The idea of creating a mini-exhibit in the art museum focusing on the art of fashion in the 18th and 19th centuries has been a relatively new idea here at the Ringling Museum of Art. This show would be set to coincide with the Peter Paul Rubens show this Winter Season, just a few months away. There are several works on canvas which showcase the art of fashion and its evolution in our collection and with the addition of some of our fashion books, the exhibit will be complete.
The Ringling Museum Library holds books on fashion in both the John Ringling Library and the Rare Books Vault, as well as our reference and circulating collections. For the purpose of this exhibit, we have focused on the books in the John Ringling and Rare collections. All the books up for display were either in John Ringling’s possession upon his death in 1936 or were gifts to the library from our fantastic friends. They range in age from c. 1830 to 1929. Here are some details about the books and a sneak-peek at what they hold between their covers.
Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashion, &c. Rudolph Ackermann. London, c. 1830.
Rudolph Ackermann published a monthly periodical from 1809-1829 including aquatint prints of items available for sale at his London store. Originally a carriage and coach designer, Ackermann expanded his designs into other types of fine home décor and fashion before trying his hand at printing. His experimentation with aquatint produced some of the first fine color prints in England. Aquatint engraving became the all the rage in London because of Ackermann’s early experimentation and encouragement of its use in printing. The process involved printing the image after the engraving had been completed in one or two base colors, and then adding the rest of the color in aquatint by hand.
Every monthly periodical had examples of women’s fashion, lace and muslin patterns, carriage, home décor and architectural elements. The bound volume that we have in the Rare Book Vault contains plates from Ackermann’s publications from 1818-1825. The plates are arranged by subject matter instead of publication volume, so it is hard to determine exactly what we have in terms of complete volumes. Nevertheless, this book is a treasure of our library, and a wonderful example of both early aquatint printing and early English fashion publications. Here are some examples of the fashion section of the book.