Sunday, July 10, 2011

Accessorized Books by Gabe Konrad

I’ve long been fond of what I call “accessorized books.” Not necessarily Grangerized (extra-illustrated), where additional plates and other material have been tipped-in or the book rebound to accommodate the additions, though I’m fascinated with those volumes as well.

My focus, however, has been on books that are somehow housed with related—and often personalized—materials. I have a few examples of this on my shelves, one of which is my collection of bookseller labels. In 1986 Larry Dingman of Dinkytown Antiquarian Books in Minneapolis published the first and only book on American bookseller labels. Titled Booksellers Marks: An Illustrated Book, it resembles a stamp collectors’ album with images of various bookseller marks where you can paste the matching labels. Each volume of this limited edition came with at least three labels tipped in, and I have added dozens more to my copy. Of course, there are several thousand labels out there, so to accommodate my collection I had bookbinder Vernon Wiering ( create a matching volume with blank pages that I organized by state and country. Here I can mount my labels, adding pencil notations as I learn about the various bookshops. While booksellers from around the world are included, true antiquarian pieces (i.e. labels with independent value) are housed in a binder using Vario sheets. Vernon also made a matching slipcase to house both volumes.

My Bookseller Label website is

This brings me to bookplates. In forming my collection, I decided to use William E. Butler’s American Bookplates as the guideline, collecting fine specimens of the 140+ designers featured. I wanted to house the collection in such a way that it protected the plates long-term, did justice to the designers, and looked good on the shelf. An accessorized book was the answer.
Of course, this project has been years in the making and remains incomplete.  When I had examples from a good majority of the artists, I went back to Vernon Wiering for another album. Vernon specializes in historical bindings and repairs but does all varieties of binding work. Not only are his bindings historically accurate, they are often stunningly beautiful with exquisite detail. What I was asking of him was probably more pedestrian than his normal job, but he executed it with precision and flair. The album he created has the same height and width measurements as Butler’s book, and is nearly twice as thick. It has red paper-covered boards over a red cloth spine with “American Bookplates” stamped in black. There are enough archival leaves that I can feature one or two plates per page with nothing on the verso so no plates will rub against one another. Vernon devised a way to use additional paper bound into the gutters to act as spacers, so when the plates were added the binding wouldn’t splay open. The spacers are nearly imperceptible, even when your eyes are drawn to the beautiful endbands. The cover reads “American Bookplates – The Collection of G.L. Konrád” to add provenance and just enough snootiness to make it fun.
Both the album and Butler’s book are housed in a very strong slipcase. The case is covered with matching red cloth, and recessed into the closed end is an Ex Libris medallion that I picked up on eBay a few years ago for just a couple of dollars. The medallion came from Sweden with no hints at its origins.
Currently I have 181 plates mounted in the album from over one hundred artists, all arranged alphabetically by designer. Most are mounted using archival stamp hinges, while some of the scarcer Items—Peter Rushton Maverick, Nathaniel Hurd, et al—are held in place by archival corner mounts, like the ones used for photographs. With only one or two plates per leaf, there is plenty of room for copious pencil notes on the designers, printing techniques and the owners of the plates. And the research is where the fun begins, adding a rich background to each little piece of custom art.
As I mentioned, this collection is not complete. I still need original examples from the designers  listed below.

 If you have anything to offer please contact me at


Brown, Rudolph Stanley-

Bull, Charles Livingston

Capon, Charles Reginald

Dean, Mallette

Doolittle, Amos

Edwards, Edward Bartholomey

Fenn, Harry

Fenn, Walter James

Hapgood, Theodore Brown

Havens, James D.

Iorio, Adrian J.

Jacobson, Frederick Arthur

Johnson, Thomas

Johnston, Thomas

Kent, Norman Howe

Littlejohn, Cynthia Pugh

McCurdy, Michael

Polanski, G. Jurek

Rollinson, William

Swann, James

Turner, James

Tuttle, Henry Emerson

Unwin, Nora S.

Ward, Lynd Kendall

Wiepert, David Douglas

Wilson, Edward Arthur

Note from Lew Jaffe- I want to thank  Gabe Konrad for taking the time to submit this most interesting article and to encourage those of you wish to submit articles to contact me
Next week I will be in New York City on Sunday July 17th hitting the flea markets. If you are in New York
and have bookplates for sale or trade please contact me.

Sunday Evening 7:30 P.M.- I just listed seven items on Ebay and may add a few more on Tuesday.
Here is a link:


Felonius Monk said...

As a life-long stamp collector, I have to say I admire the functionality and simplicity of your collecting methods.

Also, amazing subject matter.

Michele said...

I really enjoyed this article.

As a relatively new collector of bookplates, I have no idea how best to display or store them.

I framed two of my Jameson bookplate proofs with a similar tree theme (no tape or glue; I was able to position them and secure them in the mat without any adhesive whatsoever)and I think they look wonderful prominently displayed near my desk.

It's great to see how other collectors display and store their bookplates. I have to say that the method employed in this article is a strikingly attractive way to showcase a bookplate collection.