Sunday, March 15, 2009

Plated Wares

Like particles, like neutrons, like individual flecks of glitter, the personal libraries of minor public figures who have long since passed on can be found scattered throughout our public libraries.
Back in the day, books from the collections of ordinary people were occasionally, through death or donation, incorporated into the library's own, and some retain the personal bookplates. I decided to start photographing them, either because I liked the design, or the typeface...or because I was holding a camera. Well, when The Internet saw me doing that, it begged to help:
"It'll only take a minute to search that name...maybe the book belonged to Someone Interesting." Well, whaddaya know, it was right!
Here are two plates I found recently, one distinctive for its ornateness, and one for its severe simplicity. Both belonged to Someone.
Look at the way the library slapped its own plate over that of George Woodward Wickersham, as if to subdue the lush grandiosity of the privately-owned volume, an 1865 edition of The Squibob Papers by John Phoenix (pseud.)

Wickersham, he of the stout name and beautiful bookplate, was born in Pittsburgh in 1858, served as Taft's Attorney General, codified international law with the League of Nations after that, then went to work for the Hoover administration, investigating the U.S criminal justice system. He died in New York City in 1936, and sometime before or after that his personal library was broken up, and this piece of personal, recreational reading fell into the library's hands. And was kept, allowing us all this opportunity to learn a little somethin' somethin'.


It was the completely utililitarian cast of this next bookplate that made me curious as to the owner, who I'm guessing was probably this Louis F. Post. He was the editor of a progressive journal located in Chicago at the right time for this to have been a contemporarily owned book, so I'm guessing we somehow got some of Mr. Post's personal library. Since his life and work don't appear to have been very jolly, it's interesting to note the book is Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, a popular work by humorist Stephen Leacock. The bookplate is useful, but quite sober:


Steve Rogg said...

That's where his ashes are. Now I'm going to have to come up with a good one for all my books! Arghhhh

Steve Rogg said...
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