Robert Louis Dohme's Bookplate
As both a book
collector and bookplate collector, I always attend book sales with an eye toward
interesting bookplates hidden within not-so-interesting books.
Books published in the late 19th and early 20th
centuries tend to yield more bookplates than recently
published titles, so it never hurts to flip open an
older book and check out the front endpaper.
Now that I know how to remove bookplates without damaging the book (thanks to
this blog!), I always look for interesting bookplates to add to my
That is why, when I recently attended
the Friends of the Library book sale held at Gettysburg College, Pennsylvania on
July 30, I picked up an otherwise boring Harvard Classics 1910 edition of The Autobiography of Benvenuto
When I flipped the cover, I was fascinated by
the commissioned bookplate within, featuring a border of a pair of snakes
weaving through vines surrounding the central motif of a whimsical
The name on the bookplate, Alfred Robert Louis
Dohme, meant nothing to me, but the design was sufficiently compelling to
justify spending $2 on the book.
When I got home and researched the bookplate, I
was surprised to learn that it belonged to a somewhat well-known individual at
the turn of the 20th century, Dr. Alfred Robert Louis Dohme, a Baltimore
pharmacist and chemist of some renown.
Alfred Robert Louis Dohme
(1867-1952) was a chemist who founded the pharmaceutical company Sharpe and
Dohme (later Merck, Sharpe and Dohme) with a special interest in pharmaceutical
Dohme was also passionate about art and music.
He was instrumental in the founding of the Baltimore Museum of Art, as well as
being chairman of the Grand Opera Committee of Baltimore.
Dohme was married twice, with his first
marriage resulting in the birth of six daughters. When his wife died, he
remarried in 1909.
Alfred Robert Louis Dohme’s bookplate is full of
curious symbols and mysteries, including the designer, whose signature, ADOHME
’14, does not correspond to any known bookplate engravers.
Lew suggested that perhaps the designer was Dr.
Dohme’s sister, but after extensive research, I have another theory.
One of Dr. Dohme’s daughters, Adelyn Dohme
Breeskin (1896-1986), was the first woman to direct a major American art museum.
The younger Dohme planned on being an artist
and graduated from Boston’s School of Fine Arts, Crafts and Decorative Design in
1918. After graduation, she took a job in the print department of the
Metropolitan Museum of Art, later returning to Baltimore to accept the position
of curator of prints at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
In 1938, she was named general curator of the
museum and built one of the finest works on paper collections in the country.
In 1947, Adelyn Dohme was named director of the Baltimore Museum of
So it is reasonable to conclude that Adelyn
Dohme (ADOHME ‘14) was the artist and designer of her father’s intriguing
bookplate. In 1914, the aspiring artist would have been 18 years old.
I want to thank
Michele for submitting this article.You, my readers are encouraged to submit
articles for inclusion in the blog.If English is not your primary language I can
assist you with the editing.. Send a brief outline of your proposed article
Some Recent additions to my collection
The HQ of the Prussian Association of Jewish
Communities (Preussischer Landesverband
Jüdischer Gemeinden ) was located at Kantstr. 158, Berlin, and officially founded in 1922
"Wanderbücherei" (book mobile / mobile library) may mean
either a library mounted on a truck or it was moved by a truck to be stationed
somewhere for a limited time
8/23/2014 It always amazes me when questions are answered at lightning speed. Fellow collector Jacques Laget found a book description
which contained the following information:
Printed for the Century Club by D.B. Updike at the Merrymount Press, Boston (Smith 957). Brief eulogies of club members who died in 1943, including Steven Vincent Benet, Pierpont Morgan, and Lt. Tom La Farge, whose cutter foundered in an ice storm off the coast of Newfoundland while returning from a "difficult and very valuable work in the North Atlantic area."