February 2013 | Nate Pedersen

Unknown Landacre Print Discovered

Anyone that's ever worked with rare books holds on to the hope that someday they'll dust off an old tome and out will spill some previously undiscovered - but amazingly relevant - piece of ephemera.

Something akin to that happened to bookseller John Howell of Los Angeles. Howell recently received a copy of the book Farewell Thou Busy World by John Hodgson Bradley.  Published by The Primavera Press in 1935, Farewell Thou Busy World was graced by woodcuts from the great Paul Landacre, one of the prominent illustrators of the mid 20th century.

SOGGNI-1_image1.jpgAs Howell was browsing through the book, he noticed an extra woodcut print clipped to one of the pages.  When Howell examined the print more closely, he saw it was clearly in Landacre's trademark style and even bore his small signature in pencil - but the print was not one of the six used to illustrate the book.  So Howell sent a scan of his find to the Landacre scholar Jake Milgram Wien for more information.  After digging around in Landacre archives, Wien declared the print as previously unknown.  Wien surmised the print may have been created for another book but then discarded for unidentified reasons.  Wien also did not know of any surviving wood block that might have been used to create the print.

SOGGNI-1_image2.jpgSo Howell had stumbled across a true rarity - a previously unknown Landacre woodcut - such an infrequent occurrence that Landacre scholars could not remember the last time it happened.  What the print was intended for - and how it ended up in this copy of Farewell Thou Busy World - remains a mystery.

If you're curious to see the print in person, Howell will be exhibiting it this weekend in San Francisco at the California Antiquarian Book Fair.  Look for him in booth 314.

(Photos submitted by John Howell).