Sunday, October 22, 2017

Odds and Ends

 Occasionally I examine  the page views for this blog by   country .
This is an analysis of the last thirty days.Surprisingly the U.K. is much lower than usual and I have no idea why the French readership has dramatically increased.
China is not shown because of its pissing contest with Google.

United States
United Kingdom
United Arab Emirates

From the why  did I  buy this bookplate collection

I spotted this bookplate in  Indiana Bookplates by Esther Griffin White.
It is also mentioned here.

"The railroad executive, doctor, and book collector Frank
 Graef Darlington of Indianapolis, ordered a bookplate design from Frank
 S. Bowers, the famous cartoonist for the
Indianapolis News. Bowers crammed in references to all of 
Darlington’s passions (engineering, mining, MIT) and surrounded a 
leering skeleton with a python border. Darlington struggled with health 
issues most of his adult life (suffering a debilitating
 stroke at age thirty-seven) and apparently had a wry sense of his own 
mortality. A fellow bibliophile commented that this particular bookplate
 was appropriate for Darlington as it held a “hideous and inexplicable 

Email  from blog readers

Fellow Collector  Ben  Zeckel sent this email

Hi Lew,

I wonder if you might have any ideas on how to approach researching the identity of the plate attached - ex libris et musicis Dr. Norbert Rossa by Ludwig Hesshaimer 1933

Thanks for any advice you can offer.

Note From Lew
Here is some information about the artist.

Can anyone out there identify Dr. Norbert Rossa ?
Please send your responses to 
Paul Cymrot a bookseller in Washington D.C. and Fredericksburg,Va, sent
the following emails
Good morning, 
I have stumbled onto your fascinating blog this morning while researching an early and interesting bookplate. I wonder if you might be able to help me learn a little bit more about it. 

It’s small and plain, about 2” x 2.5”, with decorative border, name and address.

The address is 266 Arch St, Philadelphia, which of course is an important central location, & just around the corner from Franklin’s print shop.

The book is in a copy of Jefferson’s Notes (London 1787) bound with the 1800 (Philadelphia-printed) appendix, printed by another Philadelphia printed, Samuel H. Smith.
Before long he sent additional information about Mr.Priestman   Priestman was an English merchant and resident of Baltimore. He is best remembered for amassing a remarkable library and for running afoul of the early US import regulations, resulting in a Supreme Court ruling (against him) and eventual pardon from President Thomas Jefferson.
In 1798 Priestman imported 219 watches from England, paid import tax in Baltimore, and then transported the watches the Philadelphia. Upon arriving in Philadelphia, he failed to report the watches to Philadelphia customs officials. Instead, he set up a stall to sell them -- right next door to the Custom House. Customs inspector Sharp Delany promptly seized them. Priestman sued for their return, but Pennsylvania courts and eventually the Supreme Court both ruled against him. Priestman continued to fight for the return of his watches, “Two hundred and three silver watches, three gold ditto, two enamelled ditto, two hunting ditto, and seven pinchback ditto…” (from Jan 22, 1798 report written by Sharp Delany, in American State Papers, volume 9) through the final years of the Adams administration. In so doing, he contributed money to Thomas Jefferson’s Republicans -- and in 1801, the same year Jefferson assumed the presidency -- Customs inspector Sharp Delany was fired, Priestman was pardoned, and Jefferson ordered the watches returned to him.
According to contemporary assessments, the watches were worth $3,385, which was a fortune at the time.
Priestman’s address (on the bookplate) is 266 Arch Street. The house still stands (there is a Starbucks there). It is at the corner of Arch and N. 3rd Street, directly across the street from Betsy Ross’s house & just around the corner from Benjamin Franklin’s house & printing press. 4.5 blocks to Independence Hall. It is a remarkably prominent location & its proximity to Franklin’s Press raises the question of whether the bookplate might have been printed there. Despite proximity to Franklin’s shop, it’s also worth noting that the Appendix was printed by Samuel H. Smith, another Philadelphia printer & particular friend of Thomas Jefferson. Since it was Smith who published the Appendix & likely bound the two together, it seems more likely that it was Smith who made the bookplate. I have not yet been able to find matching examples of either Smith or Franklin bookplates.
Other Priestman bookplates (mentioned in online listings) give his address at Market and 9th St, about 6 blocks from the Arch St address.
When the Federal Government moved from Philadelphia to Washington in 1800, Jefferson urged Smith to move with it & to set up a print shop in the new City. Smith agreed, and established one of Washington’s first newspapers, “The National Intelligencer.” Smith went on to publish Jefferson’s Parliamentary Manual in 1801. Then in 1813 he was appointed Commissioner of the Revenue and in 1814, briefly, the Secretary of the Treasury (under Madison).
Priestman died in 1830 and is buried at Christ Church in Philadelphia.
Priestman appears to have put together quite an impressive library - many of them are catalogued and identified in the collection of the American Philosophical Library, which bought a number of maps from Priestman in a famous 1831 sale. The correct Jefferson map is not mentioned among them.

