A Brief History Of The Antioch Bookplate Company And Bookplate Ink
By Karen Gardner
My association with bookplates began in 1990 when I took a position with the small weekly newspaper in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Home to Antioch College, Yellow Springs was also the location of The Antioch Company, one of the largest producers of bookplates in the world.
The company formerly known as The Antioch Bookplate Company began as a resourceful response by two students working in the college print shop at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Ernest Morgan and Walter Kahoe noticed the barrels of paper scraps left behind in the printing process and wanted to find a use for the material. As part of Antioch College’s renowned work study program, they began printing decorative bookplates on the scrap paper after hours. With permission from the college, they named their venture the Antioch Bookplate Company and Morgan began hitchhiking around the country selling the bookplates. Kahoe later sold his interest in the business to Morgan for two hundred dollars, and Morgan went on to expand the business, while still attending college.
The Antioch Bookplate Company continued to grow in the next decades, with Ernest Morgan adding artwork from well-known artists such as Rockwell Kent, Daniel Burne Jones and the Dutch woodcut artist Thijs Mauve. Antioch also acquired other companies, such as The Etchcraft Company, along with their designs. Sales climbed as the Antioch Bookplate Company sold to more and more dealers around the world.
Since its early days, the Antioch Bookplate Company offered personalized bookplates to customers. The company would print the customer’s name on any of the designs in their catalog, or would print bookplates with custom artwork provided by the customer. Personalized designs were kept on file so that customers could reorder in later years. The company focused increasingly towards sales through dealers because individual small orders were not as profitable. Eventually The Antioch Company forged a business agreement with the local newspaper, the Yellow Springs News, The newspaper agreed to continue printing personalized bookplates, provided directly to individual customers, and acquired many Antioch designs.
When I came to the Yellow Springs News in 1990, my responsibilities included overseeing the bookplate printing business.
I was surprised and pleased to realize that one of the most popular designs was given to me by my mom as a teenager * .
At that time, most of the bookplate orders came in from retail catalogs or referrals by The Antioch Company. Fascinated with the bookplate designs, I continued expanding the business after becoming a co-owner of the newspaper in 1991. I separated from daily duties at the Yellow Springs News in 2004 and devoted myself to the bookplate business,which was renamed Bookplate ink
Sales at Bookplate Ink have increased with the popularity of Internet shopping. With overseas shipping and credit card processing, Bookplate Ink has customers though out the world. In 2008, the Antioch Company discontinued printing and selling bookplates. As many former customers are still devoted to the bookplate designs they have used in their books for years, Bookplate Ink has expanded its inventory to include many bookplates that had been out of print, such as the designs by Benton Ferguson , Robert Whitmore and Owen Wise.
Bookplate Ink also continues to print bookplates for customers who provide original custom artwork.
I have found the bookplate business to be a rewarding niche. Particularly gratifying are those occasions when a customer finds the same design that he or she had as a child .
P.O. Box 547577
Orlando, FL 32854
A Few Additional Comments By Lew Jaffe
First, I want to thank Karen for taking the time to write about her recollections of time spent at Antioch and to encourage all of you to visit her website .
Several weeks ago a collector wrote to inquire why I was devoting so much time and energy to a company whose designs were pedestrian. I took exception with his elitist point of view but really did not know how to respond. After reading Karen's article I realized why I am focusing on this Company.
My brother also has a bookplate given to him by our mother when he was a teenager .My wife has Antioch bookplates in dozens of her books.Many of us used their bookplates . They are a part of our cultural history which disappeared before we knew what happened. Even the close relatives of many of the Antioch artists who have died have very little information to offer. The history of those artists needs to be recorded and captured before it is completely forgotten. Next week I plan to write about Benton Ferguson , one of my favorite Antioch bookplate designers. See you then.