top of page
Anchor 2

R  E  P  R  O  D  U  C  T  I  O  N  S

Jacobi Re-proofs and other copies

Reproductions of Brewer's etchings by Emil Jacobi and other printers contributed to his fame as an artist and in fact to the democratization and acceptance of serious art among the American middle class.


At least three of Brewer’s early images were sold in the United States by Jacobi as “Jacobi Re-proofs.” Two of them portray the exterior and interior of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Rheims and are reproductions of etchings that were published in late 1914 at the beginning of World War I. These (and other copies sold at even lower prices) became the “go to” art for thousands of people in America who were emotionally involved with the progress of the Allies, whether for cultural and patriotic reasons, or later, because they had a family member serving in the war.  (One copy of the 1914 Rheims Cathedral exterior has an inscription on the back honoring a soldier who fought in WWII, indicating the continuing association of this image with Americans serving overseas.)


Jacobi may have noticed that a U.S. copyright was not separately claimed on these etchings, a mistake corrected on Brewer's subsequent authorized editions, which always carried both a UK and US copyright notice. Whether or not these Jacobi Re-proofs were authorized by Brewer or his publisher, their wide circulation must have had a beneficial effect on the scope of the artist's American market.

While the use of the term “re-proof” suggests a reuse of Brewer’s original plates, the label pasted on the back of the exterior view of Rheims Cathedral carefully avoids making this assertion. At the bottom of the label it reads, “This re-proof is a facsimile of a signed proof Color etching. Color etchings are produced by rubbing the color into the plate, a process that is tedious and requiring great skill.... This Re-Proof retains in a marked degree the subtle technic of the original and bears a facsimile of the artist’s signature.” (It is not unusual for this part of Jacobi's label to be torn off, indicating that a re-seller might have wanted the buyer to accept both the signature and the art as original.)


The best comparison I’ve been able to make is between the glorious etching of the rose window at the west end of the cathedral in Rheims and a signed Jacobi re-proof of the same image. First, at 13.25 x 19 inches, the Jacobi version is almost 15 percent smaller than Brewer’s 15.5 x 22.25-inch etching and therefore could not be a re-strike of Brewer’s plate. (Also, some Jacobi re-proofs were published in two different sizes.) The colors follow Brewer’s rich hues, with human figures and stained-glass windows in similar tints. The lines of the image are reproduced exactly, down to each cross-hatching mark in the shadows. There is no half-tone screen, only an infinitesimal, reticulated colloidal pattern not visible to the naked eye. The re-proof carries its own © mark in the bottom right-hand corner, and, tellingly, the tiny U.K. copyright notice of Alfred Bell has been almost totally obscured. It seems to have been signed in pencil by both Jacobi (lower left) and Brewer (lower right), but as some of the labels for Jacobi Re-proofs admit, Brewer’s signature is not claimed to be anything other than a facsimile.

Jacobi described his working method in a chapter of Frederick H. Hitchcock's The Building of a Book (The Grafton Press, 1906). He photographed an original artwork to create a contact negative and used this to make a glass, copper, or zinc printing plate with a photo-gelatine process. In this, the areas exposed to light became hardened raised surfaces capable of holding ink in gradations. Then, as described on his labels, he colored the plate for each impression (as done with Brewer’s color etchings), made the impressions, and signed them in pencil with his own name and a close imitation of the artist’s signature.


The success of this process in reprinting artwork was noted by Jacobi: "The depth and richness of tone of an engraving, the delicate tints of an aquarelle or India-ink sketch, and the sharpness of the lines of an etching or pen sketch can be reproduced with such fidelity that it is often impossible to distinguish the copy from the original."

Emil Jacobi career


Jacobi was born in 1853 in Germany, the son of Carl Heinrich Jacobi, a surveyor for the Royal Westphalian Railway who later became a prize-winning photographer. When Emil was in his early twenties, he ran a printing facility in Golegã, Portugal, which his father co-owned with the aristocrat and photography enthusiast Carlos Relvas. Then his father started the Berlin Phototype Institute, a new company specializing in the "application of photography for the reproduction of oil paintings." "Phototype," like collotype, was a term used for the photo-gelatine process, examples of which Emil's father had sent to the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia. When the well-known Philadelphia photographer Frederick Gutekunst negotiated U.S. rights to Jacobi's phototype process, Emil emigrated in 1878 to help set up Gutekunst's printing facility. A year and a half later he was granted U.S. patent 225,389 for an improvement in the Process of Producing Phototype Plates, which he assigned to Gutekunst, whose printing operation he ran for almost two decades. In the U.S. Census of 1880 and on his naturalization card in 1900, Jacobi was listed as a photographer. In the 1900 census he was living in Brooklyn (where he worked for the Albertype Company) and was identified as "Supt, Photo type" with "pictures" written in above. In the 1910 census, he had moved to Elizabeth City, New Jersey, and was listed as "Superintendent, Art Co." (the Campbell Art Company, according to the 1915 Elizabeth city directory). 


