Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bookplate Junkie - I Think I'm Hooked

On the internet there are of course sites for everything. But the catch is that there aren't really GOOD sites for everything. But, thanks to one Mr. Lewis Jaffe, there is a really outstanding site for bookplates. By outstanding, I mean a site to learn from, to enjoy, and to move deeper into the wonderful galaxy of bookplates.

But first, a bit of background.

Bookplates (or exlibri, sing. exlibris) have a long history, but their rise parallels the increase in book ownership associated with the printing press. Like the press, bookplates as we know them started in Germany and gathered an exuberant following there before spreading, primarily to the west.

Most early bookplates included coats of arms and other such heraldic devices, and as the fashion spread some plates have very elaborate images and designs surrounding the heraldic arms. Albrecht Dürer and Hans Holbein were known to have done bookplates, and a host of skilled lesser-known craftsmen as well.

Bookplates of the 18th century began to take on wider themes. These included portraits, allegories, and architectural and decorative designs, but heraldic themes were still the most common.

By the late 19th century, the rise of the artistic, personalized bookplate begins, as does the rise in collecting them. Popular graphic artists begin to get commissions from both the famous and not so famous, and a number of artists begin to get well known for their work in bookplates. A wide variety of subject groups appeared, and collectors were right behind them - Chess, Military, Printing Presses, Castles, Animals, Ships, Ruins, etc.

One of the most interesting articles I've viewed in one in a French Journal from the 1920's that had a large article on WWI bookplates by French soldiers. The reproductions were bad to begin with and time ahd not been especially kind, but I remember being surprised and delighted and even moved at the variety, art, and overriding theme of mortality in them. If I can dig up the reference I will share it with you all in an addendum.

CONFESSIONS OF A BOOKPLATE JUNKIE is a site that surprises and delights me continually. I have known about it so long I don't even remember how I heard about it. But I do know i visit it often, and always find something interesting and unusual there. He often links to collections or exhibitions, and has profiles of collectors. He is often more than happy to help others find out more about the bookplates they own, and you can learn a lot not only about the owners but about how folks did their research as well.

Images abound on the site, and are usually available in larger sizes of the main page as well. If you have a slow connection or machine, be prepared. They are for the most part sharp and in full color. Without hesitation I say that his site is better for images than any book I have seen on the subject.

He also recommends a couple books, recommendations I will second and add to here:

AMERICAN BOOKPLATES by William E. Butler (2000)



BRITISH BOOKPLATES by Brian North Lee (1979)

ROCKWELL KENT : THE ART OF THE BOOKPLATE by Don Roberts and Will Ross (2003)

THE ART OF THE BOOKPLATE by James Keenan, with a forward by George Plimpton (a nice little picture book and survey).

Between Mr. Jaffe's CONFESSIONS OF A BOOKPLATE JUNKIE and the books. above, you should be off to e great start with bookplates. Mr.Jaffee ahs done us all agreat service here, and I wish him much success in his blog and collecting.

And no, I will not be held responsible for time lost from work or other things you should be doing.

Caveat Exlibris.

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