United States bank note engraving is the subject of a new book published by the American Numismatic Society.
The Feel of Steel: The Art and History of Bank-Note Engraving in the United States by Mark D. Tomasko is a 180-page, hardcover exploration of the 200-year history of and the processes involved in bank note engraving in the United States. The book, which is a revised edition of a 2009 work published in limited numbers, provides a look at “a beautiful art brought to its peak in America in the nineteenth century,” according to the ANS.
Part I traces the history, with particular attention to the American Bank Note Co., the small bank-note firms founded after the Civil War, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The decline of the industry in the late 20th century closes the history.
Part II lays out the process of designing, engraving and printing engraved documents. Part II also contains an extended discussion of the artwork origins of the picture engraving, information found in few other places according to the ANS.
Part III introduces the members of American Bank Note Co.’s picture-engraving department at 30-year intervals in the 20th century, shown in group photographs and with an illustration of each engraver’s work.
This revised edition has 50 percent more illustrations than the original Bird and Bull Press limited edition published in 2009. Besides the numerous illustrations (many in color), the new edition features copious notes, a bibliography and an extensive index, all adding to the volume’s research value. As no book about bank note engraving would be complete without at least one sample of actual engraving, the frontispiece of the ANS edition of The Feel of Steel is the reprinted title and vignette from a 19th century stock certificate. The reader can therefore actually experience the “feel of steel,” through the tactile quality of intaglio printing.
Tomasko is a collector, writer, and researcher about bank note engraving, who has written more than 30 articles on the subject, in addition to giving many talks and mounting several museum exhibits.
The book is available for $120 plus shipping.
For more information, visit a page at the ANS website: http://numismatics.org/Store/Steel. To order, write to the ANS at 75 Varick St., Floor 11, New York, NY 10013; telephone it at 212-571-4470; fax it at 212-571-4479; send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit numismatics.org/Store. ■