Friday, October 5, 2012

Menacing Bookplates (Don't Mess With This Book!)

by Stephen J. Gertz

For Lloyd Douglas, artist ("UD") unknown.
It is unknown whether this is the bookplate
of novelist Lloyd Douglas, author of
Magnificent Obsession (1929), The Robe (1942),
The Big Fisherman (1948), etc.

Lew Jaffe, the man with the bookplate jones, has recently added some intimidating specimens to his website, Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie.

The late Mr. Ferguson (1920-2011) was a bookseller
in Concord, Massachusetts. His bookplate was designed
by a German POW after WWII and was based upon
"two or more Weird Tales - one being William Fryer
Harvey's The Beast With Five Fingers plus another
by my late friend, August Derleth" (letter from
Ferguson to Jaffe, Oct 2, 2006)

There is a long tradition of of oaths, curses, and doom-saying against those who steal books. Who can forget the classic denunciation found in the library of the monastery of San Pedro, Barcelona?

For him that Stealeth a Book from this Library,
Let it change into a Serpent in his hand & rend him.
Let him be struck with Palsy, & all his Members blasted.
Let him languish in Pain crying aloud for Mercy,
Let there be no Surcease to his Agony till he sink to Dissolution.
Let Bookworms gnaw his Entrails in token of the Worm that dieth not,
When at last he goeth to his final Punishment,
Let the flames of hell consume him for ever & aye.

By Philip Reed, an illustrator and book designer
based in St Joseph, Michigan. Along with his wife,
Nancy, he operated a woodcut, stationery, and
bookplate business. Shown above is one of the
nineteen universal bookplates he designed to
be customized with the collector's name.
(Audrey Spencer Arellanes. Bookplates in the
News 1970-1985, p. 57).

As there is, alas, no monastery of San Pedro, Barcelona the threat above is apocryphal. But though of dubious authenticity it is no less genuine in its diabolical condemnation of book thieves.

Artist unknown.

These bookplates, all dating from the twentieth century, are a bit more direct, less a damning shake of  the fist to the heavens than the acute threat of homicide, mano รก mano.

For John Sympson. Artist unknown.

Scimitars, stilettos, snickersnees, and the gallows are here the suggested therapeutic tools for bibliolarceny. Slow death by lethal injection of highly radioactive material via umbrella-tip as you anonymously stalk your prey on a London street, while appropriately agonizing, does not possess, in my view, the necessary (and satisfying) eye-to-eye up-close-and-personal intimacy that a quick shiv to the gut can provide.

Above, a favorite. Not a threat nor violent in any way, it is merely the quiet and reserved vengeance of one to gain a degree of satisfaction from a situation that did not go well and from which he was not compensated for loss. Revenge is a bookplate best served cold.

All images courtesy of Lew Jaffe, with our thanks.

Of related interest:

Bookplates in a Printer's Library Part I.

Bookplates in a Printer's Library Part 2.

The Man With the Bookplate Jones.

Bookplate Special On Menu at Bonham's.

Virginia Library Serves Up Bookplate Special.

Authentic G. Washington Bookplate Comes To Auction.

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