Friday, August 31, 2012

Female Excellence: Satyr Pokes Women

by Stephen J. Gertz


The most celebrated wit and courtier in Restoration England, John Wilmont, 2d Earl of Rochester (1647-1680) suffered from a laundry list of STDs and alcoholism when he died at age thirty-three.  "Extravagant frolics," and drunkenness were his calling cards at the Court of Charles II.

He played hard, and he wrote wonderfully, producing poetry and ripping satires that got him into trouble with Charles. Routinely bounced out of Court for transgressing the boundaries of taste and Charles' tolerance, he'd then write or do something to redeem himself in the eyes of the king to earn his way back into his good graces.

Once, while in hiding to avoid a mess he'd made (after getting into it with a member of the night-watch, one of his friends was gored and killed by a pike-thrust), he assumed the identity of "Dr. Bendo," a quack with a knack for treating the gynecological disorders and barrenness of women with a proprietary magic potion that cured hysteria and infertility with an unsurprising degree of success considering that it was administered in situ con brio with tumescent syringe. When "Dr. Bendo" was otherwise busy, Rochester impersonated the nonexistent "Mrs. Bendo," the better to intimately examine patients without stimulating their husbands' suspicions. The Bendos of Bendover were, apparently, a popular couple.

In 1679, four satiric poems - A General Satyr on Woman; A Satyr upon Woman's Usurpation; A Satyr on Woman's Lust; In Praise of a Deformed, but Virtuous Lady, Or A Satyr on Beauty - were published under the title Female Excellence, Or, A Woman Display'd... written "by a Person of Quality."

John Wilmont, 2d Earl of Rochester

A satyr wrote these satires, and, though anonymously written, one, A Satyr upon Woman's Usurpation, was presumed by his contemporaries to have been written by Wilmont. Donald Wing, in his Short-Title Calalog 1641-1700, subsequently assigned authorship of all four of the satires in Female Excellence to him. David M. Vieth, in Attribution In Restoration Poetry: A Study of Rochester's Poems of 1680 (Yale: 1963), however, rejects it, as does Harold Love in English Clandestine Satire 1660-1702 (Oxford: 2004).

Whoever wrote these satiric verses, they, emerging from the Restoration, must be considered firmly within the realm of Rochesteriana,  a genre that includes the disputed yet highly likely by Wilmont, Sodom, a theatrical farce posthumously published in 1684 whose cast of characters includes: Bolloxinion, the King of Sodom; Cuntigratia, His Queen; Pricket, a young Prince; Buggeranthos, General of the Army; Borastus, the Buggermaster-general; and Fuckadilla, Cunticulla, and Clytorism as Maids of Honor.

Below, a Restoration cosmetic surgeon's pre-op assessment of an aging patient:

"With age with furrows shall have plow'd her face,
And all her body o're thick with wrinkles place,
Her breasts turn black, her sparkling eyes sink in,
Fearful to see the bristles on her chin,
Her painted face grown swarthy, wan and thin,
Her hands all shriveled o're, her nails of length
Enough to digg her grave, had she but strength.
Such is the mistress that blind poets praise..."

(from In Praise of a Deformed, but Virtuous Lady, Or A Satyr on Beauty).

This is truly unfair. Not all women age into gargoyles. And I've met more than a few men who evolved into troglodytes when Father Time slapped them upside the face.

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[ROCHESTERIANA.]  Female Excellence: or, Woman display’d, in several satyrick Poems. By a Person of Quality …   London, Printed for Norman Nelson … 1679. First edition. Folio. 8 pp.

Wing R1749.
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Image courtesy of Bernard Quaritch Ltd, currently offering this volume, with our thanks.
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Thursday, August 30, 2012

You Can Smoke William Faulkner's Pipe For Only $3,000-$5,000

by Stephen J. Gertz


One of Nobel Prize-winning novelist William Faulkner's tobacco pipes is being offered at auction house PBA Galleries Fine Literature - Cooking & Gastronomy sale, today, August 30, 2012.

It is estimated to sell for between $3000 - $5000.


Residue is still present in the bowl. Faulkner was a well-known pipe smoker photographed many times with one in his hand or mouth but matching this pipe to those appearing in his photos has yet, and will likely never, succeed; there is not enough detail in the photos to make an accurate comparison. We can only  imagine what he was doing or writing while burning shag in this smokeshaft.


