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Articles of Interest

Cambridge Bookplate

The art of ex libris has been my passion and primary focus since 1977. In school, my studies included graphic design and photography at the Massachusetts College of Art. From there I went on to pursue an exciting career in the New England graphic arts field. What I mean to say is that there was rarely a dull moment during my three decades in this business.

A Window Opened

One of London’s most unforgettable sights is the famous Portobello Road antiques market, which takes place only on Saturdays from early morning to late afternoon. The busiest part of this straggling market lies between the Notting Hill Gate and Ladbroke Grove tube stations. An architecturally undistinguished and rather depressing street of shuttered shops with only a few pubs and food shops open during the week, seems sleepy and neglected, but on Saturdays the whole area erupts in a frenzy of activity. Dealers in the hundreds arrive before breakfast time putting up and setting out stalls on every possible site, and opening up the shuttered shops to disclose dozens of tiny sales booths inside. Some hopefuls even defy the regulations by parking their cars and selling from them in streets leading to the Market!

Will the Real Mr. Barrett Please Stand Up?

London in the eighties and the gay nineties, that was the place to be! The palatial hotels, the theatres, riding in Hyde Park, the glossy toppers of the “swells” and the rich finery of the ladies, it was all of a piece. And then the shops, the finest in all the world without a doubt – the furriers, the milliners, jewelers, and fashionable portrait ateliers for the ladies, and shirt makers, hatters gunsmiths and tobacconists for the gentlemen.

For both sexes there were the superb bookshops; Sotherans, Hatchards and at the top of the tree in service and elegance, Bumpus, the bookshop favored by the Royal Family, though the Prince of Wales, ‘Tumtum’ to his sporting and gambling friends, scarcely opened a book not concerned with pornography or race horses.

Two Leipzig Bookplates

The Background:

Every bookplate has a story to tell; but not many of those stories will recount the horrendous series of tragedies represented by the two examples shown here. They were created as presents from my grandfather, Geheimrat Dr. Henri Hinrichsen, to my grandmother, Martha Hinrichsen and to their third son, my uncle, Hans-Joachim Hinrichsen. The huge cumulative sorrow, which these bookplates carry, is a small part of the much greater tragedy, which we all know of as the Holocaust.

The Lighthouse of My Life

Even now I can hardly explain why I paid so much attention to that article in an old newspaper in my mother’s house. It was in 1985, when the Soviet Union still existed. A strange and unexpected disease had suddenly come upon me and was slowly taking my sight. I was in an out of the hospital every month and I had to quit my job as an architect. It seemed to me like the end of my life. I was 29 and felt emptiness inside. My soul was seeking an exit or, maybe, a new entrance at that moment.


The Ex Libris World of Hideko Matsubara

Women of exceptional talent have made important advances in Japanese ex libris art during recent years and in this article I offer a brief outline of the unusual and entirely delightful work of Hideko Matsubara.

When my wife and I visited Hideko and her gifted husband Kunimitsu at their atelier in Kyoto some years ago, we were astonished by the spectacle of hundreds of sheets of Japanese washi (handmade paper) strung up in lines in some of the rooms, looking rather like brightly colored washing on clothes lines.

This was the drying state of the katazome process employed by the Matsubaras. They have since moved to a large old house in Matsuyama on Shikoku Island where there is much more space and a more convenient setting for their fascinating work.

The Bookplates of Theodore Brown Hapgood

One of the possible reasons that the name Theodore Brown Hapgood is not today too well known is that he was the consummate jack-of-all-trades artist. His designs were applied to book covers and jackets, title pages and vignettes, illuminations and frames, monuments and tablets, ecclesiastical vestments and last, but not least, bookplates!

Hapgood was born in Somerville, Massachusetts in 1871. He was a cheerful, friendly man who was known as “Happy.” His friend Parker Archibald said: “The chief characteristic of ‘Happy’s’ work… is its quality of finality. He worshipped fine craftsmanship. Therefore, his greatest delight was in providing master craftsmen with designs worthy of their skill.”

Book Review: Rockwell Kent: The Art of the Bookplate

Don Roberts, Rockwell Kent: The Art of the Bookplate (San Francisco: Fair Oaks Press, 2003). Hard-bound, 212 pp., with a 4 pp. foreword by Will Ross, 167 b. & w. ills., illustrated dust jacket. $32. The first edition includes five hundred numbered copies with a bookplate, designed by Christopher Kent as a tribute to his grandfather, printed from a copper plate on archival paper, tipped in on the front end paper. $42.

Mexican Artistic Ex Libris of the 20th Century

During the first years of the twentieth century a certain interest started for ex libris in Mexico. Doctor Nicolas Leon published part of his collection in the Bulletin for the Mexican Bibliographic Institute. With this new perspective, several artists with a profound taste for Mexican history started creating ex libris for their fellow historians. Felix Parra with his disciples Valerio Prieto and Mateo Saldaña who started the century with several ex libris still very much in the academic style of the XIX century. The first ex libris to be considered as modern was created in 1905 by Julio Ruelas.

Martin Baeyens: Innovative Expression

Martin Baeyens is an award winning Belgian artist with an impressive checklist of more than 400 ex libris and occasional graphics dating back to 1965. Born in Melle, Belgium on April 4th, 1943, he studied graphic design in Belgium and at present, he is a teacher of graphic design.

Many fine artists have little interest in designing ex libris. They consider it to be too fussy, detailed and without real challenge. “Petit bourgeois art with no honor to be gained and which produces hardly any income”. Aside from this, limited technical expertise and misconstrued perception of the collectors’ interests have caused discouragement.