Friday, August 28, 2009

The Art of Vintage Booksellers' Labels

Those stamp-sized bookseller labels often found on the rear paste down end paper of old and rare books are often as artistically interesting as the books' dust jackets; high karat precious gems of graphic design in small settings.

Howard Prouty, of ReadInk Books, has been collecting vintage booksellers' labels for many years and has put together quite a lovely assemblage on the ReadInk Books website, where he writes:

"I think the pleasure I take from these little things has something to do with a certain dimensionality they add to the mostly-unknown story of a particular book's previous life. To buy a book unadorned with one of these is, often, to simply buy an "old book"; from the evidentiary front matter, one can usually divine that it was published by this or that company, in a particular year, and so what?

"But the specificity of knowing that it spent some time -- perhaps was sold for the very first time -- at the Satyr Book Shop (on Vine Street in Hollywood, California)

or The Book Shelf (in The Doctors' Building) of Cincinnati, Ohio, adds a nice geographical element to its journey to your shelves. (Previous owner's inscriptions are often good for this as well, and have their own charm -- but give me a vintage bookstore label any day!)"

Greg Kindall has an astonishing Gallery of Book Trade Labels on his Seven Roads website, which appears to be international action-central for this sub-genre of book collecting.

More than 2100 labels from all over the world are displayed, and the collection is highly organized for easy reference.

These labels are cheap to collect; they're found in the least, as well as the most, expensive of old and rare books. And there is an ocean of them out there.

Dive in.


Images courtesy of Howard Prouty.

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