This pipe was one of several that were rescued from Faulkner's home after his death by his stepson Malcolm Franklin. The pipe wound up in the possession of William Boozer, the noted Faulkner collector and editor of The Faulkner Newsletter.  Professor James B. Meriwether, editor of several volumes of Faulkner's letters and interviews, was, apparently, the liaison between Franklin and Boozer.


A note in Meriwether's hand and signed twice by Franklin attesting to the pipe's provenance, along with two typed notes, signed, from William Boozer (one on the same sheet as the signed statement), accompany the pipe.

Will you be inspired to write if you snag this pipe? Will some aspiring scribe in Vermont win the bidding, smoke the pipe, and subsequently pen a Northern Gothic novel about a county with a  name impossible to pronounce populated by New Englanders who speak with a  drawl?
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Tobacco pipe, approximately 14.5x5 cm (5¾x2"), manufactured by Digby of London. Accompanied by a pouch and box from a Dunhill pipe. Stamped on bottom with maker's name, city and number 135.
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Pipe images courtesy of PBA Galleries, with our thanks.
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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Madonna's Rare JHS Yearbook Comes To Auction: A Personal Overview

by Stephen J. Gertz


In Booktryst's ongoing effort to bring to readers the most important, indeed earth-shattering stories from the world of rare books, we herald the news that Madonna's rare 1971-1972 yearbook from West Junior High School in Rochester Hills, Michigan is currently being offered by Nate D. Sanders Auctions in an online sale ending tomorrow, August 30, 2012, at 5 PM

Minimum bid is $500. As of this writing (9 PM, PDT, 8/28/12) there have been no bidders.


The yearbook bears a warm inscription from the future Material Girl to a junior high school friend.

"Dear Nancy, I hope you have fun at Adams [local high school] and all the years to come, Madonna '76'."

The inscription possesses all that we expect from junior high school yearbook student-to-student graduation notes: gushy lotsa luck n' fun in high school and in the future, with a wee bit'o loopy syntax. Madonna notes that she will be a member of the high school class of '76. 

Madonna Louise Ciccione, age 14, 1972, page 7.

In 1977. a year after high school graduation, Madonna went to NYC to seek her fortune. In 1983 she found it with her eponymously titled debut record album.

School yearbooks are usually bound in hardcover so they will last long enough for you to forget everyone's name and face including your  own. I have never seen a school yearbook bound in wrappers but this one is, a softcover book measuring 8.5'' x 11 inches. There are only a handful of other inscriptions in the book, so the copy isn't crowded with ink from people collectors don't know and don't care about. The front cover is nearly detached at the spine with separation to the rear cover at the spine. The rear wrapper has toning and staining, otherwise the yearbook remains in collectible condition. That it has lasted as long as it has is something of a miracle. The yearbook is scarce with  Madonna's inscription.

Why have there been no bids so far for this Madonna fan must? Is it because few are aware of its sale? Or is it because Madonna, for all her efforts at remaking herself and career at critical junctures, is no longer relevant in 2012 as a creature-product-brand of popular culture that has moved on, and is now Queen of Pop emeritus with a dwindling fan base? 

My mistake: I now recall with wrenching pang that the yearbook for NYC Steinway Jr. High School 141 class of '65 was a staple-bound softcover. I'd forgotten only because I loaned my copy to former classmate Larry Newhouse in the late 1970s and have not seen it since. Hey. Larry! 

Within it was a brief, achingly intimate and plaintive inscription from a beautiful Hungarian girl with a cleft palate that left her speaking voice acutely nasal, particularly when raised, so she spoke in a whisper whenever possible. Two years my senior, she, sixteen, fully-formed and finely curved, had lost two school-years when she moved to the U.S.; we were classmates. She was my first experience with an "older woman," and in the inscription confessed her love (after throwing me over for a boy her own age a few months earlier during a school trip to Bear Mountain in upstate NY and, I suppose, regretting it  - he was an experienced jerk; I merely a callow fledgling).  It was the first time a girl expressed that to me. She signed the yearbook when they were handed out on the last day of school. She made the  approach, wrote, looked into my eyes for an eternal moment, then walked away without a word. I never saw her again. It turned my head and I have never forgotten Roxanne. More than once we'd be lying in each others' arms after making-out and she'd begin to weep and it wasn't because I was Mr. Young Teen Wonderful. Her eyes were all shades of hurt even when happy. This is the kind of thing that compels us to keep our school yearbooks. They can tap into the marrow and draw out a 14-year old heart.

