Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bookplates and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels by Douglas Adams

Bookplates In The Forgery Book Collection Of Douglas Adams
I am a novice when it comes to the bookplate, but as a book collector I have come to appreciate the art and provenance that a bookplate can impart. I collect books on literary forgery and this encompasses, for me, fakes, frauds, forgeries and the occasional hoax. In a collection comprised of about 400 volumes, there are a number of books with ex libris. A few of my personal favorites are displayed here.
 I acquired several volumes a few years back, including The Two Forgers by John Collins and Introductions . . . to the Catalogue of the Ashley Library containing the bookplate of Frederick Baldwin Adams Jr. Adams was a noted book collector and for many years director of the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City.

This bookplate is, of course, designed by Rockwell Kent. Jake Wien, author of Rockwell Kent: The Mythic and The Modern describes the image as "poetically portray[ing] a lone soul contemplating the darkened universe by way of a shimmering star, as though it were a book emanating mysterious energy." The Two Forgers volume was presented to Adams from Collins with the simple inscription "F.A. from J.C. with many thanks". Adams passed away in 2001, and his library was dispersed at auction in London at Sotheby’s in November of that year. If, however, this book had been happened upon by other means and lacked the bookplate an inscription such as above would have very little significance. The two books with Adams’ bookplate relate to the sensational forgeries of Thomas James Wise and Harry Buxton Forman. These forgers "manufactured" first editions of great literary icons from the 19th Century and were finally exposed by John Carter and Graham Pollard in their bibliographical masterpiece, An Enquiry into the Nature of Certain Nineteenth Century Pamphlets. H. Buxton Forman was a great scholar and his bibliographies of Shelly and Keats are still regularly consulted. Forman was also a collector of works produced at the Kelmscott Press by William Morris. Forman used two bookplates, one known as his "Shelly" and the other as his "Kelmscott". Forman’s "Kelmscott" bookplate was reserved specifically for Kelmscott Press productions.

One other item related to the Wise/Forman saga is a copy of A Catalogue of the Library of the Late John Henry Wrenn. Many of the books Wrenn acquired were purchased from Thomas Wise and as a result Wise’s forgeries wound up in his collection. In 1918, The University of Texas purchased the Wren collection and unwittingly inherited one of the largest collections of spurious 19th-century pamphlets. The catalogue was published in 1920 and each volume bears the bookplate of John Henry Wrenn, which was designed and engraved by Sir Henry John Fanshawe Badeley.
 In 1840, booksellers from around the world gathered in Binche, Belgium for the auction of a unique collection of books formed by one Comte de Fortsas. Upon the prescribed auction date no one could find the auction site and inquires from potential attendees revealed that no one had ever heard of Fortsas. Eventually, Renier Hubert Ghislain Chalon was outed as the mastermind behind this hoax. Copies of the original catalogue are quite scarce. The copy in my collection was sold at auction in 1999 and bears a Zamorano Club bookplate noting donation by Robert E. Cowan. Since acquiring the Fortsas catalogue I have obtained a copy of the 1999 sale catalogue which gives a detailed description of the present volume and together solidify the provenance. Robert E. Cowan was a Bibliographer, Bookseller and Librarian of William Andrews Clark Library.
  In a 1st edition copy of Thomas Chatterton’s Poems supposed to have been written at Bristol by Thomas Rowley and others, in the Fifteenth Century is the leather bookplate of Julius Wangenheim. Wangenheim was trained as an engineer, became a banker, helped form the San Diego Public Library, and became a lifelong bibliophile. I believe this ex libris to be designed by Alice Ellen Klauber who was an artist, bookplate designer and sister-in-law of Wangenheim.
 Another leather bookplate can be found in Spectra: A Book of Poetic Experiments written by Witter Bynner and Arthur Davison Ficke under the pseudonyms of "Emanuel Morgan" and "Anne Knish," in 1916. Intending to mock the then "modern" schools of poetry, Bynner and Ficke became consumed as their poems achieved some success. The hoax was revealed in 1918. One copy in my collection bears the bookplate John Stuart Groves. I have been unable to gather much information on Groves or his bookplate, save that he was a noteworthy bibliophile and most of his library was sold off during the 1930’s. In Eugene Field’s book, The love affairs of a bibliomaniac, he states ". . . the bookplate gives the volume a certain status it would not otherwise have." If only he had known how those words would be put to use by his son Eugene Field II. After the passing of his father in 1895, Eugene "Pinny" Field II implemented a scheme to sell off a portion of his father’s books and in the process forever corrupted every single printed item related to the great poet. With his partner in crime, Harry Dayton Sickles, the two became masterful forgers. Probably, the affair began innocently with Pinny selling identifiable books from his father’s library—those having special bindings or Eugene Field’s bookplate, etc. Soon it was realized the addition of a signature realized higher prices. Eventually, the supply of books and original bookplates became exhausted. More books were bought, a "reproduction" of Field Sr.’s bookplate was made, signatures added, and statements of authenticity written out by Pinny onto the flyleaves. My copy of the anthology Lotos Leaves, containing a Mark Twain story entitled An Encounter with an Interviewer, bears on the front pastedown a signed bookplate of Eugene Field and is signed and dated by Twain on the title page. This bookplate (at right, below) measures 4" x 6 7/8" and is a "creative" forgery of the original. Eugene Field Sr.’s original bookplate (at left, below) is a dainty 1" x 1 3/4" and did not contain the family crest. There is a third variation in the style of the forged larger bookplate, but with the printing much more crude and with a few differences. Everything about this copy in my collection is complete and utter fraud. William L. Butts in, Absolutely, Mister Sickles? Positively, Mister Field! New Light on the Eugene "Pinny" Field II and Harry Dayton Sickles Forgery Case, provides excellent insight into the whole affair and has a short chapter on the Eugene Field bookplates. & My quest in collecting bookplates began with the purchase of a large stockpile of books, mostly printed from before 1900. A number of the volumes were in terrible condition with detached boards, water damage, etc. In culling the good from the bad, I couldn’t force myself to dispense with those volumes having bookplates. I had no room either to store volumes deemed for recycle, so I learned to remove and save the old bookplates. As my book collecting has progressed so has my bookplate collecting: I only collect those bookplates which have significance to the field of books I collect. This includes the forgers themselves, the victims, and the authors who wrote about them. My primary working list is a bibliography I have been compiling, and found on-line, at From this list I am interested in obtaining bookplates of those persons mentioned. Should any reader wish to learn more about the fascinating field of literary forgeries I suggest starting with the University of Delaware on-line exhibit of the Frank Tober Collection. A nice catalogue was published and, as a bonus, tipped-in at the rear is a bookplate designed by Henry Morris of the Bird & Bull Press.

. I want to thank Douglas Adams for submitting a very informative article .Any images which are not properly positioned within the article are due to my limited skill in working with the computer. See you next Sunday.

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