To help the collector, J. J. Brookings uses several other designations. These are as follows:


Although not important to the average collector, some collectors prefer to only collect posters that have a tax stamp affixed to them. This stamp could literally be a postage-like stamp that is glued on by the taxing authorities or it can be a rubber stamp showing that the tax on the poster has been paid. Common in the 1890's through the turn of the century, some governments found that they could raise revenue by taxing poster publishers who wanted to place a poster in a public place such as a kiosk or wall. The tax was often 20 centimes per poster in France. Since the publishers or printer of the poster often made additional copies for sale to the public with no intention of affixing them to a public wall, some collectors want to know that their poster was originally designated for public use if not actually placed in a pubic place. The existence of the stamp simply makes the poster a bit more rare than un-stamped posters to some people.


The lack of a year in our descriptions does not mean we forgot the year. Some posters are well documented, depicted in books and in museum collections as well as the archives of the artist illustrator. Other posters, due to the subject matter, the quality and type of the paper, the name of the printer and other ancillary information allows us to deduce the approximate date of the poster. But sometimes a poster, even by a well known artist, is just too generic or so rare as to not appear in past literature on posters. Our policy is that if we cannot narrow the date of a poster to within a decade, we omit the date. (For example, it is not uncommon for a company to use the same poster over a multiple decade period advertising program. Some posters originally printed in the 1920's may have been successfully used, and on the same paper, up to World War II. And since the use of copyright marks is only a recent practice, it is very difficult to date some posters.)


Although it has little effect on the quality of the poster image, some collectors want to know who the printer was. Some collectors have collections based on posters printed by large, famous printing houses. Others want to know the name of the printer so as to help date the poster. (Some publishers would have a second printing made of a poster, making nominal changes, if any, other than the printer. If multiple printers, some sophisticated collectors want to verify that the poster is in the more rare or early edition.) When possible, we make an effort to list the name of the printer in our descriptions.


Except for some contemporary posters which were created by a silkscreen process, all posters are lithographs. But there are different types of lithography. Stone lithography, the original method of creating a lithograph, is still today considered the purest form of lithograph creation. Also known as “direct plate,” the artist creates his image on one stone or plate. For each color, a new plate is created. Jules Cheret is famous not only for his posters, but for developing a method of aligning or registering plates that allow the artist to overlay one color on another. Prior to this, much printing was done either by steel engraving or stone lithography in Henry Ford’s favorite color—black. Any color was added by hand or by clumsy overprinting of a second color.


From the publisher’s or printer’s perspective, stone lithography was just too slow. Each piece of paper had to be run through a flat bed press by hand, often requiring multiple staff people to handle a single poster if large posters were being printed. Then the sheet had to be air dried before it could be stacked. And if another color was to be added, this procedure had to me multiplied over and over again.
About the beginning of the 20th century, a mechanical method was developed whereby the work of the artist was transferred onto plates created by the master printer. These plates were on drums and the paper, instead of flat sheets, went through the press on a roll. This allowed for faster printing, not only because of the rolled paper, but because multiple drums could be used on a press that would allow for multiple colors to be printed consecutively as the paper went through the press, it saved considerable time and considerable labor expense. You can tell an offset print usually by the little dots used for ink.
Because lining colors up with one another was not a perfected process, early offset prints were often muddy in appearance. To overcome this, the artist or printer would, as a final step, send the poster through a direct plate, flat bed press, to add a solid color or colors to punch up the poster’s readability and to make it look more finished.


Beginning in mid century, a method was developed that made the transfer of the image to the plate faster and it allowed for the use of thinner plates. This was achieved by making consecutive photographs of each color to be printed. The resulting negatives were etched onto a printing plate and each plate attached to a separate drum. The advantage here is that the time to get a poster printed became shorter, the cost went down, and more and more companies printed posters. Posters were considered a valued vehicle for getting your message out to consumers. And the little dots got smaller.
Today, photo-offset is the norm. Multiple presses are electronically controlled by computers and can be run by a single person. Costs have gone down to the point where the cost of the paper is the largest component in printing, now a far greater percentage than the labor cost, completely the opposite from Jules Cheret’s time. And, with “dithering,” there are no more dots!
Some contemporary posters printed in photo-offset have value and are highly collectable. The John Lennon poster by Avedon, Levi’s Kosher Bread or the Levi Strauss derriere poster are all photo-offset posters. But the purist wants the rare, hand created, hand printed poster of yesteryear.