Hey, Larry.
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Images courtesy of Nate D. Sanders Auctions, with our thanks.
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Of related interest:

The Stars in School! Collecting Celebrity Yearbooks.

Madonna and Sean Invite You To Their Wedding.
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UPDATE: 5 PM PST, 8/29/12. Auction closed with two bids and the yearbook sold for $550.
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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bookplates in a Printer's Library, Part I

by Alastair Johnston

As a letterpress printer, I create a lot of ephemera. Recently I was asked to design a bookplate, so I have been thinking about this ephemeral work (though, like a bumper-sticker, once it’s stuck to something, it becomes a bit more permanent).


It is said that the American flag was inspired by a bespoke bookplate (with stars and stripes) that George Washington had made up for inclusion in his books. I started looking through my own bookshelves for examples and was surprised at what I found. So here is a collection of bookplates found pretty much at random on the premises at Poltroon Press. (We collect books not bookplates so this is not a survey of highspots of the genre.)


In January 2011, I bought (for $12 from Serendipity Books) an edition of Robert Bloomfield’s Wild Flowers, a book of poetry published by Vernor & Hood in London in 1805, illustrated with wood engravings by an unknown engraver. Imagine my delight on finding the bookplate of Robert Spence (1784–1845), engraved by Thomas Bewick, on the inside front board. Spence was a North Shields canvas and sailcloth maker. He was also a Quaker, noted for his height and long white hair, according to Nigel Tattersfield, author of a book on Bewick’s bookplates. Bewick, the most famous of all wood-engravers, started out as a metal engraver and this bookplate is a copper engraving. In the distant background you can see the lantern spire of St Nicholas’ Cathedral, Newcastle-on-Tyne, a characteristic Bewick landmark.

Engraved plates

Bookplates are generally typographic, calligraphic, armorial or pictorial. For those who can afford it, a wood-engraved plate is a nice addition to a book. A lot of nineteenth-century bookplates are of heraldic family crests, printed from copper-plates. Such plates are well-known to collectors through publications such as Augustus Wollaston Franks’ 3-volume Catalogue of British and American Bookplates Bequeathed to the Trustees of the British Museum, 1903–4. I found quite a few of these in my books, and thanks to Google I was able to add some life to them and discover some interesting previous owners of my books. But I won't bore you by parading them here (well, maybe just one).


Found in an 1804 edition of Sterne: Thomas Philip de Grey (1781–1859), was a British Tory politician and statesman. He was First Lord of the Admiralty & a Knight of the Garter. A colonel-commandant of the Yorkshire Hussars and aide-de-camp to William IV and Queen Victoria, he served as Lord Lieutentant of Ireland in the 1840s. He was founding president of the Institute of British Architects in 1834. Wrest Park, in Bedfordshire, is now part of English Heritage.


James Watson’s History of the Art of Printing (Edinburgh, 1713) passed through several hands before reaching our shelves. The title-page bears the ownership inscription Henry Goodwin his book 1736. The bookplate of Philip Absalom is a pierced woodcut with Caslon type. The book is listed in the sale catalogue of Absalom’s library, published by the London auctioneer Evans in 1841. Absalom’s main interest was heraldry. 

Dean Sage (1841–1902), a later owner, who had a simple engraved bookplate which could double as a calling card, was a prominent American collector of Waltoniana; he wrote a book on fishing and helped found Cornell University. His daughter married James Fennimore-Cooper.

The author, James Watson (1675–1722), was one of the first to write in English on the history of printing and does so, “as one carrying a Lantern in a dark Night, that I may communicate to others the light by which I myself walk.” Early writers tended to paraphrase one another, in fact Watson took his historical matter from Jean de la Caille’s Histoire de l’Imprimerie (Paris, 1689) and, interestingly, this copy has been marked up by an editor changing a few words and phrases in the text, clearly with a view to reprinting it in a slightly altered form.

Deaccessioned Library Books 

(N.B. Be sure they have a discard stamp in them!)


