Every collector, like every fisherman, has a adventure of “the one that got away.” In my case, it was a accumulating of about 2,000 bookplates that came up for auction at Sotheby’s in London about 10 years ago. Bookplates, additionally accepted as ex libris , are the affairs identification labels that one sticks in the advanced of books. At their simplest and atomic valuable, they are banal designs with a bare area you ample in your name; but the bookplates in the Sotheby’s accumulating were all engraved or categorical for accurate clients. They anachronous from the 17th to the 20th Century.
Many of the 18th-Century bookplates were beautifully engraved with coats of accoutrements amidst by busy cartouches. One such was the ex libris of Nathaniel Hillier (no relation), who was accepted to me as a contributor of Horace Walpole, the prime minister’s son and a artsy of the arts. Some of the Victorian bookplates were advised by acclaimed artists, such as W. F. Yeames, who corrective “And Aback Did You Aftermost See Your Father?” assuming a baby Royalist boy in glassy breeches actuality interrogated by flinty-faced Roundheads–a illustration reproduced in endless jigsaw puzzles and re-created at Mme. Tussaud’s waxworks in London.
I capital that collection–not from bald acquisitiveness but because I admired to audit the bookplates at leisure. (I additionally anticipation they ability be angry into a book on bookplates, breeding beeline from the originals.) Sotheby’s estimated that the accumulating ability aback about $3,000. (Of advance it would be account a lot added today.) I bid above that, but alone out at about $4,000. The bookplates went to an English clandestine collector. I wrote to him allurement if I ability appointment him and attending at the accumulating but accustomed no reply.
I accept consistently acquainted a acrimony affliction at not accepting laid my easily on that collection. However, I am a close accepter in the aphorism that if you appetite article enough, you can get it. If you don’t get it, you didn’t absolutely appetite it enough.
I remembered my abortion with the bookplate accumulating aback a Los Angeles book dealer, Jerry Hawke, contacted me afresh to acquaint me about a ample accumulating of ex libris he had acquired. This was a accumulating absolutely altered in appearance from the Sotheby’s hoard, which was mainly of English examples. Hawke’s accumulating was formed by Baron Rudolph von Hoschek (who died in 1969), from the backward 19th Century through the 1950s, and is about all of German examples. Abounding are by important artists, such as Max Klinger and Max Liebermann, and some were fabricated for acclaimed people–among them Albert Einstein, Richard Strauss, Antonin Dvorak, and Frieda von Richthofen, who affiliated D. H. Lawrence.
I asked Hawke how he had acquired the bookplates. He had had a alarm from a woman in Glendale about a book accumulating she owned. He went over to attending at it. There were 16 ample board boxes absolute four capital categories of prints: portraits of the German aristocracy, from the 15th through the 19th Century; World War I recruiting posters, bonds and added material; 800 Nazi advertising posters in excellent condition; and about 10,000 bookplates.
The folders of ex libris were alloyed about amid folders of added prints, and at aboriginal Hawke didn’t pay abundant absorption to them. “Not alone had I never taken an absorption in bookplates before, but I had never apparent one before–beyond antic labels saying: ‘This book has been baseborn from XYZ.’ ” He bought all the added prints and larboard the bookplates behind. But after he began to accept that “one that got away” feeling. He did some analysis into German Expressionist artists. He arrested out the bookplate collections in American university libraries. He was apparitional by some of the “occult” bookplates busy with skulls and skeletons. (There is a between-the-wars German kinkiness about abounding of the ex libris, some of which are aboveboard .) Hawke went aback to Glendale and bought the lot.
Hawke wants to advertise the bookplate accumulating as a whole. He has not yet formed out a price; first, he has to acquisition out what a Klinger bookplate is worth, and so on. The amount is apprenticed to be substantial. But it is accessible to activate a bookplate accumulating with a baby outlay–by affairs up about abandoned books that appear to accommodate acceptable bookplates. For example, account a devious Volume 2 of a late-18th-Century archetype of Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” Its aback awning has been ripped off, but the advanced awning is still in abode and bears a arresting engraved bookplate–let us say that of an armigerous Irish bishop. You ability be able to buy the book for $5 to $10 (it isn’t of abundant use to the banker after its accompaniment volumes or its aback cover); and lo! your ex libris accumulating is started.
Next stage: Buy yourself a archetype of Fridolf Johnson’s “A Treasury of Bookplates” (Dover Publications, 1977), the best avant-garde addition to the subject. The book traces the history of this accessory art from its august ancestry in Germany. (The earliest-known bookplate is one for Hans Igler, South German, about 1470; and apparently the finest bookplate anytime is Albrecht Durer’s block ex libris for Bilibald Pirckheimer.) Fridolf Johnson carries the adventure bottomward to some of the arresting 20th-Century designers, including Rex Whistler and the copse engravers Joan Hassall and Reynolds Stone. He devotes a folio to six examples of Stone’s work. One of the aftermost ex libris Stone engraved on copse afore his afterlife in 1979 was for me. I watched him bite it, the flourishes on anniversary letter accomplished with abiding sureness. He did not action the wood-engraving apparatus about on the wood, but calmly confused the block about beneath the knife, on a covering pad.
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