GLEANINGS FROM THE CRITIC'S CORNER
Dick Johnson, who has for some time been researching
American engravers and diesinkers, writes:
"This is what I
learned about Forrer's work from everyone's recent
- (1) Accuracy of the data is of the greatest importance.
- (2) Indexing [and organizing the material] is also important.
- (3) A need for data on American artists exists. (George Fuld).
- (4) A book such as this is frequently referenced.
- (5) Users like it.
- (6) The data it contains has great longevity [it is still useful and necessary a century and three major reprintings later].
- (7) Buyers have to be talked into purchasing it [reminiscent of the days of the encyclopedia salesman!].
- (8) Types of binding are really not that important but must be suitable for a lot of hard use. (George Kolbe).
What writers didn't say also gives intelligence:
- (9) The arrangement of the data can be left up to the compiler.
- (10) The same can be said for the content.
"My analysis of Forrer is the very disconcerting need to
search through four alphabets to make sure you have every
entry on an artist. Listings of numismatic items are given in
run-on text; how much better it would have been if these
had been tabular."
"Forrer's style was eclectic, he copied a lot of other material
verbatim, cut and paste style, occasionally in another language,
mostly French. He did include some nonexistent artists, like a
J. Beach that should have been J. Boyle, but these errors came
from his contributors. He's more accurate on items that passed
through the offices of Spink & Son that he could physically
"Perhaps his greatest sin, however, was listing material from
sales literature, like attributing items to Robert Sneider that he
sold rather than engraved [Sneider had purchased and restruck
a lot of Lovett's dies, but did not identify these as Lovett's,
leaving the impression they were his creations, which Forrer
perpetuated]. Also Forrer had an idiosyncrasy of calling every
artist in the Western hemisphere 'American'."
If you would like to comment further on Forrer's Biographical
Dictionary, send your comments to your editor here for print,
or directly to Dick Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Wayne Homren, Editor
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