The Library Company of Philadelphia’s hand-trimmed bookplate was printed at the local paper, Zachariah Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, which ran from 1800 to 1839. The border of type ornaments is very ornate.


Mixed-face Victorian typography for the American Whig Society bookplate is more typical of the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The Society existed from 1784 ’til 1941. The College of New Jersey is known today as Princeton.


A ready-made letterpress bookplate from the Victorian era was purchased by Howard B. Smith. I like the ATF Rimmed Litho (for "LIBRARY") contrasted with the skeletal "—OF—". It's in a book from 1890, with the wonderful quote from Walter Scott: "...although many of my friends are poor arithmeticians, they are nearly all of them good book-keepers."


The Sawyers, who settled in Northern California, are possibly the same family who run the winery. I found this book in the Anderson Valley on 24 September 1995 (as my penciled note attests). It’s Samuel G. Goodrich’s Anecdotes of the Animal Kingdom, Boston, 1860. It was completely by chance I discovered it in a used bookstore and it was only when I opened it I found something I had been seeking blindly: a story called “Anecdotes of Ants,” which solved a puzzle that had been nagging me for decades, i.e. whether such a work existed.


From A Brief history of Selwyn College Library, we learn that in 1895 the Library comprised 9000 volumes, early donors being: Sarah Selwyn, Lady Martin, Bishop Abraham, Mrs William Selwyn; and especially the Rev. William Cooke. The Cooke bequest was substantial enough for the library to build a new wing. Cooke (1821–94) was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. The book is Greswell’s study of the Early Parisian Press (London, Cadell & Davies, 1818), printed by Dean brothers of Manchester.


One of the great treasures of our library is the 8-volume Shûko Jisshu of Sadanobu Matsudaira (1759–1829), or Ten Categories of Collected Antiquities, containing hundreds of plates reproducing woodcuts, rubbings, armor, harnesses, writing implements, swords, musical instruments. The work was later collected in four volumes in 1908 and is one of the most important sources of visual information on pre-Tokugawa history. Our set, once the property of Daniel Butler Fearing, was deaccessioned from the Grolier Club Library in New York and bought for a song, from Muir Dawson.


There may be a case for owning a “strayed” library book. The long-derelict, now restored, Grand Hotel Villa de France — where Matisse painted the view from his window in 1912 and later home to Tennessee Williams — is in Tangier. Some tourist walked off with this fascinating work, Source Book on the Wreck of the Grosvenor by Percival Kirby, Cape Town, 1953, with its austere bookplate, now in my library.


Scholars and Scoundrels
 
From that dubious source Wikipedia we learn that Charles Kay Ogden (1889–1957) was a linguist, philosopher, and writer. Described as a polymath but also an eccentric and outsider, he is now remembered as the inventor and propagator of Basic English, an auxiliary international language of 850 words comprising a system that covers everything necessary for day-to-day purposes. In 1929 his Orthological Institute issued a recording of James Joyce reading from Finnegans Wake. In 1932 Ogden published a translation of the Finnegans Wake passage into Basic English. Ogden collected a large number of books. His incunabula, manuscripts, papers of the Brougham family, and Jeremy Bentham collection were purchased by University College, London. The balance of his enormous personal library was purchased after his death by UCLA. This work is therefore a rare escapee from his library and it is also a linguistic curiosity: The Bothie of Toper-na-Fuosich by Arthur Clough, printed by Charles Whittingham at the Chiswick Press.


Adam Raymond Hausmann (1901–74) sensed the transience of his possession of Doctor Johnson A Play, by A. Edward Newton, hiring “JSF” to create a striking skeletal jester for his bookplate. Clearly a bibliophile, his copy of Joyce’s Chamber Music sold at Christie’s in 2005 for $3700.


Harry Buxton Forman (1842–1917). Though well-known as a Shelley scholar and bibliographer, Forman will live in infamy for his connection to T. J. Wise and the dissemination of forgeries of editiones principes by English authors of the nineteenth century. His bookplate is in a set of Tristram Shandy which I own. Sterne’s masterpiece too was subjected to piracy which must have appealed to the rogue Forman. Sterne even signed all copies of the first printing of Volume 5 to thwart piracy. Interestingly, here the forger was trying to fool himself because the set comprises six volumes of the original printing: the remaining three volumes have been broken out of a later one-volume printing and bound to match the early printings. According to the Buxton Forman sale catalogue vols. 7 and 9 of his copy also have Sterne’s signature. It sold for $7.50, incidentally, and the catalogue says that vols. 1 & 2 are second editions and the others firsts. So he must have had 2 sets. It’s described as being in worn old calf. My set, the bogus set, is in marbled paper over boards.


