Friday, July 25, 2008

Bookplate Names Can Fool You.

Several years ago I was offered two books from the library of Sir Ernest H. Shackelton. I was ready to buy them when a collector friend in England informed me that these were not from the famous explorers library but from a barrister's clerk who not only had the same name but also the same middle initial.
The pictorial bookplate on the left was engraved by Josiah Allen for Joseph Priestley, the chemist around 1810 while the armorial plate was used by one of his descendants.

The James Fenimore Cooper bookplate shows up on Ebay from time to time and is quickly purchased .The problem is that it did not belong to the famous author.It was used by his son or grandson, I forget which one it was.

When I was in Brooklyn the other day I went to the Unnameable Book Shop at 456 Bergen St. and got this bookplate for W.H. Annenberg . My educated guess is that it was used by Walter Annenberg , the publisher and philanthropist.

Recently an Ebay seller listed a book with the bookplate of Edward Bellamy. His underlined caption was clear "Famous Owner's Bookplate" . He included biographical information about Bellamy along with his photograph. If this was a bookplate from Bellamy's library , I wanted it and was prepared to bid aggressively in order to obtain it. I checked five or six references and was unable to verify anything so I contacted the seller for more information.This was his response:

"I can't be positive obviously, but no one else can either, I purchased it from a dealer from around where the author lived years ago, and on the assumption of the type of book, usually only the wealthier people had well conditioned books such as this."

No way was I going to bid on the item. Let someone else gamble. It's one thing for a collector to let wishful thinking override facts but it is very annoying and unprofessional when done by a dealer .
Here is an interesting book shelf blog
If you do frequent book searches this one should be bookmarked :
See you next week.


Anonymous said...

Lew, a great url - thanks from downunder

mal E (and Bh)

dr.sliderule said...

On the reference to the bookplate of Joseph Priestley engraved by Josiah Allen for JP, this must have been done well before Priestley's death in 1804 and not 1810 as noted.