Ex Libris: Comforts, Adventures, and Creatures

Could there be a better bookplate for January?

It has taken several months, but I’ve now checked most of the books around here for good bookplates.  This one takes the prize.

Fred and Emilie were “my kind of folk;” I want to be in that rocker by that fire, with them for company, whoever they are or were.  I like the brick apron in front of the fireplace, too; the small fire-place that surely is a Rumford that throws the heat out into the room; the massive chimney that stores the heat; the brass dogs and set of tools.

Who built the house?  Who picked out, dragged home, split, fit, and finished that log for the mantel? Just think: you could grab ahold of one of those home-fashioned corbels while leaning over to stir the fire and at the same time enjoy the classical-Roman look of that big finial, or cap, on the fire-box.  That finial looks slotted, as though designed to let more warmth into the room from the back of the fire-box.  Think that’s what it is?

And is that a globe on the mantel? It bears a design that might be North and South America.  It looks a bit smushy, though, up there in the shadows. Think that is an artifact of the woodcut technique?

The bookshelves sag to one side, and Fred and Em would certainly have more volumes spilling out all over, including lying horizontally on top of the others, not just to keep them off the floor but also to keep things organized by subject.  And they would want them handy to the fireplace and the rocker.  What are they reading tonight?

This 1904 true-life thriller has for complete title Pathfinders of the West,  Being the Thrilling Story of the Adventures of the Men Who Discovered the Great Northwest:   Radisson, La Vérendrye, Lewis and Clark.  So of course it starts off with the fur country:  trees, wolf-howls through crystal skies, sleds and sled dogs, and lots of snow and ice!  We need blankets for our rocking chairs.  You just sit right there, honey, I’ll throw on another log.

I don’t know who Roger Hirsch is or was, but I love him just the same.  Look at the bookplate he chose for his copy of the Modern Library’s Sixteen Famous British Plays!  I hope he read plays aloud at home, and with friends.

The spectacular hat of this dwarf I suspect has two horns, like a jester hat.  What think you? The book under his arm has those plates at the corners, bison leather or metal, and a cover that looks like deeply-embossed leather or maybe wood.  What is he reading?  Every thing about him is just as gnomish as it ought to be, with pebbles underfoot, mushrooms sprouting up, gnarled trees; patches on his clothes, – and reading glasses!?!

And then the frame has the most wonderful creatures all haloed about with vines!  Up top we have Chuck and Nancy, then a bear, a rooster, a reindeer or some such, a giraffe, some kind of bird (those who can see birds, please identify it,) a superlative ram, another bird (mayhap a heron?) a leaping rabbit, and a woodpecker.  Our cares amount to nothing when there are such books to be read and such friends to be met.

This is not a bookplate at all, but a painting by Heinrich Schlitt (fl. 1870s.)  It is Gnom mit Zeitung und Tabakspfeife (Gnome with Newspaper and Tobacco Pipe.)  The gnome is sitting under a mushroom and looking up at a jar, and in the jar is a frog.  What this means I leave for you to determine.  Stare into the lovely warming flames of the fire and figure it out.

Those blue flowers on the left we have around here; we call them Bluebells of Scotland.  If spring comes, they will start up again at the front of the house.

Christmas 1898 – Aunt Rimmie to Leon H. Teitenberg.  Why, thank you, Aunt Rimmie!  The Treasure of the Seas is the perfect gift for a lion-hearted lad in 1893.  Check the first part of the Table of Contents:

A Mast in Mid-ocean!  Buccaneers!  Spanish Galleon!  Leon, your friends will want to borrow this book.  You had better put a bookplate in it.  Oh, look, so he did:

Previous posts on bookplates are here and then again here.  Are there more favorite specimens out there in Ratburgia?

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13 thoughts on “Ex Libris: Comforts, Adventures, and Creatures”

  1. I LOVE these bookplates!

    The first is as you say beautifully drawn, with all the details you point out. I also like how the chair’s stile and rocker break through the frame of the drawing; and how the artist, which just a few ticks, indicated the chair has one of those woven rush seats, with 4 triangles that meet in the middle.

    The hobbity dwarf plate is just exquisite. It’s quite difficult to draw details into small spaces, as that artist has done so well with the dwarf’s head – eyes, smile, beard and eyeglasses, in a space as big as your thumbnail?! You must leave out just the right lines to give the impression of all those things without crowding the space. I love his tasseled jester cap too, and the silhouette border is again detailed but so clear (Chuck & Nancy, lol!). Perhaps the bird lower left is an ostrich? – I think ostrich plumes were a rage in late Victorian fashion, not sure if this book is from that era.

    The Gnome & frog are lovely in the atmospheric painting – perhaps frogs are rather magical, like gnomes, since they figure into several fairy tales?

    but what is “Rimmie” a nickname for, do you think?

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  2. btw I love silhouette drawings, I’ve done lots of them for a children’s theater group that performs classics – like these below, you probably can guess the stories . . .

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  3. I adore the first one!  You can feel  the heat.  I was taking stock recently,  and mused aloud, “What do I do that makes me truly happy?” “Reading in front of the fireplace,” my husband responded without hesitation.

    The last one makes me laugh.  I’ve noticed for years that if I  lend out a book I really don’t care about, like, I’ve  read it and Im not gonna read it again, people will go to any  lengths to get it back to me!   The more I say, that’s okay, really, keep it!  the more determined they become: No, no, meet me under the bridge at midnight and I’ll give it back!

    But lend a book that’s important to you, even to  someone you know is also a book lover,  with whom you’ve discussed the particular codex so they’re aware that it has meaning for you–

    and you will never see that book again. 

