical
Works of Rogers,
Campbell, J. Montgomery, Lamb Kirke White was published by Grigg
& Elliot, a Philadelphia company, in 1847. If you look very
closely at the top of the book's front cover, you can see the words J.
T. Altemus ...Binder Philad. This shows again the difficulty of finding
Altemus bindings in the 1840's and 1850's.
Christmas Blossoms by Uncle Thomas. Published by Phillips and Sampson 1848
Here is the 1848 version of Christmas Blossoms by Uncle Thomas. This
book was published by Phillips
and Sampson, a Boston publisher. As can be seen below this same cover
was used in 1849 by E. H. Butler with its publication of that year's
Christmas Blossoms by Uncle Thomas.
If you look closely, the words "Altemus Binder" and "Phi" are placed in
the gold gilt on the bottom left of the front cover.
Christmas Blossoms by Uncle Thomas. Published by E. H. Butler & Company 1849
Here is another example from
the Altemus bindery. This book, Christmas Blossoms and New Year's
Wreath from 1849 by Uncle Thomas, was published by E.H. Butler
& Co. As can be seen, the words Altemus Binder are engraved at
the bottom of the book within the gilt pattern.
Christmas Blossoms by Uncle Thomas. Published by E. H. Butler & Co. 1851
This is the 1851 Christmas Blossoms. Although this book cover does not
indicate Altemus as the binder as the two books above, there is little
doubt that Altemus did the binding of this book. Note the vases on the
1848 and 1849 books. All three vases are identical. These vases plus
the fact that Altemus did the other two Christmas Blossoms's books make
it a certainty that Altemus bound this book.
Psalms and Hymns published by Presbyterian
Board of Publication 1843
Here is a nice example of an Altemus bindery product. Note that the
identifier for the publisher is a stamped into the upper right corner
of an endpaper.
Altemus binding examples from the 1840's are quite uncommonly seen.
Pictures are courtesy of the Library Company of
Pearls of American
Poetry published by Wiley and Putnam 1847
This elegant book has the binder's imprint on the upper right corner of
an endpaper. This is the only Wiley and Putnam book that I know of that
was bound by Altemus.
Pictures courtesy of the Library Company of
Read's Female Poets
of America, Third
Edition, published by E.
H. Butler in 1850
Read's Female Poets of America,
Third Edition, published by E. H. Butler in 1850 is reviewed in
Sartain's Magazine in 1849. As can be seen, the article notes that
Altemus did the ornamental design. Without this article it would be
impossible to be sure what company did the binding.
It is of interest that the decorative pattern is very similar to the
1850 Leaflets of Memory (see above) book also published by E.H. Butler.
Women of the Old
and New Testament
published by D. Appleton
& Company 1850
Interesting that this 1850 title has been seen with two different
bindings. The bindery identifier is noted on the bottom right of an
endpaper: " Altemus Binder Philade"
I am not familiar with any other title that had two different Altemus
bindings in one year.
Pictures courtesy of the Philadelphia Library Company.
American Politics by Thomas V. Cooper Fireside
In the 1880's and 1890's even though Altemus was ramping up its own
publishing business, it was still doing some binding for other
publishing houses. Here is an example of one of those efforts. This
oversized book (9.5 x 6) was published by the Fireside Publishing
Company. It is not surprising that Altemus did the binding for this
company since Howard Altemus was the manager of the Fireside Publishing
Company until he joined his father at Altemus and Company.
American Politics by Thomas V. Cooper C.
R. Brodix, Chicago 1884
Here is an example of a leather bound book from the Altemus bindery. It
was published in 1884 by the Chicago publisher C. R. Brodix. Note that
this is basically the same book as the above 1883 book which was
published by the Fireside Publishing Company. Note however that on the
title page the 1884 book says "New and revised edition".
This is an example of an easy to identify Altemus bindery product since
it says bound by Henry Altemus on the title page.
Blaine and Logan by
Thos. V. Cooper published by Baird
and Dillon, Chicago and New York
Thos. V. Cooper wrote several political books in the 1880's and early
1890's. A number of different firms published his books. This book was
published by Baird and Dillon in 1884. It is 9.5 x 6.5.
Two different cover formats have been seen. One in cloth and the other
in leather. Both are shown below.
Interestingly the binder was noted on the copyright page as Henry
Altemus not Altemus and Company. By the early 1890's Altemus was
concentrating more on publishing its own books.
Cleveland and Hendricks
by Gen'l Benjamin La Fevre Baird
& Dillon 1884
Here is an example of a Henry Altemus bound book published in 1884 by
Baird & Dillon, a Chicago publisher.This is the second Campaign
of '84 Altemus bound book seen so far. Interestingly this is the second
of a matching pair of presidential biographies.
Additional Altemus bindings of books published by Grigg and Elliot in
(I would like to thank and
acknowledge the Library Company of Philadelphia for allowing me to
reproduce the book covers in this section.
Altemus bound books are very hard to find and I appreciate their
These three books have similar gold gilt patterns on their covers. The
J. T. Altemus Binder Phila
embossed lettering is at the top of each cover. Clearly, it could be
overlooked if the cover is not examined carefully.
The Works of Lord
Byron by George
publication of Grigg and Elliot
J. T. Altemus
The Poetical Works
of Milton, Young, Gray, Beattie, and Collins.
This 1847 was also published by Grigg
and Elliot in Philadelphia.
The Poetical Works
of Rogers, Campbell, J. Montgomery, Lambe, and Kirke White
1847 Published by Grigg
and Elliot, Philadelphia
1860 Ad for Book Bindery
American Circular and
Trade Gazette 1859