Timothy Cole papers, 1883-1936

A Finding Aid to the Timothy Cole Papers, 1883-1936, in the Archives of American Art, by Jean Fitzgerald

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Biographical Information

Timothy Cole was a wood engraver working primarily in the New York City area. Cole worked for several notable magazines, Scribner's Magazine.

Timothy Cole was born in 1852 in London, England, the seventh of the twelve sons of Skinner Cole, a milliner. In 1857, the family immigrated to New York City. Following his mother's death, the family suffered financial hardship and Cole earned money as a delivery boy, newspaper seller, and lamplighter.

In 1868, the family moved to Chicago where Cole was apprenticed to a wood engraving firm and made rapid progress in learning this skill that was the most widely used method of magazine illustration at the time. When the Chicago Fire destroyed his place of employment in 1871, Cole returned New York City where his talents as a wood engraver were soon recognized by various artists and publishers. Cole began his career working for the magazines Hearth and Home, the Christian Weekly, and the Aldine Press.

After the Aldine Press went out of business in 1875, Cole was employed by Scribner's Magazine (later renamed Century Magazine.) During the same year, he married Annie Elizabeth Carter of Jersey City Heights, New Jersey. In 1883, Cole was commissioned by Century Magazine to travel in Europe and make wood engravings of the works of the old masters. He finished a series of Italian masters in 1892, a Dutch and Flemish series in 1896, an English series in 1900, a Spanish series in 1907, and a French series in 1910. In the course of his travels, Cole befriended many artists, including Joseph Pennell and James Abbott MacNeill Whistler. In 1910, Cole returned to the United States where he began work on a series of engravings of American master paintings in public and private collections.

Cole's work received a diploma of honor at the Chicago Exposition in 1893, the gold medal at the Paris Exposition of 1900, and the Grand Prix at the St. Louis Exposition in 1904. He was an honorary member of the Society of Sculptors, Painters, and Engravers of London, a member of the American Academy of Arts and letters, and was elected a National Academician in 1908. In 1903, Cole received an honorary M.A. degree from Princeton University.

Timothy Cole died on May 17, 1931 in Poughkeepsie, New York.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The papers of Timothy Cole measure 0.5 linear feet and date from 1883 to 1936. Found within the papers are letters primarily written by Timothy Cole to the editors of Century Magazine including A. W. Drake, W. Lewis Fraser, Richard Watson Gilder, Robert Underwood Johnson, and George Howes Whittle, discussing Cole's production of wood engraved copies of European master paintings for the magazine, and details of the wood engraving process. There are scattered letters to Cole from Century Magazine editors and colleagues Gifford Beal, Alice Brown (discussing Cole's wood engraved portrait of Louise Imogen Guiney for Brown's biography of her), George de Forest Brush, Kenyon Cox, David Finney, Helen C. Frick (concerning a bookplate), Joseph Pennell, Caroline Powell, John Singer Sargent, and Helen M. Turner.

Also found are miscellaneous writings including a notebook of poems by Cole, essays about Louise Imogen Guiney and Joseph Pennell, and an autobiographical essay, artwork consisting of wood engravings executed by Cole of works by the master painters of Europe and America, and two printing plates used by Century Magazine to reproduce Cole's wood engravings. Several clippings concern Cole, his work, and the publication of the book Timothy Cole: Wood Engraver by Alphaeus P. Cole and Margaret Ward Cole in 1936. There is also a photograph of Cole cutting a wood engraving block as his wife reads nearby.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged into 5 series:

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following terms:

Subjects:

  • Guiney, Louise Imogen, 1861-1920
  • Pennell, Joseph, 1857-1926
  • Century illustrated monthly magazine

Subjects-Topical:

  • Magazine illustration
  • Wood-engraving
  • Wood-engravers

Types of Materials:

  • Poems
  • Wood engravings
  • Essays
  • Photographs

Names:

  • Beal, Gifford, 1879-1956
  • Brown, Alice, 1857-1948
  • Brush, George de Forest, 1855-1941
  • Cox, Kenyon, 1856-1919
  • Drake, Alexander, 1843-1916
  • Fraser, William Lewis, 1841-1905
  • Frick, Helen Clay, 1888-1984
  • Gilder, Richard Watson, 1844-1909
  • Johnson, Robert Underwood, 1853-1937
  • Pennell, Joseph, 1857-1926
  • Powell, Caroline Amelia, 1852-1934
  • Sargent, John Singer, 1856-1925
  • Turner, Helen Maria, 1858-1958
  • Whittle, George Howes

Provenance

The collection was acquired by the Archives of American Art in a series of accessions from several different donors between 1959 and 1973. Charles E. Feinberg donated letters in 1959. The artist's sons Percy J. Cole and Lucius Cole donated additional materials in 1962. Alphaeus Cole, another son, donated papers in 1973.

How the Collection was Processed

Portions of this collection were microfilmed as separate collections on reels D30, D117, and 583 at some point after receipt; the microfilm is no longer in circulation. All material relating to Timothy Cole was compiled as one collection and processed and described by Jean Fitzgerald in March, 2008.


How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of original papers requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Timothy Cole papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

How to Cite this Collection

Timothy Cole papers, 1883-1936. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Letters, 1883-1930
(Box 1; 32 folders)

Letters are primarily written by Timothy Cole to various editors of Century Magazine, but include scattered letters from the editors, and colleagues Gifford Beal, Alice Brown, George de Forest Brush, Kenyon Cox, David Finney, Helen C. Frick, Joseph Pennell, Caroline Powell, John Singer Sargent, and Helen M. Turner.

Letters are arranged chronologically.

Box Folder
1 1-3 Letters, undated
(3 folders)
1 4 Letters, 1883
1 5-7 Letters, 1884
(3 folders)
1 8 Letters, 1885
1 9-13 Letters, 1886
(5 folders)
1 14-16 Letters, 1887
(3 folders)
1 17-20 Letters, 1888
(4 folders)
1 21 Letters, 1889-1890
1 22 Letters, 1891
1 23 Letters, 1892
1 24-27 Letters, 1893
(4 folders)
1 28 Letters, 1908
1 29 Letters, 1914
1 30 Letters, 1915-1918
1 31 Letters, 1921
1 32 Letters, 1924-1930

Series 2: Writings, 1920
(Box 1; 2 folders)

Writings consist of a notebook of poems, essays about Louise Imogen Guiney and Joseph Pennell, and an autobiographical essay.

Box Folder
1 33 Notebook of Poems, undated
1 34 Miscellaneous Writings, 1920, undated

Series 3: Artwork, 1907-1921
(Box 1, OV 2; 4 folders)

Artwork consists of wood engravings executed by Cole of works by master painters. Also included are two printing plates used by Century Magazine to reproduce Cole's wood engravings.

Box Folder
1 35 Wood Engraving of El Greco's Dominican Monk, 1907
(see also OV 2)
1 36 Copper Electroplate of Wood Engraving of Portrait of George Washington, undated
1 37 Nickel Electroplate of Wood Engraving of El Greco's Dominican Monk, 1907
Box
OV 2 Wood Engraving of Eugene Carrière's La Maternité, 1909
OV 2 Wood Engraving of Corot's The Bathers, 1910
OV 2 Wood Engraving of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, 1914
OV 2 Wood Engraving of Rembrandt's Self-Portrait, 1921

Series 4: Clippings, 1927-1936
(Box 1; 2 folders)

Clippings are about Cole, his work, and the publication of the book Timothy Cole: Wood Engraver by Alphaeus P. Cole and Margaret Ward Cole in 1936.

Box Folder
1 38 Clippings, 1927
1 39 Clippings, 1928-1936

Series 5: Photograph, 1910
(Box 1; 1 folder)

The photograph is of Timothy Cole cutting a wood engraving block while his wife reads a book nearby.

Box Folder
1 40 Photograph of Timothy Cole and his Wife, circa 1910