Sunday, December 16, 2012

Twelve Blogs For Christmas: Contributions to Biblionotes: Ex-Libris

Tipped into my copy of About a Great Book, With Some Literary Autographs is this presentation sheet:

Except for one, each Christmas, from 1912 to 1932, Luther Brewer, at his Torch Press, privately printed a book "For the Friends of Luther Albertus and Elinore Taylor Brewer." I have over half of them in my library.

For Christmas 2012, I want to begin a similar custom to greet "all my bibliobuddies." But instead of greeting you with a book, each Christmas I will greet you with one essay from Contributions to Biblionotes.

The source for this first Christmas blog post comes by way of England, from Questor Rare Books, to be exact, and acquired in 2002:

What is Contributions to Biblionotes? And who is Walter Harris? And who is Mary Murray?  The answers to your questions will start to unfold when you read the notes below, which were posted one of my old Picture Trail photo albums:

And here is Jim Thorp's response:

In 2003, I contacted Barry Shaw, the former editor of the Bookdealer; but, complaining that his memory wasn't what it used to be, he couldn't recall if he published any of Walter Harris's twelve pieces.

And now, without further ado, here is the first of the "Twelve Blog Posts for Christmas." The first blog post is a piece on bookplates which Walter Harris wrote in 1953.  If you find the following pages too hard to read, keep scrolling down because I typed Walter Harris's piece in its entirety.

Merry Christmas to all my bibliobuddies! 


EX-LIBRIS by Walter Harris, 1953

The collecting of Book-plates as a hobby appears to be a thing of yesterday. Collecting began seriously in the middle of the last century but was probably keenest during "the Nineties" and the first two decades of this century. In those days, practically every Antiquarian bookseller - at least in London, had a box or two somewhere in his premises, and sales devoted exclusively to this subject were more or less a regular feature on some auction-rooms. Messrs Puttick & Simpson held one such sale in 1897 in which some individual plates realized several pounds each, whilst quite a large number reached a figure in the region of two pounds. Very few new buyers have come on the scene to replace those who have either passed on or given up collecting. And I doubt if at present there are more than a score of serious collectors in the whole of the country. The reason for the decline of collectors is rather puzzling, at least to me because I consider that Book-plates are a much more interesting proposition than, say, stamps, which support a live and flourishing business.

There are of course some rare and expensive plates but on the whole, prices are very low, and with such an extensive field from which to choose, it is rather surprising to find such a lack of interest. Judged from the artistic standpoint, the design of the earlier and many of the later Book-plates is much superior to that of stamps. The "Chippendales," for instance, are especially attractive, with their frills or borders of open shell-work, surrounding the shields, out of which spring slender flowering plants.

The Book-plate is no modern invention; it has its origin in the early sixteenth century. Albrecht Durer designed what is believed to be the first specimen, a portrait of his friend Baron Pirckheimer assigned by some authorities tot he year 1524. This particular plate is described by Bartech in his "La Peinture-Graveur." In England, the earliest engraved plate is assumed to be that of Sir Nicholas Bacon 1574, followed in 1585 by one of Sir Thomas Tresham.

Almost the first English reference to these tokens of ownership as "plates" occurs in Pepys's Diary, under the entry of July 1st, 1668. Pepys himself has five plates, comprising two of portraits, two heraldic, and one with his initials S.P. combined with the Admiralty crossed anchors. Two of the plates are very rare. The larger of the two portrait plates seems originally to have been engraved as a frontispiece to the privately-printed edition of his "Memoirs relating to the State of the Navy in England" 1690. Some first-class artists and designs engaged themselves in the production of these movable marks of ownership, including George Bickham, Thomas Bewick, Archibald Burton of Edinburgh, William Hogarth, William Henshaw, Mark Lambert of Newcastle (an apprentice of Bewick), Daniel and William Lizars, R. Mountaine, Cipriani, Kate Greenaway, Sherborn, Eve, Barrett, Barnett and many others.

The plates are usually classified under the generic headings laid down by Leicester Warren (Lord De Tabley) in his book, " A Guide to the Study of Book-plates," namely Armorial, Jacobean, Chippendale, etc. Practically all subsequently deceived classifications have been based on his general scheme.