Because we are based in the University town of Berkeley it’s natural that there are a lot of books here and sometimes unusual connections between the books we buy and former owners. Leo Olschki’s Le Livre Illustré au XVème Siècle (Florence, Leo S. Olschki, 1926), bears the modest bookplate of Herbert McLean Evans in red Futura type. Evans (1882–1971) was an embryologist and Professor of Anatomy at the University. In his research he discovered Vitamin E. It’s interesting that he took time off from dissecting rats and mice to contemplate this collection of Italian woodcuts.


At a $1 sale at the University Library recently I found a first American edition of an Alberto Moravia novel. It has the bookplate of Ruth & Mark Schorer: an etching of a man climbing a stepladder to the moon. It’s a reproduction of a work by William Blake, called “I want! I want!” executed in 1793, here reprinted from a zinc with Bulmer type. Unfortunately this plate was attached with acidic glue which has discolored it. Mark Schorer (1908–77) wrote a book about Blake called The Politics of Vision in 1946. He chaired the English Department at Berkeley in the turbulent sixties. He also wrote a biography of Sinclair Lewis and many short stories that were published in The New Yorker and elsewhere.


Though just a paperback catalogue, the Exhibition of Books at the Festival of Britain, 1951, has the bookplate of George Laban Harding (1893–1976). It’s a wood engraving with Caslon type. Harding was not just a book collector but also an authority on the history of printing. He collected every single newspaper item he came across that mentioned anything to do with the press in the West (which to Harding included Tahiti and Hawaii). His archives, now in the Kemble Collection at at the California Historical Society, are a trove of information. He was a student of Updike at Harvard and recalled taking a seminar with Bill Dwiggins which consisted of stack tours and long lunches. He wrote books about Agustin Zamorano, the first printer in California, Charles A. Murdoch, the first printer of taste in the West, and biographies and bibliographies.


It’s quite common for bookplates to be added to a collection posthumously. It adds coherence, especially when the books become absorbed into a larger collection. I work as a volunteer in the Kemble Collection on Western Printing at the California Historical Society in San Francisco, which houses several collections, the core being the library of William E. Loy (1847–1906), an historian of American printing & typefounding who built an important collection of trade periodicals, type specimen books and other material related to the printing and graphic trades in American in the nineteenth century. When his collection was acquired for CHS by George L. Harding, Roger Levenson of Tamalpais Press printed the plate (in Bell type) which adorns the books. Loy was my neighbor (He died in 1906 and his house was bull-dozed in the 1960s, but he lived round the corner from me) & I have spent many hours with his books and periodicals. I wrote a short biography of him as the introduction to his work on Nineteenth-century American Designers and Engravers of Type, which I co-edited with Stephen O. Saxe.
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To be continued yesterday ...
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Monday, August 27, 2012

Bookplates in a Printer’s Library, Part II

by Alastair Johnston

(Note: part I will follow tomorrow)

Bookplates can create wonderful associations to their former owners. For a lover of ephemera the bookplate of Bella C. Landauer, drawn by Sidney Hunt in 1925, is a treasure.


This imposing art deco gem is very confident in its place on the front paste-down of Hansard’s Typographia (London, 1825). The story goes that Landauer (1874–1960) bought a scrapbook full of bookplates from an impoverished student, only to discover the book had been stolen. Nevertheless she caught the ephemera collecting bug and she went on to build a vast collection of printed matter, partly housed at the New York Historical Society Library. In addition to the 800,000 items there, she donated other collections to the Met, the Smithsonian, NYPL, Library of Congress, Harvard — and still had enough paper left over to leave to other institutions.


John C. Tarr (1894–1976), calligrapher and type designer, was the author of Good Handwriting and Printing Today. Tarr was a draughtsman at the Monotype Drawing Office in London alongside Victor Lardent. He worked on some of the notable types of Stanley Morison including Times Roman. Due to weak lungs he moved to Morocco, then Berkeley, California where he died. Having known him, and got the inside gen on Morison, I was pleased to find some volumes from his library at Moe's Books in Berkeley.


