Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dealer/Collector Profile Thomas G. Boss


    I am a book dealer and collector in Salem, Massachusetts who many years ago strayed into the fascinating world of bookplates. In  1981 , after having collected bookplates in a mild way, I was offered and purchased the dealer stock of  Frank Allen .It contained nearly 18,000 plates. In the years since I have maintained the largest dealer stock ( 20,000 plus) in the United States.
My stock of rare books principally includes items which are notable for their illustration, binding or fine printing, mainly between the years of 1890 and 1945. I have examples of "the book as art" from all of the major design movements in this time period, namely arts & crafts, art nouveau, Wiener Werkstatte, art deco, etc, etc.
My Interest In The Club Bindery and Early American Bookbinders
                 Bookbinding in leather is a major interest as both a collector and dealer, especially the whole range of American work from the 17th century to the present. In 2004, I mounted an exhibition at The Grolier Club in New York called "Bound To Be The Best,". My focus was on the superlative work of The Club Bindery during their short existence starting in 1895. These books came almost entirely from my thirty-five year personal collection . I also  published a large, color-illustrated book on The Club Bindery that same year.
What I Collect and Sell
                 My dealer stock of bookplates is vast and it , includes early American ex-libris, as well as English, French, German and Australian examples. I especially like Edwin Davis French's work and collect as well as sell it. I also enjoy plates from the art deco period, c.1930, with stylized images of skyscrapers and automobiles. Bookplates printed in gilt on leather are another interest, as are those of famous people,mainly those involved in the book arts. My collection, although I've never counted, may be about 10,000 plates.
Books I Will Be Publishing
                 I'm planning  to publish two books on bookplates. Each will  contain an original example of the artist's work. The first will be on Jessie King's Sam Mavor bookplate and the second on the famous book collector Francis Kettaneh and his leather ex-libris. I published a similar book containing four original bookplates by Rockwell Kent a few years ago.
I recently edited Bookplates of the Club of Odd Volumes, a book picturing the plates of past and present members of this Boston institution founded in 1887.
Note From Lew Jaffe- I have known Tom Boss for over thirty years and he has contributed mightily to my own collection. He can be contacted at or you can visit his website
Next week I plan to write about bookplates with American flags.

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