Some very large collections have been formed in this country in days gone by; probably the best known and one of the largest was that of Sir Wollaston Franks whose collection of roughly 80,000 plates was bequeathed to the British Museum. The catalogue of the English and American examples alone forms three large octavo volumes, and is an invaluable book of reference for both collector and dealer. Another magnificent collection was formed by Mr. Julian Marshall. It contained 60,000 plates, comprising examples from England, America, France, Germany, Russia, China, Spain, and in fact specimens from practically every country in the world. Among them were most of the rarer examples (some unique), including the famous Durer woodcut, Scrope of Danby; all three varieties of the plate of Thomas Gore, the earliest about 1660, the second by Michael Burghere and the third by Faithorne.

The English collector usually, however, finds England a sufficiently wide field, and nowadays, although there is no great upward tendency in prices, it is becoming increasingly difficult to procure the finer specimens, which have always maintained a price. On the whole, modern designs are not nearly so interesting, but there is one artist whose work stands out alone, namely, C. W. Sherborn. He began as an apprentice to Robert Oliver, a goldsmith of Soho, in 1845. In 1852 he was admitted a Freeman of the City of London, by virtue of his services tot the Company of Goldsmiths. After spending three years in Geneva as a designer and goldworker, he returned to London where he still followed his calling, but gradually deviated toward another branch of art, engraving, etching and designing Book-plates. Throughout his career, on this special subject his work retained a wonderful excellence, some of the plates having a depth and tone of richness unsurpassed. A catalogue of his plates compiled by himself and Mr. G. H. Viner is given in a sketch of his life and works by his son. Mr. G. H. Viner himself has an exceedingly fine collection.

This being Coronation year, it is pleasing to look back on a similar event in 1902. In that year, by Royal permission, was published a set of three plates, to be sold for the benefit of King Edward's Hospital Fund. The largest plate contained the Royal Arms within the Garter, with supporters, crest and Imperial Crown, with E. R. at the sides, and the Union Badge below the Shield; inscribed "Royal Library, Windsor Castle." The third plate has the Royal Crest only, a lion statant guardant on an Imperial Crown, with the letters E. R. as before, and the inscription as in the second plate, on a scroll below. Only 50 sets were issued at the price of £8-8-0 per set, and must by now have become exceedingly rare.

There is a fair amount of literature on the subject of Ex-Libris, most of which is obtainable without much trouble and at reasonable cost.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mostly Letters About Bookplates

Books are not the only things I collect. I collect autograph letters, and displayed some of them in my September 2011 blog post. What I did not display in that blog post were most of the letters I acquired in an eBay auction in September 2002:

The title of the eBay auction, "1920s Book Plate Collecting Letters Lot," is a misnomer. Of the nineteen letters in the lot, only three letters are from the 1920s. Twelve of the letters, however, are about bookplates, and hence my title, "Mostly Letters About Bookplates." I posted partial images of these letters on my website shortly after acquiring them. But today I will provide full scans of each letter and give you the "pleasure" of trying to read them. I will also tell you a little bit about the correspondents.

Nine of the twelve letters about bookplates are addressed to Miss Lydia M. Poirier (1873-1936), Librarian, Duluth Public Library, a bookplate collector who corresponded with both bookplate collectors and bookplate designers. The Poirier name might be familiar to you: Miss Poirier's father, Camille Poirier, was the creator of the Poirier Packsack. And Lew Jaffe posted the bookplate of one of Miss Poirier's brothers, Philip Azarie Poirier, in his blog post, Cowboys on Bookplates.

Miss Lydia M. Poirier posted a notice in Zella Allen Dixson's book, Concerning Book-Plates: a Handbook for Collectors, that she was willing to trade bookplates with other collectors.

This is one of Lydia M. Poirier's bookplates, but probably not the one she traded with the bookplate collectors in the early 1900s:

Miss Poirier was the Librarian at Duluth Public Library from 1899 to 1910, and sometimes had a rocky working relationship with the Library Board. For a brief period, the Board barred her from attending Board meetings. Miss Poirier resigned her position in February 1910 to run a school for girls in California. I believe she had the Berkeley bookplate engraved while she was in California. More on Miss Poirier later.