A conservative Arts & Crafts design was produced by calligrapher William Brooke for his plate (found in Caractères de l’Ecriture by Stanley Morison, Paris, 1927).


A typographic approach from the same era is seen in the work of the Rev. Charles Clinch Bubb (1876–1936). He ran a private press in Cleveland, Ohio from 1905 to 1931, called the Clerk’s Press, so he probably designed and printed this bookplate (in Figgins’ Caxton type) himself. He corresponded with T. Bird Mosher and Richard Aldington, and printed a lot for the Rowfant Club of Cleveland.


A grail for scholars of typography is the Library of the American Type Founders Company, now housed at Columbia University in New York. In 1934, the librarian, Henry L. Bullen, had the notion to sell off duplicates from the collection. We (the Poltroon Press library) have two of them. This label (printed in ATF Caslon 540) is in the 1888 Benton-Waldo Portable Book of Specimens, which Bullen sold originally for $3.50.


Jackson Burke (1908–75) was Director of Typography at Linotype, where he designed the typeface Trade Gothic. In 1975, Dawson’s Books of Los Angeles put out a 3-volume catalogue of his library that included many treasures including a copy of Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises (1683) that was purchased by San Francisco Public Library. Though not on the level of the ATF Duplicate Catalogue, Dawson’s set is still a valuable reference work. From it, we acquired Copy & Print in the Netherlands by Wytze Hellinga (Amsterdam, 1962) for our library.


When I say “we” I should perhaps introduce my partner in Poltroon Press, Frances Butler, who has worn many hats, including that of textile artist, book artist, illustrator, scholar and calligrapher. Since she retired from academia to rural France it is often said of her that she is out standing in her field. Her husband, Jonathan Lowell Butler (1939–74), was a Romance Philologist who taught at UC Berkeley in the 1960s and 70s. His bookplate was calligraphed by Frances & printed letterpress.


Peregrine Press was the San Francisco press of printmaker Henry Evans (1918–90). Publisher of poets Robert Creeley and Robert Duncan, he was busted for selling Tropic of Cancer. A nice multiple-association copy as this two-volume set of John Johnson’s Typographia (1824) also has the signature of printer and publisher Roger Levenson (1914–94). Hand-trimmed bookplate in Caslon 471 type.


William Albion Kittredge’s (1891–1945) bookplate was designed by Bruce Rogers. Kittredge worked as a designer at the Lakeside Press in Chicago and worked with Rockwell Kent, Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton and Frank Lloyd Wright. Bruce Rogers was one of the most playful typographers in America, as this bookplate demonstrates. However he designed on paper, preferring to let others handle the kerning and rule mitring which he desired. The type is Monotype Bell; the bookplate is in a British Museum catalogue from 1929 that is the first trial showing of Monotype Bembo.


R. R. Donnelley & Sons' Training Department bookplate is one of two different ones we have. This one was designed by the master W. A. Dwiggins. I wonder how many young apprentices in the Lakeside Press building in Chicago’s Printer’s Row were inspired by their lunch-time browsing of this technical manual from 1910.


I wrote earlier about Dwiggins' pochoir or stencil-work, and the Lakeside Press bookplate has that look about it. Another pleasing find was the stenciled bookplate of S. A. Godfrey’s Circulating Library of Marylebone, London, in a well-worn copy of a Victorian set of Dickens’ novels. Godfrey was also a tobacconist so his clients probably popped in regularly to check out a book and buy smokes.


As a youngster, Thomas Maitland Cleland (1880–1964) became a printer and moved to Boston where he came under the influence of D. B. Updike. He worked as a commercial artist and illustrated fine press books for the Limited Editions Club and others by means of pochoir using thin metal plates which he cut himself. His white lettering on a red background is particularly striking on green endpapers.


I found the bookplate of Will Ransom (1878–1955), American book designer, author and historian (and creator of the evil Parsons typeface), in the back of a vellum-bound pamphlet, Of Typecasting in the Sixteenth Century, printed for members of the Columbiad Club by Carl P. Rollins at Yale in 1941. Ransom lists where he got it, and how much he paid.


