PUBLISHER: Henry Altemus Co., Philadelphia, 1842-1936

ABOUT: Editorial offices at 806 Market Street by 1874, 28 South Fourth by 1890, [incorporated in 1900; 507, 509, 511, and 513 Cherry Street per PTLA 1901-1914], moved to 1326 Vine Street in 1914. By 1886, could manufacture 5,000 books a day. Specialized in elaborate yet inexpensive bindings. Began reprinting in 1889 (Altemus Library); Laurel Series 1893; Vademecum series 1894; Representative Poets, Devotional, and Young People's Library 1895. Altemus Library prices ranged from $.75 for cloth to $1.50 in half levant and $1.75 for half English calf. Laurel series were boxed, two volume sets priced from $1 to $4. Vademecum books were priced $.25 to $.75 (DLB 49).

THE HOUSE OF HENRY ALTEMUS. THE house of Henry Altemus is of long standing. It was established in 1790 by Schadrack Taylor, who was succeeded in the business by his apprentice and nephew, Joseph T. Altemus, the father of the present proprietor. Joseph T. Altemus won a widespread reputation for the quality of his bindings, and was specially noted for fine finishing and tooling. Many of the labor-saving devices now employed were introduced by him. He imported from England a coggle press, which he arranged so as to do certain classes of finishing on the sides of books that had been done previously by hand. This was practically the first introduction in this country of stamping on the sides of books.

Afterward, under his personal supervision, he had made a large embossing press for heavy relief work. This effected a great revolution in bookbinding. Besides improvements made by him in many of the processes of bookbinding he originated many styles of binding, a number of which have since become standard. Among these are: Heavy paneled and beveled boards, inlaid sides, embossed leather backs and cloth sides on school-books in place of the old style full-skiver binding.

At the death of Joseph T. Altemus, in 1851, his son, Henry Altemus, succeeded to the business, just having completed his term of service as apprentice in his father's bindery. He brought with him the same progressive spirit into the business. He was the first to use cutting machines for trimming the edges of books, and among the first to use the backing machine, both of which are now found in every bookbindery in the country. He was among the first to manufacture photograph albums in this country, and introduced the well-known patented hinge-back album, the strongest album made. He was the first bookbinder to sew books by wire, by which process at present fully 50 per cent. of books produced in London, Berlin and Leipsic are sewed, London alone operating over seven hundred machines.

The firm occupies the five-storied building 507 to 513 Cherry street, its capacity of production being 5,000 books per day. --The American Bookmaker II-6 (June 1886) p194; reprinted verbatim American Bookmaker II-6 (June 1896) p194.

This important Philadelphia firm began life as a bookbindery established in 1842 by Henry Altemus' father, Joseph T. Altemus (died 1854). For historical information on the firm, based on an inventory of the contents of the bindery at the time of Joseph's death, see Mary-Parke Johnson, "An Inventory of the Joseph T. Altemus Bookbindery, Philadelphia, 1854," The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 80:2 (1986), pages 179-191. There is a extra-ordinarily extensive website devoted to the Henry Altemus Company and its books.

LUCILE’s ISSUED BY Henry Altemus Co. 1902 United States Catalog: Lucile. 40c, 50c, $1. 1912 United States Catalog: Lucile. 40c; 50c.

Altemus produced editions of Lucile in just two sizes: "12mos" (about 5 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches, from 1895?-1921+?) and "Handy Volume" (about 4 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches, from 1889?-1926). Both formats seem to result from the same setting of type (doubtless electroplated) with the larger-size volumes more heavily leaded (to make a longer column of text) and with more generous margins. This resulted in text blocks of 361 pages in all copies, so that page count alone does not distinguish 12mo and Handy Volume editions.

For information about reported 12mo editions, click here.

Alphabetical List of 12mo Editions:

Library of Standard Authors, 1897-1900
Popular Library, 1902
Presentation Edition(s), 1897-1898
Riviere Series, 1901
Standard Twelve Mos, 1895-1896
Velvet Calf 12mo Series, 1912

For information about Handy Volume editions, click here.

Alphabetical List of Handy Volume Editions:

Beauxarts Series, 1897-1898, 1900, 1902
Christmas Gift Series, 1906-1907
Diplome d'Honneur Series, 1902
Fairmount Series, 1895
Gem Series, 1910-1912
Grolier Series, 1904
Handy Volume Classics in Sets, 1897
La Belle Fleur Series, 1901
Laurel Series, 1895-1897
Marqueterie Series, 1899
Never Old Series, 1915
Noveau Series, 1901
Petit-Trianon Series, 1896-1909
Poems We Love Series, 1912-1917
Representative English Poetry, 1897
Representative Poets, 1895, 1897-1898
Roycroft Series, 1903
Sanspareil Series, 1898-1899
Universal Classics, 1913-1921
Vademecum Series, 1895-1921, 1925-1926
Valenciennes Series, 1897-1898

Last revised: 12 August 2023