Baxter Needle box Prints
This particular 'chat' is not a definitive article on Baxter's needle box prints as their is so much that I could write but instead a few interesting aspects that will be added to over time. Firstly something from my collection - Baxter’s The Queens Floral Needlebox Set CL134 – printed by Baxter as a sheet of ten small prints and initially meant to be cut into individual prints and affixed to small boxes containing sewing needles. Presumably initially Baxter intended them to be sold entirely to needlebox manufacturer but a new market seems to have flourished in the 1850’s, the parlour scrapbook, ‘fancy stationers’ realised the potential of selling these prints to individuals for adorning their scrapbooks.
I always presumed that these fancy stationers would sell the complete sheet but my item is the ten prints already cut and around them a specially prepared band that states Ten Baxter Oil prints, printed and published by Baxter, Patentee 11, Northampton Square Price 2s (2 shillings – 10p in today’s currency).
Baxter originally sold the complete sheets for 6d (6 old pence, equivalent to 2.5p) so stationers were buying at this figure and 2s would be retail price? Was this band printed by the retailer or Baxter himself, did he, realising the potential market, supply them in this form ready for the retailer?
I feel that Baxter most probably printed these labels as the text is 'pushes' Baxter AND quotes his address not the retailers. Also the label is very similar in text style to the large label (that I believe he also printed) and discussed below. As far as I know this is a unique piece of ephemera.
Some years ago I came across 4 needle box prints in a small frame. Quite unremarkable yet interesting, but as they were inexpensive I purchased them. Two lids from Baxter’s Regal Set and two from Vincent Brooks’ New Ten.
When I removed them from the frame I was pleased to find that they were still attached to the box lids, their corners having been snipped allowing the box to be laid flat and then overmounted. I have since spent some time trying to encourage the boxes back into their original shape.
I was in conversation one day with two collectors of antique sewing tools discussing needle box prints etc. when one mentioned she had seen something written that recommended that when the boxes had finished their useful life they should be cut and framed. For some years the lady concerned tried to remember where she had seen it but to no avail.
Recently, I purchased in an auction lot, a very poor example of Her Majesty Queen Victoria on the outside of a large needle box top. Only when I got the item home did I notice that inside the box was a label in gold describing the image on the outside and giving the titles of the images for the inside 10 boxes, the Tarantella Set. At the bottom it states ‘The illustrations can be taken off the lids for ladies albums by cutting the box lid sides away with a pair of scissors’ – was this the instruction that inspired my prints previous owner?
If this label was printed by the box retailer you might consider that the wording ‘printed in oil colours by BAXTER the PATENTEE’ is an overly positive acknowledgement, so was the label printed by Baxter himself? If it was, it does show a distinct similarity to the gilt printed music cover for Paul & Virginie Waltz which I feel Baxter would have also printed.
Some years ago I managed to acquire a very nice complete box containing 3 needleboxes with Baxter prints on the lids. These are hard to come by and eagerly sought after by collectors of Baxter prints as well as collectors of sewing accessories. From 1850 onwards Baxter produced a number of sets specifically for the needlebox manufactures to adorn their boxes.
So what do I find interesting about this item? You will notice these needleboxes do not have, what we would normally call, needlebox prints on the lids. In this instance we have part of Baxter’s small views of Warwick Castle and Abbeville that the manufacturer has cut down to fit his small boxes, along with a full-size River Scene Holland on the lid. So why cut these down rather than use the specifically made sets which would have been easier and most probably cheaper? We will never be sure, perhaps he just had these in stock but maybe as Abbeville and River Scene Holland were published 3 years before Baxter produced his first set of needlebox prints (although Warwick Castle was published the same year as his first set), just maybe this use of his prints by the
needle industry was what gave Baxter the idea to specifically produce prints for the needlebox market?