What do New York City, countless books, and attention-commanding women have in common (other than being three very excellent things)? Our newest Vintage Edition! Which also happens to be a richly detailed black and white photo that takes us time-travelling to 1919, and segues into some real interesting, library-loving history in the process. But should you need any more reason to pull the trigger on this print of New York City book campaign, consider the timeliness: This Friday, April 23rd is World Book Day, and April is National Poetry Month. If you’ve been following our releases for a while, reading our newsletter, checking out our Literary Galleries or peeping our ongoing poetry and art pairing series, then you know we’re big word lovers and bibliophiles. We’re also totally on board with a does this spark joy? approach to art. So if, like us, you’ve ever stayed up late with a un-put-down-able book, run out of space for another novel, or if getting lost in the library sounds like your idea of a day well spent, this new edition is for you.
In New York City book campaign, a smartly-dressed woman is nimbly balanced atop an imposing wall of books. In her hand, an old school megaphone. On her face, an unmistakable smile. Our heroine didn’t just come here to loudly declare her love for libraries (though that’s a hypothetical demonstration we’re very much here for). She climbed a couple dozen stories of book stacks high to speak on behalf of the American Library Association (ALA) and promote their book drive for soldiers in Europe. Though membership in the ALA was and is open to any person or organization, the majority of its members are librarians and libraries, so chances are the ardent, anonymous spokesperson pictured in New York City book campaign was a librarian herself. It’s fair to say this image is an homage to the ALA’s work, but it’s more generally an ode to the bliss of reading good books, and the democratic essential of library access.
Established in 1876, the ALA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting libraries and library education. In fact, it’s the oldest and largest library association in the world. In 1917, two years before this photo was taken, ALA membership was just over 3,000. With the First World War underway, the ALA decided to launch the Committee on Mobilization and War Service Plans (later known as the War Service Committee). Directed by Herbert Putnam—the eighth and longest serving Librarian of Congress—and later by Carl H. Milam, the Committee set out to raise money to provide libraries, books, and periodicals to military personnel abroad and at home. Between 1917 and 1920, the ALA mounted two successful financial campaigns and raised $5 million from public donations. During that time, they also erected thirty-six camp libraries with Carnegie Corporation funds, distributed approximately 10,000,000 books and magazines, and provided library collections to 500 locations. It was an impressive, collaborative effort, the effects of which are still felt to this day—look no further than the American Library in Paris or the permanent library departments in US military sites the world over.
Libraries are cornerstones of our communities (if you agree, you might want to check out this benefit edition, too!) and everyone should have access to them—servicepeople of course included. You might think of New York City book campaign as an exceptionally good-looking reminder to support your local library or your cue to read up on the ALA. Or maybe you just see a book bonanza, a slice of New York City, and a well-read woman giving her passion a platform. Whatever your reason to collect this edition, we lit-adoring art people are all for it.
With art for everyone,