I like a bookplate that tells a story. One that tells me what its owner is all about. The bookplate below does the trick. It belongs to the historian, Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr.(1888-1965). His bookplate is a panorama of life in America:
See the family of four standing on the hillside? They are about to embark on an American journey. The little boy points at the scene below. The mother looks back at us, as if to say, "Want to join us?"
The family of four looks down from the hillside. They see children playing jump rope and baseball in the yard of a schoolhouse. They see a Model T Ford parked against the trees. They see two cowboys conversing in a field. They see a wagon train on the trail that winds past an Indian village. They see a train traveling along in the distance on the outskirts of a town full of buildings, the tall steeple of a church its most prominent feature. Beyond and above the town, they see smoke billowing from the factory smokestacks of another generation of Americans. The smoke blows away from the densely populated residential community. And on the very top of the most distant hill, they see a metropolis. Flying over the skyscrapers, they see an airplane and a blimp. A beautiful picture of life in America, yes? But that is only half of the picture.
Last Friday, on a bookshelf in Dan Sheppard's CrackerHouse Books in Arcadia, Florida, I found a book whose spine read:
I pulled the book down from the shelf. The front cover read:
I opened up the book and in my left hand, on the illustrated endpapers, I saw a familiar scene, only it was twice as long as I remembered it, and twice as beautiful:
Yes. The complete panorama of American Life. From the ships in the harbor, to the Pilgrims and the Indians, to the colonials embarking on a stagecoach, to the farmer plowing the field. And to Ben Franklin flying his kite high up in the American sky. My sky. Arthur Schlesinger's sky. Arthur Schlesinger's History of American Life from beginning to end.