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Articles of Interest

Blacking Warehouse and Fitness Studio — A Successful Novelist Seen in Bookplates


At the age of twelve, when his impoverished father was sent to the debtor’s prison, his schooling came to an abrupt end. Suddenly he found himself among the many children in the soot black London of the 19th century who were exploited in child labour. Later he used his experiences in a rat-infested blacking warehouse at the Thames in his literary work. His photographic memory retained places and persons and helped him to make them come to life again in his great novels.

Charles Dickens whose 200th anniversary is celebrated this year went through all ups and downs in life: bitter poverty and humiliation as well as extreme wealth and fame.

Grace B. Sibley

American born Grace B. Sibley (1883-1969) has the distinction of having Bookplate designs created by two of the finest Australian Bookplate artists of their time: Harold Byrne (1899-1966) and David George Perrottet (1890-1971) and was able to commission these plates directly meeting these artists face-to-face. Grace, also known as Mrs. Lewis P. Sibley, arrived in Sydney on 28 December 1935 at the absolute height of the first Bookplate revival and no better city in which to reside as it is generally accepted that the Australian Bookplate movement was born there and thrived there until it faded and lost popularity after the death of the father of the movement John Lane Mullins (1857-1939) and the devastating distraction of World War II.

It Started in a Shoebox!

In 1964, my father and I were cleaning out the apartment of my favorite uncle, Dudley Meyers. Uncle Dudley was a “bit of an eccentric” according to my mother. Dad handed me the old shoebox and said “There’s some bits of paper in that. Keep them if you want.”

I took the shoebox and a bigger box full of folded papers and dusty “Year Books”. During a summer break several years later, I decided to tackle those boxes of mysterious papers and prints.

The booklets were the “Year Books” of the American Society of Bookplate Collectors and Designers — all the way from 1929 through the early sixties. Well, I was hooked.

In the collection I found names that I recognized: Charlie Chaplin, Jack London, Raymond Burr, and Franklin Roosevelt. It was a treasure trove of history. And then there were the artists: J W Jameson, Rockwell Kent, Carl Junge, and Margaret Ely Webb.

The Bookplate Years of Heinrich Vogeler

My work in Japan was just about totally engrossing — mostly long hours and seven days a week, so it was essential to take a week or so several times in the busy year to travel about Japan and very many parts of the world.

A favourite country frequently revisited, was Germany. On one memorable fortnight, I travelled from Aachen on the comfortable, not too fast Deutsche Bahn rail network, to the little artistic township of Worpswede in North Germany. It was early evening when I arrived and in the warm old hostelry, a meal of eisbein and sauerkraut with a half bottle of Goldtropfchen, was most welcome. 

Australian and United States Bookplate Societies, Collectors and Artists: a Century-Long Friendship

American Bookplate Society, Kansas City: No sooner had the Ex Libris Society been formed in London in 1891, than it attracted much interest from across the Atlantic, and within three years over 50 Americans had joined its ranks. In 1896, the Washington [DC] Ex-Libris Society was formed, renamed the American Bookplate Society in 1897 and then folded. In 1913, another American Bookplate Society came into existence through the driving force of Alfred Fowler of Kansas City, Missouri, although its foundation members were largely based in New York City.

My Way to Collecting Bookplates

When I was a child I collected stamps like many young people in those days. But soon my schoolwork and my studies took all of my time and my collecting was put aside. My studies included history and after many years it was history that brought me back to collecting — now in the form of collecting bookplates. In the 1980s I worked at the Swedish National Archives in Stockholm. In that environment and having a great interest in history, I met the clever jurist and personal historian Bengt Rur and the excellent bookplate artist Bror Jacques de Wærn, who made my first bookplate, with a red water lily as the motif. They became my friends and introduced me to the Swedish Bookplate Society. The chairman of the Society was the well-known bookplate collector Lars C. Stolt, who as a gift gave me a large collection of bookplates. Through this acquisition I was able to start exchanging bookplates and set up my collection.

In the Beginning...; or How I Got Hooked with Bookplates

As a (sophisticated?) college sophomore in 1946 I bought for my then expanding personal library a packet of Antioch bookplates (G-9) and that one packet was all I felt I needed. Shortly thereafter at college, I met a recently returned WW II veteran. While stationed in Liverpool he had commissioned a personal bookplate from a local firm. We were married before graduation and moved to New Jersey. For some years my time was spent maintaining a home, raising a family, and in graduate school.

Sporting Bookplates

My love of the outdoors shaped my life. Born in Washington, D.C., I was raised in Oklahoma City before my service with the Marines and college. I went on to a career as a Fishery Research Biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. This work took me to the remote wilderness areas of Alaska, a laboratory in Washington State and finally to Arkansas where I have now retired.

For pleasure, I studied art at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia , Arkansas. For work, I was a bookseller specializing in hunting and fishing editions. During this time a good friend with an interest in bookplate collecting passed on. I handled the sale of his collection for the family and discovered my interest in sporting bookplates!

How I started Collecting Bookplates

Collecting seems to be in my genes. When I was nine years old, it was customary among my peers to collect fragments of shells or bombs after the raids that hit my hometown Mainz. The raids did not worry me much as we had a safe shelter in the wine cellars under our house. So whenever planes had roared above our houses we roamed the streets to search for new treasures which we took to school in shoe boxes the next day and showed around.

Also, of course, I collected stamps. The joy of finding a new precious item to add to the collection that is familiar to each collector took on strange forms when, once after a raid, I passed a damaged house. Among the debris, lying in the street, I found an envelope with three Vatican stamps. Today I wonder at the ignorance of a boy who seemed more interested in his find than in the question of what might have happened to the people that letter was sent to.

The Ex Libris of Hristo Kerin

When I entered the beautiful world of ex libris I met many important artists, collectors and connoisseurs. I soon realized that ex libris design was a part of contemporary graphic art, with lots of peculiar requirements and challenges for the artists. The art of the bookplate is popular all over the world and a lovely way to exchange creative artistic ideas.

Hristo Kerin is a Bulgarian artist who began working in the graphic arts in 1995. Born in 1966 in Pazardjik, Bulgaria, he received his Master of Fine Arts in 1992 from the University of Veliko Tarnovo "St. Ciril and Methodius", Bulgaria. He is presently a Fine Arts faculty member teaching printmaking at the University of Veliko Tarnovo.