At some point, Jacobi advertised an “Exhibition of Jacobi Re-proofs,” identifying himself as the "Creator of the Re-proof." At a "nominal price," "all who appreciate the Art of Etching" could select from his collection of “the finest 20th-century masters.” These included Axel Herman Haig, Hedley Fitton, Ferdinand Jean Luigini, Maurice Bompard, Fritz Krostewitz, Gaston de Latenay, Andrew F. Affleck, Tavik F. Simon, George Senseney, Frits Thaulow, Fernand Le Goût-Gérard, Edgar L. Pattison, Charles Bartlett, Bruno Bielefeld, Herbert Thomas Dicksee, Anders Zorn, Paul Emile Lecomte, Edward Sharland, Mortimer Menpes, Louis Icart, and Vaughan Trowbridge among others (including Brewer). A collection of these "re-proofs" is held in the Graphic Arts Department of the Library Company of Philadelphia.

Jacobi died in March 1918, but supplies of Jacobi Re-proofs of the Rheims Cathedral and photolithographic copies of them continued to be sold. After the war, these carried a label describing the war as "late" rather than "present." Similar copies were sold as “Cross Re-proofs” (with a label very much like the one on the back of Jacobi Re-proofs). Other prints based on these Brewer etchings were sold by the American Art Co., N.Y., Campbell Prints, Inc., N.Y., Buckingham Print, and the Edward Gross Co., Inc., N.Y. The Taber-Prang Art Co. of Springfield, Massachusetts, reproduced these two 1914 images and also sold copies of Brewer's "The Choir, Westminster Abbey" [mislabeled as "The Choir (Westminster Cathedral)"], "Cathedral of St. Gudule, Brussels, Belgium," "Exeter Cathedral," and "The Choir (Norwich Cathedral)," all of them early Brewer etchings published without an American copyright.

A year after Jacobi died, The Argus of Melbourne, Australia, announced an exhibition that included his "reproofs" of works by de Latenay, Haig, Fitton, and others. Most interestingly, these were combined with a selection of original etchings by J. Alphege Brewer from the years of the war—the West Front of the Rheims Cathedral, the Cloth Hall in Ypres, and buildings in Verdun, Antwerp, Louvain, Bruges, and elsewhere. This suggests an American supplier for the exhibition associated with both Jacobi and Brewer—possibly Samuel Schwartz's Sons & Co., which offered "High-Grade Art Reproductions" at their Fifth Avenue gallery. After Brewer's unprotected 1914 views of the exterior and interior of Rheims Cathedral had been copied by Jacobi and other printers, Schwartz's began registering U.S. copyrights in Brewer's name for many original etchings printed in 1915 and 1916, including most of those mentioned in the news item. 


It is unknown if Jacobi's reproductions were authorized by well-known  European artists during World War I to maintain sales when shipping across the Atlantic was undependable, or simply to expand their market. It would have been an extra selling point if Jacobi could have said “authorized re-proofs,” but he didn’t. 

Brewer etchings repurposed

The 1914 West Front image was also reproduced as a commemorative plaque in 1929 by the Buckbee-Brehm Co. and by Parker Bros. in 1928 for a 13" x 19" jigsaw puzzle in their Pastime series. (The puzzle seems to be based on the Edward Gross Co. copy.) The 1916 etching of Rheims Cathedral West Front by James and Henry, which did carry an American copyright, was licensed and printed in the late 1920s by the Goes Lithographing Co. in Chicago. These 12" x 16" prints were used by other jigsaw puzzle makers, including Pine Tree Novelty and brothers-in-law Henry A. Martin and Chester W. Nott (a "Nott-Ezy" Puzzle with 500 pieces). The 1925 West Front was reproduced in black and white with the copyright notice at the bottom edge cut off, then framed and sold sometime in the 1940s by the Bulfair Art Shop in New York City. In 1948, the Rust Craft card company of Boston issued a collection of Christmas cards titled "Color Etchings of Famous Cathedrals by J. Alphege Brewer," which included, among others, the artist's exterior and interior views of cathedrals in Paris and Rheims, the exterior of the Laon Cathedral, and the interior of St Mark's, Venice.

Above, an advertisement for inexpensive copies of Brewer's 1914 etchings of the exterior and interior of Rheims Cathedral printed by the American Art Company. Below, these and copies like them were elegantly framed and displayed in support of the Allies or a family member fighting in the war. 

Rheims interior Jacobi BSD print_edited.
Rheims Rose Windows 1914 alt color_edite
Jacobi reproof exhibition poster_edited.

Above, a poster advertising a collection of Jacobi's prints. Below, an item in The Argus (Melbourne, Australia) about an exhibition featuring works of both Jacobi and Brewer. 

Rheims Cathedral 1916 as jigsaw puzzle.J
Anchor 1

Above, the 1916 Rheims Cathedral image cut as a 352-piece puzzle in the 1930s by Henry A. Martin of Rochester, NY.

Below, Jacobi's signature in
pencil on a published "re-proof."

Ad for copies of Rheims Cathedral.jpg


Below, Emil Jacobi's hand-produced "re-proofs" of these etchings, possibly the $6.00 copies listed in the ad, together with the original Brewer etching, "The Rose Windows, Rheims Cathedral."

bottom of page