Baxter or Le Blond Baxter - How can you tell the Difference?
This 'Chat' will be continually added to, some differences have already been published in the Baxter Society Newsletters over the years so I can add some straight away but I still have a number of others as yet unpublished that I will add as and when so please come back and check regularly - or please ask
Le Blond purchased many of Baxter's Plates and Blocks from Vincent Brooks circa 1868, the sale negotiated by George Baxter Jr, Le Blond (LB) reprinted from most and these are known as Le Blond Baxters (LBB)
It is said that the first thing LB did was to remove Baxter's signature from any plates that had it on and insert his own. We know this not to be true as we have unsigned prints on mounts with Le Blond's 'blue' label on the reverse. When they were signed they would have on them Le Blond & Co with a second 'signature' LA Elliot Boston being Le Blond's agent in America. In the late 19th century / early 20th someone removed the LBB signature on many hundreds of thousands of LBB's by trimming the bottom of the print to pass them off as genuine Baxters.
Initially (?) LB issued these LBB on full card mounts with a blue label on the reverse giving the title etc. These were high quality items, fully finished using all the blocks available to them and taking the greatest care, these are now hard to find items. Later, possibly for commercial reasons, they started to exclude some of the blocks and in most you will not find any colour to the eyes, lips or cheeks.
When we are looking at a print it leaves us with a problem, is this a genuine Baxter or a LBB? If a Baxter print is supposed to be signed in the plate and the signature is not where it supposed to be then it is reasonably straightforward but what about the many prints Baxter didn't sign?
Courtney Lewis (CL) writing in the 1920's told us a few ways to tell:
Checking the size of the print, if it has been trimmed it is most probably a LBB (but a genuine Baxter could have been cut a little shorter so not 100%)
Lack of colour to eyes, cheeks and lips (this only a guide as a faded Baxter can have exactly the same traits and fully finished LBB, as mentioned above, would be so coloured)
No gloss finish (Fully finished LBB do have this gloss but omitted on most of the other examples but many Baxter examples are exactly the same or never had a gloss finish in the first place)
The Baxter Times, also in the 1920's, suggested feeling the quality of the paper, (yes! true a lot of LBB feel on quite thin paper but I don't know this is true for all and what happens if they are mounted on anything).
Over the years I have been lucky enough to see, study and compare many different copies of the same print and I noticed that, on some prints, there are some fundamental and 'easy' to spot differences. When LB bought the plates some hadn't been printed from for many years, were some of the blocks missing or defective? LB obviously had to cut new blocks and a number of the differences we notice are down to this fact.
Christmas Time - CL 261
The main indication between the two printings is that the sky in a Baxter is decidedly grey, the colour of a winter sky, whereas in the LB it is sky blue. More subtly, in the LB version, the reds in the scarf and blues in the cap and trousers are noticeably more vivid.
All in all the Baxter version is very subdued and wintery whereas the LBB's colours are noticeably a lot brighter. The problem is that a faded LBB can then look exactly like a Baxter or perhaps every Baxter copy I have seen has been faded?
Baxter version, showing grey wintery sky and subdued colours
Le Blond Baxter, bluer sky and generally more vibrant colours
One small but definite difference is in the berries on the holly. In all the copies that I have compared the red berries on the holly are printed in the LBB but hand coloured on Baxters’. Sometimes this can be hard to tell but a simple test that I use is that if all the berries are nice and round, they are more than likely printed, Baxter’s hand coloured berries are not perfectly round and all will all be slightly different shapes
Baxter's hand coloured berries on the left and on the right the LBB where they are obviously printed, as all images, click to get an enlargement
Napoleon III - with Long Moustache - CL 227
This is an interesting and quite dramatic one, so 'dramatic' it is a wonder it hasn't been noticed in the past. Count the number of buttons you can see on his jacket. The Baxter version shows three and a half yellow buttons whereas the LBB only three. Also the red sash on the LBB is wider (covering the position of the half button on the Baxter). So how would this have come about? When you look closely at the Baxter version you can see a line where the wider sash would be and the half yellow button has no detail just colour.
Napoleon III - LE Blond Baxter (LBB) to the left and the genuine Baxter to the right
The plate for this print was amended from another version of Napoleon III (with Short Moustache) - CL 229. Baxter amended the plate and most probably at the same time widened the sash and removed the half button BUT never amended the red and yellow colour blocks - the Baxter print then appears without the amendments but the line for the wider sash and no detail on the button can clearly be seen. LB on receiving the plates must have needed to cut red and yellow colour blocks (they may have been missing or damaged) so as normal would have cut the blocks using the (amended) plate as a template. This steel plate is interesting as Baxter made a number of changes over the years but this is a topic for another chat.
Stolen Pleasures - CL 272
Baxter’s print is particularly fine, Le Blond’s on the other hand is noticeably harsh not helped by the fact that by reducing the number of colour blocks used, it gives it an overall orangey appearance. This appearance is normally enough to tell the difference but, of course, only if you know the colouring of a Baxter!
Another definite way to tell is to look at the cloth draped over the stairs on the left. In the Baxter it is always blue and in the LBB it has now been incorporated into the colour block for the old ladies dress and is now green.
Princess Royal, Princess of Prussia - CL 214
LB must have printed many more copies of this print than Baxter. Baxter's versions are actually quite hard to find (the same with her husband Prince Frederick Wm. Of Prussia CL 215). When you see an unmounted copy of this print it will be, more than likely, a LBB. Luckily it is easy to tell the different. The jewel around her neck and earrings are coloured red in the LBB shown on the left but not in the Baxter. A word of warning if you are looking at a faded copy the red's disappear first to a very pale pink, so could look like a Baxter but in the Baxter they are always grey in colour.
I find it really hard to get a very good|Baxter of this print hence why the image I have used below is actually one from an album and had been cut to an oval.
Eugenie, Empress Of The French - CL 228
This is most probably the easiest print to differentiate between the two printings - as long as you can remember which way round it is!
The Baxter printing has a blue background where as the LBB is sage green / light brown colour.
When you look more closely, in every Le Blond I have seen, the ring is coloured yellow but in Baxter’s version the ring is always uncoloured