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  4. Not a bookplate, but a truly brilliant witty inscription: my sister gave my brother a book one Christmas, and he asked her to write in it. She wrote:

    “Jim–Can I borrow this?”

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  5. Pencilvania:
    I LOVE these bookplates!

    The first is as you say beautifully drawn, with all the details you point out. I also like how the chair’s stile and rocker break through the frame of the drawing;

    If the rocker can get through to me, maybe I can go through to the rocker!

    and how the artist, which just a few ticks, indicated the chair has one of those woven rush seats, with 4 triangles that meet in the middle.

    I enjoy the details.  Then you point out how they are done. Thank you; it is absolutely delightful.

    The hobbity dwarf plate is just exquisite. It’s quite difficult to draw details into small spaces, as that artist has done so well with the dwarf’s head – eyes, smile, beard and eyeglasses, in a space as big as your thumbnail?! You must leave out just the right lines to give the impression of all those things without crowding the space.

    The dwarf plate measures 3 by 4 inches. His whole head, including the cap, is smaller than my thumbnail.  Leaving out lines as you describe certainly works.  Look at all those lines everywhere else; the picture is crawling with lines.

    I love his tasseled jester cap too, and the silhouette border is again detailed but so clear (Chuck & Nancy, lol!). Perhaps the bird lower left is an ostrich? – I think ostrich plumes were a rage in late Victorian fashion, not sure if this book is from that era.

    Ostrich plumes!  Yes, that’s what those are, and they come on an ostrich.  The book is from 1942.  Wouldn’t you say that the engraving is straight out of the late Victorian or Edwardian tradition?  Fanciful themes with lots of detail?

    The Gnome & frog are lovely in the atmospheric painting – perhaps frogs are rather magical, like gnomes, since they figure into several fairy tales?

    but what is “Rimmie” a nickname for, do you think?

    I think Miranda.  A friend named Robin is called by the diminutive Nabi.  So it is not unknown to have consonants trade places for diminutives.

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  6. Pencilvania:
    btw I love silhouette drawings, I’ve done lots of them for a children’s theater group that performs classics – like these below, you probably can guess the stories . . .

    Sleeping Beauty? No: The Secret Garden?  I like that white key in her hand.  She had to have stood on tiptoe to have worked the lock in that door.

    Um, Alice?

    Even I recognize the Yellow Brick Road.  My husband stranded me on the real Yellow Brick Road (Coronado, California) and bad me hold the bus for him while he looked in a rockshop window.  Get me out of the Land of Oz!

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  7. Hypatia:
    I adore the first one!  You can feel  the heat.  I was taking stock recently,  and mused aloud, “What do I do that makes me truly happy?” “Reading in front of the fireplace,” my husband responded without hesitation.

    The last one makes me laugh.  I’ve noticed for years that if I  lend out a book I really don’t care about, like, I’ve  read it and Im not gonna read it again, people will go to any  lengths to get it back to me!   The more I say, that’s okay, really, keep it!  the more determined they become: No, no, meet me under the bridge at midnight and I’ll give it back!

    But lend a book that’s important to you, even to  someone you know is also a book lover,  with whom you’ve discussed the particular codex so they’re aware that it has meaning for you–

    and you will never see that book again. 

    That is terrible.  Too bad there isn’t a magic spell you can put on the book to make it tesser back to you after a certain time, or when it is threatened by some danger, like being left on some idiot’s lawn overnight.

    I hope you don’t acquiesce in the bridge-at-midnight demands!

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  8. “Rimmie” could be for Ramona..or maybe Francesca, if you’re super literate and a pre-Raphaelite…

    This reminds me of the days, not so long ago either! but irretrievably gone,  when everybody in the educated classes gave, and got, books as gifts .  It was ideal, flattering to both the giver and the receiver!  You only had or worry that you had chosen  so well that the recipient already had the book.  (I gave my dad a book one birthday,  and found him very nearly finished with it , like, an hour later.  Had he become a speed reader? No. He was constrained tomreluctantly confess that my sister had given him the same book a week before! )

    And, you could give personalized book plates, as gifts, like the ones displayed here! Also a flattering present.  I mean, everybody has books!

    I cant imagine doing that now, athough I who write am a rabid lover of the codex.  But I assume all my friends are like me, seduced by the speed and ease of electronic access, so, if they  wanted a particular text, they’d summon it up on their IPad or Kindle.

    Burgeoning, unruly piles of books in a home used to be an outward and visible sign of the occupants’ inward and invisible intelligence.  What will replace it?

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  9. Hypatia:
    What will replace it?

    Nothing. This post brought back a lot of memories between my father and me. We were both historical biography buffs; I loved the American Revolution and he was fascinated by the Civil War.

    One favorite memory: He gave me Doris Kearns Goodwin’s last book on Lincoln and was so pleased that I gobbled it up and complimented the author on finding something new to write about this president. I reciprocated with Ron Chernow’s Hamilton and Dad was as equally impressed with the brain power of the Founders.

    We had our own special little ‘book clubs’ if you will and I miss them everyday!

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  10. Pencilvania:
    (the middle silhouette was for a show about Beatrix Potter, who wrote Peter Rabbit)

    Thanks and duh!  B. Potter is holding a pen and a sketchbook.

    I like the way you have Peter Rabbit holding one arm up like that.  He speaks to her.  He may not speak to anybody else, but he speaks to her.

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  11. It amazes me that with a few lines and color one can make emotions come alive. It is one of the simplest and most moving form of communication.

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