VCU Libraries Gallery

The Invention of Lithography by Alois Senefelder, 1911.

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Cover, The Invention of Lithography by Alois Senefelder, 1911.

The Provenance of Special Collections and Archives' copy of The Invention of Lithography by Alois Senefelder, 1911.

The online version of the Merriam-Webster dictionary states that the word "Provenance" means "the history of ownership of a valued object or work of art or literature." Special Collections and Archives' copy of The Invention of Lithography by Alois Senelder, 1911, has a unique Richmond provenance. It was owned over the course of nearly 100 years by several Richmond artists and art educators all of whom had a connection to VCU's School of the Arts. The lengthy inscription on the fly leaf and the half title page of the book document its provenance.

Alois Senefelder (1771-1834) was a German author and actor who in the 1790s invented the printing technique of lithography. Within one hundred years it became the most popular form of printing. In 1817 Senefelder published a history of his life and his invention under the title Vollstandiges Lehrbuch der Steindruckerei (A Complete Course of Lithography). This work was translated from the German by J. W. Muller and published in 1911 as The Invention of Lithography by the Fuchs and Lang Manufacturing Firm in New York.


Inscriptions of previous owners on fly leaf of The Invention of Lithography by Alois Senefelder, 1911.

Special Collections and Archives' copy of The Invention of Lithography was first owned by the Richmond Art Club. It was presented to the club in 1917 by E. Webster Hoen (1862-1941) as a gift from the publisher. Hoen ran the Richmond branch of the lithography printing firm of A. E. Hoen Company. The Hoen firm, established in Baltimore in the 1830s, improved printing techniques originally invented by Alois Senefelder. Known for their bright color printing their work included maps, posters, sheet music, tobacco advertising, business stationary, etc. The Richmond branch was in business from about the 1870s through the 1930s.

The Richmond Art Club was established in 1895 and was located at 521 West Grace St. By 1910 an art school within the club was run by Adèle Clark (1882-1983) and Nora Houston (1883-1942). Both Clark and Houston were artists, active in the suffrage movement, and promoters of art and art education in Virginia. Among their many students was Theresa Pollak (1899-2002) who in 1928 would establish the foundation of what became the School of the Arts of Richmond Professional Institute (RPI), now Virginia Commonwealth University.

The Invention of Lithography was then "inherited" by a new Richmond art school called the Atelier of the Virginia League of Fine Arts and Handicrafts. This inscription on the flylief was penned by Adèle Clark. The Atelier was run by Clark and Nora Houston. The Atelier was active from 1918 to the late 1930s. Clark continued to teach drawing and painting in the 1940s and 1950s. As late as 1956, when she was nearly seventy-five years old, she was teaching an art class once a week. In the early 1930s, Clark was briefly an instructor at the art school at RPI teaching art history and art appreciation. Her papers are housed in Special Collections and Archives.

In 1961, Adèle Clark gave the book to Maurice Bonds (1918-1995), an artist and educator known for his paintings, prints, and drawings. Bonds, a native of Norfolk, had been a student at RPI in the late 1930s. He became a full time faculty member in the School of Arts in 1947. He headed the School of Fine Arts from 1953 to 1968. Bonds served as founding chair of the Art History Department from 1968 until his retirement in 1978.

Maurice Bonds donated The Invention of Lithography to David Freed in 1985. Freed is VCUarts emeritus professor known for printmaking using the intaglio technique of etching. He came to the school in 1966 to start the printmaking program and remained working in the School of Arts until his retirement in 2005. He has continued to produce art work in his Richmond studio. His collaboration with poets Charles Wright, Larry Levis, and Steve Lautermilch resulted in the creation of artist books which are part of Special Collections and Archives' Book Art collection. The artist book What Light Guides This Hand by Freed and Lautermilch was selected as VCU Libraries' millionth volume in 1993.

David Freed then gave The Invention of Lithography to Barbara Tisserat (1951-2017), a lithographer and long time VCU art professor. Tisserat came to VCU's Department of Painting and Printmaking in 1978. She organized and implemented the lithography studio when the Fine Arts Building, 1000 W. Broad St., opened in 1999. In 2005 Tisserat was quoted in the October 4, 2017 issue of Richmond Magazine about an exhibit of her work that was on display at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. She said that printmaking presented unique challenges. “Your drawing is always reversed,” she said. "That’s one step away from where it was, so there's always an element of risk. Most characteristic of lithography, you make an error with the consistency of the ink or the number of rolls, it’s just very unforgiving. There’s an element of tension the process provides.” She retired from VCU in 2013.

Barbara Tesserat gave The Invention of Lithography to Special Collections and Archives in 2013. When she offered the book to the department she said in an email that it "provides a record of the early lineage of the printmaking discipline in the School of the Arts."

VCU Libraries' Special Collections and Archives now houses this book whose provenance provides a history of artists and art educators of Richmond and of VCU's School of the Arts. In the description section of the library's catalog record for the book there is a “Local Note” which states:

“Cabell Library Special Collections copy has inscriptions: Presented to the Art Club of Richmond, 521 West Grace Street, 1917 ; Inherited from the Art Club of Richmond, Virginia by the Atelier of Nora Houston and Ade?le Clark [...] 1918 ; Presented to Maurice Bonds by Ade?le Clark 1961 ; Note: the original presentation was made by E.A. Hoen through E. Weber Hoen of the above Co. ; To David Freed who carried on the good work, by Maurice Bonds 1985. Copy imperfect: plate wanting. Copy has laid in picture with text: Inside the Atelier, Nora Houston.”