Bookplate collectors came from all walks of life in the early 1900s. Wilbur Macey Stone (1862-1941) was a mechanical engineer from New Jersey. He wrote a number of books about bookplates, children's books, and various other book-related topics. Miss Poirier sent Wilber Macey Stone some bookplates and purchased some of his books about bookplates, including one of the 350 copies of Some Children's Book-plates. Wilbur Macey Stone may have sent Miss Poirier this bookplate:

The image of this bookplate is courtesy of The Rare Book & Manuscript Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Stewart Means (1852-1940) was the Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in New Haven, Ct., and wrote a number of religious books. He sent Miss Poirier this bookplate:

[Bookplate of Stewart Means]

I originally identified this letter writer as Lawthrie L. Bliss. Her real name is Caroline Seagrave Bliss (1867-1943). She was a member of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She too was listed in Dixson's book about bookplates. And here is her bookplate by E.D. French, which she offered to trade with Miss Poirier:

From: GRA 115, William Augustus Brewer bookplate collection, Special Collections, University of Delaware Library, Newark, Delaware.

Albertine Randall Wheelan (1863-1954) was a "jack of all trades" and a master of almost every one of them. She was a bookplate designer, an illustrator, an artist, and even a costume designer on Broadway. She may have sent Mis Poirier this bookplate:

I originally identified this letter writer as Adalbert Balasser. His real name is Adalbert Balassa (1881-1963), and he worked in the banking industry in Chicago, eventually becoming President of a Savings and Loan Association.

The image of this bookplate is courtesy of The Rare Book & Manuscript Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

J Everist Cathell (?-1913), Rector of St. Paul's Parish in Des Moines, reportedly knew Abraham Lincoln, and went on the lecture circuit in the early 1900s, speaking about Lincoln and the Civil War. There is extensive feedback on Cathell's success as a lecturer in the Redpath Chautauqua Collection in Special Collections at the University of Iowa Libraries.

From reading his letter, I gather that Rev. Cathell may not have been a bookplate collector himself; whatever Miss Poirier sent him, he forwarded to Carl L. Bernhardt for his collection. Here is the bookplate Carl L. Bernhardt designed for J. Everist Cathell:

From: GRA 115, William Augustus Brewer bookplate collection, Special Collections, University of Delaware Library, Newark, Delaware.

Emma Carleton (1852-1907) was a journalist and a poet. Her father was a bookseller, and his bookstore is displayed in her bookplate, which was included in Indiana Bookplates by Esther Griffin White.

I missed the boat on this one. For years I thought this note was from W. Price, the Editor of The Book-Lover to Anna L. Carleton. But just the other night, I happened to glance at this note while I had Emma Carleton's letter displayed on my computer screen. By golly! The handwriting was a match! Anna L. Carleton was actually Emma Carleton, and she was the author of this note. In the note, she mentions an article on bookseller plates that she wrote for The Book-Lover. Her article appeared in the Dec 1903 issue (Vol IV, No. 6).

C Valentine Kirby (1875-1947) wrote a book or two and a few articles about bookplates including this one. His circular is more than just an advertisement for his bookplate designs. Open it up and it is writing paper for corresponding with bookplate collectors.

Below is an image of the University Club bookplate he mentions in his letter.

Helen W. Foster acquired her A.B. from Vassar in 1901, her A.M. from Columbia in 1908, and then studied at universities in Munich and Berlin from 1908 to 1910. Afterwards, she worked in the Free Library of Newark, and the Hotel Clinton in East Orange, New Jersey.

Helen W. Foster married Frederick J. Gould. I should mention that her husband is not the English author by the same name. Likewise, it is unlikely that the Elsa Löwenthal who engraved her bookplate is the Elsa Löwenthal who married Albert Einstein. Miss Foster's Elsa was from Frankfurt, while Einstein's Elsa was from Berlin. But didn't Miss Foster study in Berlin? An interesting coincidence of names for sure!

Miss Foster's March 1910 letter is the last letter I have that was sent to Miss Lydia Poirier. Shortly after receiving the letter, Miss Poirier moved to California to become the headmistress of the Chandler School of Girls in Los Altos, California. By September 1912, Miss Lydia Poirier was assisting at the Library of the University of California at Berkeley. And by the next year, she was on the way home to Duluth.

A notice in the Jul 29, 1913 Duluth Herald:

In Dec 1915, she made a new home, so to speak.

