Samuel Mossman’s Gems of Womanhood (date unknown)

Today, we’ll be looking at a well-worn edition of Samuel Mossman’s Gems of Womanhood; Or, Sketches of Distinguished Women in Various Ages and Nations. Originally published by Gall & Inglis of London in 1870, this edition is undated but I suspect dates from the 1870s due to the illustration methods.

This volume is bound in red cloth, and the front cover is heavily decorated with gilt and black stamping. A floral and geometric pattern surrounds the short title, which is centered. The author’s name is nowhere to be seen. The back cover is blind stamped in the same pattern.



As you can see, the edition I have is heavily water damaged. The front cover and first pages are also falling off at the hinge. But, as you’ll see below, this book has some interesting illustrations–so I couldn’t resist.

The spine also contains just the short title. This book’s value is clearly not linked to the author’s name.

The text block is a.e.g. (all edges gilt). Inside, the paper is wove. The initial spread consists of a frontispiece and the title page. The font is an older Roman, with a gothic face for the individual chapter titles (and as you can see below, to set off the information about the illustrations and the publisher’s two locations).


The frontispiece caption reads “Buonaparte was among the visitors, and on one occasion she asked him, ‘whom do you think the greatest woman, dead or alive?’–p.147”

As the title page proclaims, this edition boasts “4 Coloured Steel Engravings.” As far as I can tell, these were produced in multiple plates (1 impression for each color).



You can see the steel plate’s impression on the top of the image here.


A close-up of the intaglio coloring.






Despite the damage to the book, the illustrations are lovely and the colors are quite vivid. Below, you can see samples of the text layout, including the table of contents, the preface, and the chapter contents.

I’ll leave you with the book’s final lines:

“It must not be concluded, however, that the mine from whence the foregoing jewels were extracted is exhausted: there is abundance in store from which may be obtained new examples of the GEMS OF WOMANHOOD” (314).

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