I’ve mentioned @prewarcards’s Twitter sales and how they’ve cost me money before. Sometimes I buy from him* but more often he just puts things on my radar that I’ve never seen before and want more of than just one card. Sometimes these are content-based desires but the usual thing is for me to see artwork that makes my jaw drop.**
**I’d link more but I forget all of them.
The latest sets in this category are chocolate cards from Germany made by the Gartmann’s Chocolade company. As with Stollwerck, Gartmann appears to still be in business. They even have a fun section of their website devoted to their trading cards. Unfortunately though I haven’t been able to locate a website that details the various sets and albums.
While the ebay listing just says “early 1900s” the first set I got is actually listed in TCDB with a release date of 1907. Described as “Mood Pictures,” I thought they depicted various climates from around the world. I got them because I liked how they looked—in particular the card which seems like it depicts Monument Valley—and how they were more dramatically colored than most of the landscapes I see on prewar cards.
Turns out I was a bit mistaken since the six cards are evocatively named “in the desert,” foothills, cliffs, “grail castle,” evening, and barrow while the text on the backs is even moodier and darker than the fronts.
The backs feature verse which describes each scene. It’s interesting to me that the same rhyming schemes differ card-to-card but I was surprised at how dark the actual verses were and how often death is mentioned.
“In the Desert” talks about camping out in with Bedouins, moonlight on the Nile mountains, sands drifting past bleached skeletons, the occasional vulture’s screech, and a ghost caravan (Geisterkarawane) of spirits who previously perished on the route.
Foothills describes almost a dance between a mountain (male) and a cloud (female) as the mountain tries to catch a cloud as it passes in order to drink of its water after a day of baking in the sun.
Cliffs are as dark and moody on the back as it is on the front. Miserable pines. No joyful springtimes. Just rocks covered in moss which dulls all sounds.
What I thought was monument valley is in fact “Grail Castle” instead of being rock formations is a literal castle by the sea in late sunset red light with a moon in the sky, fog all around, and a soundscape mixing festivities from the castle with the sound of wind and waves. I don’t quite understand the last stanza but it looks like it gets kind of dark in a way that suggests the writer is dead.
Evening is about the winds blowing leaves off the trees, forests getting ready for winter, and the way a denuded willow tree reminds the author of a dead friend they’ll never see again.
Barrow—which I’m really not seeing on the card front, maybe Hünengrab means something else too?—is the weirdest verse of the bunch since it’s only concerned with a portentous sky that threatens rain before the sun breaks through.
The second batch is from Album 16 instead of Album 7 so I’m assuming it’s a (relatively) more-recent issue. That it uses the logo that Gartmann still uses today is another important sign here. I got these because mainly because the set includes a printing card and I may just be collecting those.
Anyway the whole set is is about artists and the six featured cards are a painter, silhouette cutter, wood carver, lithographer, engraver, and sculptor.
The text on the backs is not verse this time and, except for one card, offers a short history of the art form. The painter is the exception and instead of history is a vignette about the generic painter depicted on the card front. He has a fourth floor attic studio with high ceilings and clear natural light from North-facing windows. Sketches and pictures cover the walls while the smell of paint and turpentine fills the air. And he’s all dressed to go out but has one last adjustment to make to the painting.
Everything else describes the art form but I appreciate the silhouette cutter description the most because it’s not a craft I’m especially familiar with beyond its existence. I don’t see silhouettes in museums unless they’re of famous people and it occurs to me that it’s the outlier of the six arts in this set because it’s never become a “fine” art.
According to the card silhouettes appeared in 1757 and are named after the French Finance Minister at the time, Étienne de Silhouette, as a bit of snark about how cheap they were. Aside from specifically mentioning its popularity in Rococo and Biedermeier periods the card is very clear that silhouettes are now unfashionable, consigned to fairs and similar large markets. This is consistent with how it remains the kind of thing you can find in Disneyland’s Main Street but really no where else.
Woodcarving mentions how carving is universal but its German heyday occurred in churches from the Middle Ages. It also suggests that wood carving was recently regaining popularity along with other arts and crafts—which I’m assuming is referencing Art Nouveau/Jugendstil.
Lithography is about how the art was invented by Alois Senefelder in 1796 and really tries to explain how it works. The card mentions transferring drawings to porous slate*, etching the stone with acid, and making impressions on paper but misses the key element of how it’s an oil and water resist method. It does however flag how color printing has become popular and how printing in color requires multiple plates.
*note, it’s actually limestone.
Unfortunately though both of these Gartmann sets are not printed via chromolithography and are merely basic halftone screens.
The Engraver covers how it’s a German invention from the early 15th century with the earliest dated Copper plate being 1446. It names Martin Schongauer and Albrecht Dürer as the most important representatives. And it mentions the multiple ways (line, dot, stipple, etc.) that the drawing can be executed.
Finally, the sculptor card, like the woodcarving one, references the long human history of sculpture as reaching back to the Stone Age. According to this card the pinnacle of sculpture was ancient Greece and Rome (yeah no mention of the Italian Renaissance and guys like Bernini) and while it mentions there are still excellent sculptors around no example is given.
And that’s about it. Two fun sets from a new-to-me manufacturer.
So some of you may have noticed all the ſ characters…
One thing I expressly have to point out. While these cards all use Roman/Antiqua lettering, the artist cards also use the long-s (ſ) This is something that most typefaces/languages had dropped at least a century earlier and persisted mainly just in Fraktur typefaces in Germanic states.* The German Wikipedia page about the long-s ties its usage in Antiqua with the rise of the “ß” character** and how for much of the 19th century “ſs” and “ſz” were used until the spellings were standardized and, starting in 1904, the “ß” became normal in typefaces. It took a decade for “ſ” to be expressly ruled out in the 1915 Duden.
**Which has its own interesting story.
As a type nerd seeing “ſ” in the wild in non-intentionally-archaic 20th century printing is kind of special. Hard to read but definitely not something I’ve come across before. Some of the cards feature both “ſſ” and “ß” in their typesetting which only confirms the transitional nature of the type.