A Personal Collection of Bernhardt Wall Books

Bernhardt Wall was an American illustrator active in the first half of the twentieth century. A selection of fine, early or test examples of his work were given to his lifelong friend Natalie Williams of Marshall, Texas. This post is a collection of notes from the catalogue, for our June 13 auction of Art, Press & Illustrated Books.


Although Wall began his career as a commercial lithographer and achieved success in that area, a trip to the Southwest in 1915 so inspired him that he devoted his future work to chronicling that region in print and image. The following lots, which contain inscribed books, graphics and ephemera, include the richest section of Williams’s library of Walliana from that period. A portion of the collection was previously acquired by the Cushing Memorial Library at Texas A&M University.


Lot 196: Bernhardt Wall, Following Abraham Lincoln, complete set of 85 volumes, limited edition, Lime Rock, 1931-42.
Estimate $10,000 to $15,000


Following Abraham Lincoln

When Wall began the Following Abraham Lincoln series in 1931, he intended to produce only 15 volumes. However, “after getting into stride, I found that my hero had done considerable traveling . . . so the volumes grew and piled up.” In the end, Wall produced 85 volumes chronicling the president’s life.




Lot 195: Bernhardt Wall, The Etcht Miniature Monthly Magazine, complete limited set of 12, with more than 375 etchings, Sierra Madre, 1948.
Estimate $3,000 to $4,000.


The Etcht Miniature Monthly Magazine

In the prospectus for this rare miniature periodical, Wall states: “This magazine is my latest, and mayhap, my last toil in the field of periodical publishing. At my age [75 years] such a venture may seem foolhardy. I hate rest and rust. Hence I go on … the subject matter will be about well-known personages, bits of text, and spots where history was made.” It was indeed a very personal exploration of themes for Wall, with musings on baseball, the American West, art, travel, natural history, and other topics that enthralled him over the course of his long life.


Lot 209: Bernhardt Wall, archive of correspondence to Natalie Williams. Estimate $1,500 to $2,500.


In addition to works of art, the sale will offer a rich archive of material that reflects the long and dear friendship shared by Wall and Williams. The letters are filled with Wall’s thoughts and details about projects and publications, travels and personal matters. The archive includes his manuscript of An Itch to Etch, a lecture he delivered at the Ernest Powell studio in Marshall, Texas in May 1937, inscribed to Williams. In addition, there are small copper plates engraved for some of the works, sketches and drawings of travels and people, proof and trial print sheets, and over 50 postcards sent from around the country.


Lot 199: Bernhardt Wall, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Speech, limited edition miniature book, signed, with typed letter signed to Williams, Sierra Madre, 1946. Estimate $600 to $900.


Another lot includes a letter that serves as a gift inscription to Williams: “Herewith No. ONE of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Speech. I just had to do this. The other miniature went over 60 copies in a month. I did not expect such a thing . . . I feel like a kid playing with a toy.” The letter is rather intimate, explaining his recent decision to marry again after the death of his wife, Jane, for the sake of having a partner to look after him, to dispel gossip of possible romances with female friends, to help him keep house, and nurture his work. “Please do not think me mercenary. Doris had been known to Jane . . . we liked her much.” He also invites her to stay with them when the Williamses visit the 1939 World’s Fair and mentions a recent visit from Dard Hunter. Included in the lot is an inscribed and signed copy of the miniature book Addresses of Abraham Lincoln.


For more fine press books, browse the catalogue.