Daniel Berkeley Updike (1860–1941), the distinguished American scholar-printer, came from an old Rhode Island family. He worked at the Riverside Press division of Houghton Mifflin and set up on his own as a typographer at the Merrymount Press in 1896. A series of lectures he gave at Harvard Business School turned into his two-volume work Printing Types, published in 1922. His library went to the Huntington Library in Southern California, so it is remarkable to find his bookplate in a book given to him by his colleague Stanley Morison. His bookplate is in Janson.


The Robert Grabhorn (1900–73) bookplate in Bell type was printed by Roger Levenson (from the look of it) and added to his books posthumously (as his appended dates attest). After his death, his library went to the San Francisco Public Library where it forms the basis of their collection on the history of printing. So a stray book with his bookplate is a rarity, unless it was stolen from SFPL, which mine was not. It occurs in a copy of Richard Freeman’s Graffiti (Hutchinson, 1966) and includes a charming inscription from Grabhorn’s young niece (now a lawyer in Los Angeles): “Kilroy was here [peace sign] Merry Xmas Uncle Bob Love Vicky.” The Library or family must have discarded it.


Scottish designer and historian Ruari McLean (1917–2006) had a bookplate in Walbaum italic. The border hints at the Victorian excess he documented in his many books, but he was also a champion of Jan Tschichold’s modernist design aesthetics. I was thrilled to discover his plate in a rare book I had long sought, J. Millington’s Are We to Read Backwards? published by Andrew Tuer at the Leadenhall Press in London in 1884.


An issue of Monotype, published by the Lanston Machine Company (Philadelphia, 1923) as a showing of Goudy Garamond, designed by Bruce Rogers and printed by W. E. Rudge, has the intriguing die-cut circular plate of “N. McN.” (Unidentified)

In the Watergate era Berkeley bookseller Peter Howard asked me to make a large bookplate he could use to cover up unsightly ones in books he had for sale. I came up with the fictitious character P. Howard Hunt. I must have a copy somewhere; it was pretty plain, in Palatino capitals, as I recall.


I have printed many bookplates, all of them designed by others. Thousands of books given to the University of California’s Bancroft Library by the Hearst family and poet Robert Duncan (in Bembo) have an example of my printing in them, executed while I was an apprentice at Arif Press in Berkeley. A favorite early job was the large bookplate for Sam Bercholz, co-founder of Shambhala Books in Berkeley in 1974.


Shambhala became the leading publisher of Buddhist texts in the West. The art for Sam’s bookplate was done by Glen Eddy (1941–2006), a Californian who became adept at the Tibetan thanka style of Tikse, or proportional drawing. The typeface is Centaur.


Byron Griswold Dodge was clearly ahead of his time. His woodcut “New Age” bookplate, printed by Taylor & Taylor of San Francisco, dates from 1928. But Californians have always been interested in spiritual matters.


Another Taylor & Taylor production is Frank Pierce Hammon’s neat bookplate in Nicolas Cochin and Gill Sans types and some richly colored border ornaments (Caslon's 5-line pica No 15 from their 1895 catalogue).

It’s not the labor, it’s the sense of permanent possession that makes me uncertain about printing a bookplate for myself. Lots of bookplates take a philosophical approach, from “As I never return books, I make a rule never to borrow them” (Sydney Smith) to Shakespeare’s “My Library was Dukedom large enough” (The Tempest), to Schopenhauer’s “It would be a good thing to buy books if we could also buy the time to read them.” We might add “You know you’re working class when your television is bigger than your book case.” (Rob Beckett). Berkeley bookman Ian Jackson suggests I use this old Latin motto, a tribute to ephemerality: NUNC MIHI, MOX ALIIS or “Now mine, tomorrow others.”


But, come to think of it I do have a bookplate in one book, given to me by James Mosley, in his The Nymph & the Grot (London, 1999). The author printed a special bookplate in an experimental sans serif, designed by Justin Howes, for use in the work.


Another treasured book, Thomas Bewick’s Memoir of my Life (Oxford University Press, 1975), was given to me by the editor Iain Bain, who inscribed it around his own bookplate.

Lawyer Alfred Sutro (1869–1945) was president of the Book of Club of California. His ostentatious bookplate is gold-foil embossed on blue leather. There’s a lesson for bibliophiles here: After his death someone found a collection of his bookplates and one of these was stuck into a lurid paperback called Deviate Wives which I now own. 

Deviate Wives wiith Sutro bookplate.

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