Note from Lew

Thank you Paul -

I hope to visit your shop on my next trip to Washington

10/23/2017 I received this comment from Carmen Valentino
If Priestman died in 1830, then the 266 Arch St. address was elsewhere because I believe the street nubers in the city were changed at some point AFTER 1830. !!
Carmen D. V.

I recently purchased this bookplate by Annie French.

This is the only one I currently have in my own collection
 I would be most interested in obtaining anyother bookplates
she designed.

Monday, October 09, 2017

An Interview with Daniel Mitsui

This is  an email interview I recently had  with Daniel Mitsui.

My questions are highlighted in blue and his responses are in black.

Daniel Mitsui

In ten years you have become the most prolific living American bookplate designer.

How many bookplates have you completed and how many are you currently working on ?

I do not keep perfect records of the things I draw, so I do not know exactly how many bookplates I have designed. Probably eighty or ninety.

Bookplate commissions are not steady; some years I only draw a couple, and in other years I draw a dozen. I suppose this is because I do not actively seek out bookplate commissions, but let inquiries about them come to me. This means that most of the commissions I undertake are from people who are really enthusiastic about the bookplate and have a distinct idea about what they want on it, which is helpful.

At the moment, I have two bookplate commissions secured, and I am discussing four others that I expect will be secured soon. There is a real thematic variety in these - one is to be in a medieval Irish style, one to make visual references to old movies (Cleopatra and The Seventh Seal), one to take its inspiration from M.C. Escher and the Borges short story The Library of Babel. None of the bookplates are in the drawing stage yet, but I will probably put pen to paper for at least one in the coming week. 

Of all those bookplates which was the most challenging ?

It would be easier for me to say which are the least challenging.

Ornament has always been one of my artistic strengths; millefleur patterns, Celtic knots and fanciful lettering are the sort of things that I draw well without much effort. Some of the bookplates that I have drawn featuring these are, I think, among my most impressive - but they were not especially challenging. When not drawing bookplates, my specialty is medieval religious art, so the many bookplates that I have drawn featuring patron saints or heraldry were not especially difficult to realize either. Neither were those that take inspiration from biological illustration, as this is a minor specialty of mine.

I suppose the most difficult bookplates for me to draw are those that require me to adopt a style or subject totally different from what I normally draw. One reason I like bookplate commissions so much is that they require me, on occasion, to stretch myself creatively. For example, the John T. Barfield bookplate. This is not especially complicated in its design, but the patron wanted a Classical ornamental style and a landscape with a recognizable tree and house. These are the sort of things that I almost never draw.

The Kathy Tapia bookplate required me to draw a scene with dramatic foreshortening, totally unlike the perspectival space of medieval art. My wife posed for that one, on top of a stack of our own books. If you look closely, you can make out The Origin of the Serif and The Second Book of Negro Spirituals. I think the big open one is Dryden's translation of The Aeneid.

The Leonora Janisheski bookplate might also be the answer to your question, because the subjects are so outlandish to me: the Rietveld Schröder house (a famous work of Bauhaus architecture), Valeska Gert (an avant-garde dancer) and lemurs. When otherwise would I draw something like this?  Somehow, I was able to fit some medieval lettering and millefleur into it.

Of all those bookplates do you have one that you are particularly proud of ?

I think that the Renata Rua bookplate turned out very well; this depicts an Irish saint, Gobnait, in a style that is like that of early medieval manuscripts, but with some subtle influences from Utagawa Kuniyoshi and sangaku tablets. Medieval art was always accepting of international influences, so I think that this sort of approach is in its right spirit, even though the monks at Kells obviously knew nothing of Japanese culture!

I am very fond of the bookplate I drew for the maritime library of the Acania, which depicts the ship surrounded by a border of seashells and aquatic invertebrates. It's simple but very balanced. I'm not sure what exactly I did right there.

Andrew Lohrum's is a personal favorite, because of its especially clever choice of subject. I cannot take credit for that; the patron told me exactly what he wanted. It depicts an episode from the life of St. Francis of Assisi. He founded a religious order whose members are committed to complete poverty; they beg for sustenance, and cannot own personal property. Here, a novice has asked him permission to own a breviary, which is a book of daily prayers that all priests and monks and mendicants recite. St. Francis responds by rubbing ashes on his head, saying I am a breviary! I am a breviary! to demonstrate the vanity of wanting to own books.

You have created   ephemeral items like calling cards, greeting cards a
label for a musical instrument etc.

Can you put together a complete list with as many scans as possible?

I've never kept anything like a complete list for small miscellaneous projects like these, but here are some of the examples I found:

Bookmarks - John and June Mellman, Bloody Candlestick Mystery Bookshop

Business cards - Bloody Candlestick Mystery Bookshop (2), Bruno Cicconi, Donald Lambert, Stephanie Sheffield

Calling cards - Nicole Cuadra

Invitations - Clerical Tonsure, Pace Wedding

Luthier label - Miles Mibeck

Coats of arms - Bishop Joseph Perry, Shane Pliska

Note From Lew

If you would like to see more of Daniel Mitsui's artwork here is a link to his website