Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Bookplate Cake

I know of bookplates on paper, leather, silver,card, papyrus,vellum, silk, and even stone but have you ever heard of a bookplate done in icing sugar ? – that would be the strangest thing, especially if it dated from the third quarter of the 16th century ? Well, no I haven’t and no it doesn’t, but if you look at The Bookplate Society’s website you’ll find that the British society is this year celebrating its 40th anniversary. What fun and how appropriate to have at their latest auction meeting in April 2012 a birthday cake decorated with a passable reproduction of the earliest British armorial bookplate. It is that of Lord Chancellor Sir Nicholas Bacon (1509-79). As Brian North Lee tells us in his classic text British Bookplates (David & Charles, 1979, an essential book for the exlibris collector), this hand-colored bookplate, with an inscription in type below, marked about 70 volumes given by Bacon in 1574 to assist the rebuilding of Cambridge University Library. Today’s collectors will never own an example of this Bacon bookplate (look in Lee’s book or in Egerton Castle’s English Book-Plates if you wish to see a reproduction), although they may just be lucky enough to acquire a copy of the 2nd edition of Gerard Legh’s Accedence of Armorie, 1568, in which the woodcut originally appeared, prior to its re-use as a bookplate. As regards the modern icing sugar version, it was lifted from the top of the cake, auctioned off for $8 and survives in pride of place on a lady’s dining room table. The rest of the sponge cake has of course been consumed, and is long gone. So there is certainly more to bookplate collecting than you might ever imagine!
The news and events page of its website tells how the British Bookplate Society is the successor to the Ex Libris Society (flourished 1891-1908). It’s well worth joining for its publications and to enable you to participate in its auctions, and at $65 the subscription is good value. Too often we procrastinate and then another year goes by. Now is the time to join The Bookplate Society.

For a history of The Bookplate Society and details of membership benefits go to 

or go straight to the online application form at

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