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Inspired by History

B. de B. is a project of The Graphics Office, a graphic design firm in New York City. We like history.

About B. de B.
A few years ago we bought a large, antique scrapbook from the mid-1800s. Just about everything captivated us about the scrapbook: the beautifully weathered clippings, the spotty texture of the printing, the hand coloring, the elliptical, mysterious and sometimes morbid text, and of course, the strong, graphic illustrations. "B. de B. Russell Juvenile Album" stamped onto the disintegrating leather-bound cover led to the discovery of its long ago owner Blois de Blois Russell, a young man of privilege with a strikingly unusual name. We were inspired to create prints with what we found in his album’s pages. “B. de B.” became shorthand for the project, and the name stuck. Now, B. de B. has become a growing collection of historically-based designs that rescues ephemera from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and re-imagines it for the twenty-first.

About the Chapbook Alphabet Print Collection 

We created these alphabet prints with images and letters from a large, antique scrapbook we bought a few years ago. Inside it were hundreds of images from the early 1800s, all from British children’s chapbooks. Chapbooks were small pamphlets of rhymes, religious tracts, folklore, or news that were produced cheaply and hawked by journeymen for pennies on the street. Stories and lessons once passed down orally were put to paper quickly and often poorly, using worn-out type and illustrations, or “cuts,” created years, or sometimes even decades before. Hundreds of thousands of chapbooks were produced and sold plain as printed or colored for an extra cent or two. Who did the coloring? Probably women and children. In our scrapbook we discovered unfamiliar nursery rhymes, animals, strange objects, and elements of moral instruction, each carefully pasted onto pages of linen edged in red silk. Although printed in black and white, almost every image was hand colored with swift dashes of watercolor.
     Our scrapbook was made in England in the 1830s, probably by someone in the well-to-do Russell family for a boy given the unlikely name Blois de Blois Russell. B. de B. Russell later attended St. John's College, Oxford, and rowed crew. He died early, at 22, too young to leave much of a legacy besides the album, and, now, our collection of prints.

About the Status Update Print Collection 

Updating the status update: these prints tell it like it is—and isn't. Inspired by an 1898 obelisk grave marker (the ne plus ultra of status updates) reading NOT DEAD BUT SLEEPETH, these prints are made from rubbings of antique wood type, using the soft paper and wax made for gravestone rubbings. The type is from the collection of Bowne Printers at the South Street Seaport Museum.  

Please contact us if you are interested in a large order or a custom print size. (doug@thegraphicsoffice.com)