Florid Victorian Ornament (Dover Pictorial Archives)
I do firearms engraving - and out of 50+ Dover books, this book MAY have the most bent and coffee stained pages on it, and I've bought perhaps 4 to 6 copies over the past 10-12 years. The Dover collections are astounding in their breadth and scope. Early on this was one of the few "Florid" books of design I could find. (One on flowers had just gone out of print so forget the borders of intertwined flowers and vines, so sometimes you have to `grab them while they are hot', this is not that kind of book, It's been around since dirt was gray. Some designs are so intricate they look like they are colored. The size of the design can be shrunk or enlarged by using the copier on your printer or scanner. Transfer is easy once you learn the liquid that takes the ink off the paper, usually Alcohol, Xylene, or toluene. With Photoshop you can flip designs so corners are going the right direction and you can assemble the entire design in one piece before you put in on what ever you are going to engrave. With the CD this is a bit easier and saves a step. And, best of all, you'll never be caught `stealing' (or steeling) someone's design - they are free for use!
Victorian art - the age of opium and Amaranth and paregoric and TB. And it shows in the unexpected turn of line, the arc of the curve, the closeness and width of the lines which suggest both shadow and color, an age when Beauty was considered PART of the function of an item. Just look at their iron work - gates, fences, coffee grinders, wood stoves, valves and valve-gates that no one would ever see -- all metal poured into molds that were as pleasing to work with as to just sit and look at. Just look at a valve handle to see the difference: why use a straight line from the center to the circumference when that space could hold, as a water valve at my uncles, `S' curves with alternating roses and a trumpet like flower - morning glory or Trumpet vine - between the S curves, and the bolt that held the handle to the stem had round open fever-few or daisy's on the top and struck in the sides. The casing of the valve was an open Trumpet or Morning glory or Lilly that `held' the entire lower bib as if the bib was a stamen arising from the center of the flower. A simple stand pipe valve full of flowers set in a garden. As was the gate valve. An age of Beauty and Function. Even 130 years rusty and needing new leather gaskets - until a renter destroyed it with a pipe wrench rather than planting mint or other water loving, mud loving plant around the base that could be used to use the few drops a minute that oozed from the valve stem.
I sure thought I'd reviewed this book before, but trust me, if you work in wood-inlay, fine carving, or hard metal engraving and want to get the flavor of the Dover Editions This is the book. Heck, even if you engrave soft metals like Brass, Silver, Bronze for belt buckles this is the same - a place to start on intricate designs for the pen-and-ink challenged. THIS is the book to grab, it gives you a VERY good representative idea of what their other books are like.
I have found their `lettering' books to be of nearly no use at all, or their `advertising banner' books, but when you need that little swirl or flourish in a corner or a corner that is more than a simple `wheat' or `wire' pattern, this book will give you pages of ideas. I know that I've found ways to `attach' links of a hat band within a design itself, but I'm not a jeweler. I have even used this book to engrave western leather holsters using dull hard metal engravers, and have done several belts for friends who belong to the Single Action Society or who shoot `cowboy' style. I have not always been pleased with the results, because I don't work in leather, but I've gotten referrals that I've had to turn away, friends only in case I mess up.
HINT: LOOK FOR WORDS LIKE `FLORID', `INTRICATE' AND `ASTOUNDING' and you probably won't go wrong - for `work books' or for coffee table books. Sometimes a single page can take you a good ten t twenty minutes to fully appreciate. Non engravers will wonder HOW DO THEY DO THAT!? And so will many engravers. I have, many times.
I see they are coming out with out of print books and some newer ones that I'll be grabbing very soon (remember what I said about in-and-out of print, so if you see one you like, grab it, there may be only one edition and when it's gone it's gone). I own perhaps 50-70 Dover books, many on loan to other engravers or artists to inspire from or copy from, and this is one that I never loan and return to with regularly. Hint: you won't find them much cheaper on E-bay - they stay in the one to three dollar range, then jump to nearly full price a minute or two before auction end, then add shipping, and you could buy one or two more and get free shipping from Amazon. It's only worth it for out-of-print books, and even then, the prices reflect what your local book store can get them for. So support your local book dealer when you can.
While this is a `working' book, that is it sits on my bench shelf with Meeks "The Art of Engraving" and R. L. Wilson's books showing what's been done to Colts and Winchesters and "steel Canvas" Steel Canvas: The Art Of American Arms to give me ideas it would make an astonishing `coffee table book' alone, and costs a fraction of The Atlantic, New Yorker, etc - a few of these together will bring often silent astonishment in their detail. Book after book. Many a cold rainy afternoon I've sat before a fire and gone through these books like old friends - and each time I see something different, or a different way to so something.
I've even sent a few of these to fellow engravers as a thank you for help in difficult situations, or when trying something beyond my current level of ability or assuring me that I was NOT doing anything wrong with a particular pistol or rifle, their metals were just that way - with the CD - because as one knife engraver pointed out - "Sheesh! Paul, EVERYONE has this book!" but not with the CD they don't. And, of course, as is often the case, you start out with part of a design, and THEN your own talent takes over, and you can barely recognize the original lines that started you.
A sure cure to `engravers block" when you just can't strike that first blow or draw that first line. I am sure the same is true for Graphic Artists everywhere - though I suppose the line between `graphic artist' and engraving is fuzzy at best, I never consider myself an artist - As my Master once said, Artists create entirely new ways and perspectives, artisans follow - I'm happy that I can be an artisan. And Thank God for books like this and companies like Dover!