A set of 12 sample ovals as sent out by Le Blond & Co with their original circular letter dated 1862
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An excellent example of Le Blond & Co's - The Millstream (towing the prize) a copy of which was included in this auction Lot

A very intriguing item went through the auction house of Puttick and Simpson between October 1934 and July 1935. I have never seen the item, or reference to it, so I can only presume this item is now lost. Luckily ‘Baxter Prints Auction Prices’ for 1935 (Link 1 below) decided it was important enough to note in detail:

“A set of 12 sample ovals as sent out by Le Blond & Co with their original circular letter, it reads:

London EC October 1862 – We have taken the liberty of forwarding for your inspection one dozen of our Patent Oil Prints in the hope that you yourself or some member of your family might be induced to become the purchaser of a few. The low price at which, by this patent process, imitations of oil paintings can be produced has enabled us to fix the price at 1s 6d each print. One of our agents will call for this package tomorrow morning when, if you desire it, you can inspect the remainder of the subjects we have at present undertaken. We are your obedient servants, Le Blond & Co”

The 12 ovals in the Lot along with this circular were: The Image Boy, Good News, The Burning Glass, The Gleaners, The Mill Stream, The Pedlar, The Young Angler, The Fisherman’s Hut, The Ferry, Learning to Ride, Moonlight and The Leisure Hour.

It can be safely assumed that the ovals were published in the order of their LB serial numbers and , as both Moonlight and Leisure Hour had the last numbers of the ovals series, it proves that the complete set of ovals had been published by the date of this circular, 1862., which is far earlier than, up until now, anyone had thought.

It also gives us a good insight into the way Le Blond & Co sold their prints around this time, retail, direct to the customer, door to door. Baxter sold mainly through agents for most of his working life but coincidentally was also selling ‘retail’ in the early 1860’s via his travelling sales (Link 2 below)

Dating of any of Le Blond’s prints, not used in pocket books, is hard. Although the later ovals are said to come with just the one Le Blond signature I have never seen a copy, they must be hard to find, every copy I have seen having the additional LA Elliot & Co Boston signature. We know that this double signature dates from at least circa 1868 when Le Blond reprinted from Baxter’s plates as all the Le Blond Baxter’s have this double signature.

This new information means that either the later ovals did have a good few years of issue with just the single signature OR Le Blond started using the double signature well before 1868, which appears now to be likely.

In reaching these conclusions I have had to assume that these 12 ovals were the ones that came with the original circular but as this Lot is complete there is no reason to think that isn’t the case.

The lot, described as 12 prints, mint impressions, sold for £14, which when compared to a complete set in fine condition for £25 seemed reasonable. The price seemed to reflect the value of just the prints in mint condition which were selling as singles in various sales that year for between 7s 6d and £1 4s each. The low perceived ‘value’ of the circular is possibly the reason it has been lost – or has it? Does anyone know of its existence?