CUSTOMIZED LABELS FOR BIBLIOPHILES SUCH AS GEORGE WASHINGTON, GRETA GARBO, ALBERT EINSTEIN PROVIDE BEAUTIFUL RECORDS OF OWNERSHIP
BOOKPLATES HAVE BEEN
BOOKPLATES HAVE BEENan essential part of the printed book for more than 500 years. “The earliest bookplates were woodcuts designed and printed for Catholic monasteries in Bavaria, Germany, beginning in the 1480s – only one generation after Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing of books by movable type in Mainz in 1455,” bookplate collector, author and historian James M. Goode writes in Three Centuries of the American Bookplate.
The study and collection of bookplates became popular in the late 19th century with the publication of four serious historical studies of the labels used to identify ownership. Beginning in the 1890s, collectors were focusing on bookplates of famous people, universities and well-known bookplate designers. Others collected bookplates with images such as sailing ships, knights, monks, library interiors or silhouettes. The Yale University Library has the largest collection in the world, with close to one million bookplates.
“Bookplates have been an endlessly diverse and charming reflection on the history of book-making and provide a beautiful record of book ownership,” says James Gannon, director of rare books at Heritage Auctions.
Heritage Auctions’ rare book auction in November features about 2,000 bookplates from the James M. Goode Collection of Bookplates. The collection was exhibited at the University of Virginia in 2010, under the auspices of the Rare Book School, the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library and the Alderman Library.
“Many plates in this collection are custom-framed and elegantly labeled in calligraphy,” Gannon notes. “The collection boasts the plates of prominent figures in many fields, including politicians, entertainers, industrialists, businessmen, scientists and authors.” Among the bookplates are those belonging to George Washington, Greta Garbo, Nelson A. Rockefeller (the only bookplate designed by Pablo Picasso), Albert Einstein and Robert Frost.
Many of the bookplates were created by important artists and designers such as Rockwell Kent, Thomas Hart Benton, Paul Revere, Carl S. Junge, Paul Landacre, Frank Brangwyn, Edward Burne-Jones, Eric Gill and Leonard Baskin. “Some are being auctioned individually,” Gannon says, “but most will be auctioned in appropriate groupings, especially if they already are custom-framed by type or style of plate, bookplate designer, type of book owner, etc.”