Edward M. Goddard (1869-1936) was the librarian of the Vermont State Library, and most likely met Miss Poirier at one of the many American Library Association conventions they attended. He resigned his position in 1910 to work for an insurance firm in New Jersey where his uncle worked. I found nothing more of interest about the Goddards after their wedding until their deaths in 1936. Lydia and Edward Goddard died three months apart in 1936. Newspaper articles reporting his death called him "the best insurance man in the East."

The next two letters concern the bookplate that William Edgar Fisher (1872-1956) designed in 1920 for William F. Gable (1856-1921), store merchant and owner of Gables Department Store in Altoona. But first a little bit about each of them:

From Concerning Book-Plates by Zella Allen Dixson:

From Book-Plates of To-Day  edited by Wilbur Macey Stone

From A Magnificent Farce by A, Edward Newton:

Gable's Department Store:

1st Letter:

2nd letter:

Here is the bookplate William Edgar Fisher designed for William F. Gable:

The letter below is the last of the bookplate-related letters:

In the beginning of this letter, L. Averill Cole (1880-1971) admonishes George Wolfe Plank (1883-1965) for his delay in submitting bookplates for a bookplate exhibit in San Francisco. L Averill Cole was no stranger to exhibitions, exhibiting not bookplates, but fine bindings. As for Mr. Plank, Marianne Moore provides an impressive biographical essay on him in her blog.

A previous owner wrote the word "bookplate" near the top of the letter, probably because it was addressed to the bookplate collector, William F. Gable. But this letter does not mention bookplates. Its sender, L Averill Cole, writes about fine bindings, and thanks Gable for a vase he sent her.

This next letter is the only letter from this lot to appear in my September 2011 post:

In this letter, John Hyde Preston (1906-1980) the novelist responds to the prolific writer, Louis Untermeyer (1885-1977), thanking him for his comments about Preston's new book, The Liberals: A Novel, first published in 1938. Remember George Wolfe Plank? He illustrated a number of books and articles for Louis Untermeyer, including this one:

William F. Gable wasn't the only merchant who was represented in these letters. A. T. Stewart (1803-1876), the Father of the Department Store," wrote a letter inviting a Mr. Newcomb and a Mr. Lister to dinner. Alexander Turney Stewart was featured in Elbert Hubbard's Little Journeys to the Homes of Great Business Men.

A.T. Stewart had an enviable collection of paintings sculptures and other works of art. If you're only into books, Stewart's library begins at lot number 1014.

The Mr. Newcomb who received Mr. Stewart's letter is most likely Horatio Victor Newcomb (1844-1911). I have yet to identify the Mr. Lister who was also invited to dinner.

If you can read this next letter, you are very good!

Here is my "translation" of Mr. Bandinel's letter:

Bandinel's letter is undated, but he died in 1849, and his only son was a curate in Marshwood, Dorset, from 1847 to 1856. Marshwood is near Blandford so I believe this letter was written sometime between 1847 and 1849. Who was it written to? I don't have a clue!

Frances Starr (1886-1973) was one of Alan Dale's "Most Interesting People on the Stage." She appeared on Broadway, and in the movies and on TV. Remember the bookplate designer, Albertine Randall Wheelan? She was the costume designer for Rose of the Rancho, a play in which Frances Starr had one of the leading roles.

I have yet to positively identify the Mr. Nelson who Frances Starr wrote to. It could be the director/performer, Duane Nelson.

Frances Starr did not appear in any of Duane Nelson's plays. Nor did she appear in any of Lula Vollmer's plays. And there were no characters named Lydia and Mary in any of their plays that made it to Broadway. Now for a longshot: Lydia and Mary were characters in Pride and Prejudice. Did Lula Vollmer write a playscript based on Jane Austine's novel? A stage production was written in 1935, but not by Lula Vollmer.

From a Wikipedia article on Ogden Mills (1884-1937):

There is an interesting review of Ogden Mill's book, The Seventeen Million in the September 1937 issue of Forum and Century. After reading the review, I couldn't help thinking of the forty-seven percent who voted for Governor Romney in the last election.

This last letter may have been sent to the autograph collector who was the original owner of this lot of letters. If so, I thank him for providing hours of entertainment for me, and hopefully, for you.