Friday, August 22, 2014

Alfred Robert Louis Dohme's Bookplate

Alfred Robert Louis Dohme's Bookplate

by Michele Behan

                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 collection.

        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 Cellini.

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 scribe.

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 assaying.

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 Art. 

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.

Notes From Lew  

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 to

Some Recent additions to my collection

Symbol: Maxim "Knowledge Empowers Struggle". 

Design by 

 Sam DeWolff was a leader of the Zionist faction of the social democratic movement. 

 Salomon(Sam)  deWolff

The  information about this bookplate was sent by fellow collector Michael Kunze

The HQ of the  Prussian Association of Jewish Communities   (Preussischer Landesverband J├╝discher Gemeinden ) was located at  Kantstr. 158, Berlin,  and officially founded in  1922 
"Wanderb├╝cherei" (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
 This library picture was made in 1935

Mystery Bookplates

Can you assist me in identifying the owner's or

 artist's of these bookplates ?

If you have a mystery bookplate

Please send a scan to

See You Again Next Weekend

Sunday, August 17, 2014

In Defense of Pigeons

 Members of the pigeon family have been maligned ,shot at, poisoned  eaten.and annihilated.
 Consider this my tribute to some feathered friends..

 Pigeon family  bookplates, ephemera, and things that strike my fancy.

Wendell M.Levi wrote The Encyclopedia of Pigeon Breeds  in 1965 .

The Dodo  was a member of the Pigeon family It is now extinct. Ralfe Whistler is a Dodo bird collector.
For images from his collection follow this link:

Verna Faber designed this bookplate for Hettie Gray Baker.

CW Refers to Carolyn Wells

Wood engraved Christmas card from Andy English -2007

My favorite Pigeon quotation-

Some days you're the Pigeon .Some days you're the statue

A Pigeon Rubber Stamp

I am about half way through this delightful book. 
In case you are wondering it is the reason I wrote this posting

See you next week.

Monday, August 11, 2014

New Addition to my Collection and Photo Bookplates

I recently obtained this bookplate on Ebay.
It complimented the two Lewis Carroll Room plates I already had
In an effort to obtain more information I discovered that the Cleveland Public Library had digitized  their
bookplates and many of them were done by students.
Here is the link.

The artist(s) who did the three plates from the Lewis Carroll Reference room were not indicated so I dug deeper and found this site relating to WPA artists

It put me in the right direction but more research is needed because the  artist's for the three bookplates are listed as a group.

WPA Artists: Paul Kucharyson, Edward C. Haill and Kalman Kubinyi


In the 1930's and 40's there was some faddish use of photographic bookplates.The style did not last very long but I have unearthed a few.I know nothing about the owners. If you have any similar plates send me a scan and they will be added to this posting.
I've scanned my paper version of George Eastman's bookplate. Many years ago I had the older photographic version of this plate but I must have traded it for something else.
Here is some additional information about Mr. Eastman's bookplate :"When the cocktail hour came into vogue in the 1920's, Eastman changed his formal reception room into a ''little library.'' Intimately scaled and elegant with Wedgwood green walls and columned white marble fireplace, the room has a comfortable wing chair near the fireplace just as it was when Eastman posed (with back to camera) for his bookplate. He catalogued his books, identifying each by section and shelf. Alongside classics by Shakespeare, Longfellow, Kipling and Dickens, volumes that have Eastman's original bookplate include ''Darwinism'' and ''Reveries of a Bachelor.''
Here's another new addition to my theatrical bookplate collection .Celebrity bookplates are always on my want list and I've never seen this one before.

See you again next week.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Bookplate Odds and Ends

Here is a link to a well written, competently researched and thoroughly enjoyable ephemera blog

                                                           British Museum. Prints and Drawings. C.1-193-219
Click on image to enlarge
Generally speaking , there is not strong interest in the copper or steel engravers plates used to create a bookplate. There are always exceptions.. Fellow collector Anthony Pincott sent me this link about
 the Christies sale of  an 18th century copper plate engraved by Nathaniel Hurd for Francis Dana
( Allen # 201).Follow the link if you are curious about the sale price.

In my own collection I have 13 Aluminum plates used by Sara Eugenia Blake. The plates were owned by Mary Alice Ercolini.and eventually became part of Earl Heims collection*. When he died his collection was sold to a gallery in Portland Oregon and I purchased the plates from them. Some day someone will write a long overdue book about Sara Eugenia Blake and hopefully I will be able to loan the plates to the author..

*Earl Heims was a Rockwell Kent collector and he used a Kent image on his bookplate
,I currently have a duplicate for possible exchange.
Fellow collector/dealer Tom Boss sent this mystery bookplate for identification.It is possible the owner's name was cut off. This is one of those bookplates which can drive one bonkers.I know I've seen it before and I have a lingering feeling it is in my collection or I bid on it in the past. Maybe one of you can help Tom.
Send your input to

Speedy response from Anthony Pincott
Your bookplate queried by Tom Boss is that of Abram P Longbottom  Allen #515.

See you again next Sunday

Sunday, July 27, 2014

This Week in Bookplates July 27th 2014

World's coolest bookstores

By Frances Cha, CNN
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2042 GMT (0442 HKT)
 Note from Lew
I have only been to two of the stores listed  ,John King in Detroit and The Strand  in New York City .
If you have visited some of the other shops mentioned your comments and recollections would be most welcome..
 Have you been to any amazing bookstores that are not on this list?  
Send all inquiries and comments to

7/29/2014 Responses sent by Blog Readers

From Kate Doordan Klavan

I'm lucky enough to have spent time in Portland, New York and London...lived in the last I've whiled away many happy hours at Strand, Foyles and Powell's. While it's not as big as those 3 giants, there is a quite large bookstore in Salt Lake City, Utah, that would repay a visitor for a few hours of browsing: Sam Weller's. In fact, Salt Lake City has another (also) wonderful second hand bookstore called after its founder, Ken Sanders. Of course, there's also Moe's in Berkeley and just down the street another bookstore called Shakespeare. Many years ago when I lived in rural Pennsylvania, I loved spending time at Baldwin's Book Barn outside Westchester. When I used to travel, I always devoured the Yellow Pages for second hand bookstores wherever I was, which I guess dates me! But I've found wonderful, select smaller shops from Birmingham, Alabama, to Boise, Idaho, to Boston and Denver and Butte, Montana. Back to England for a moment--Blackwell's in Oxford is a truly wonderful experience.
Enjoyed reading about the international CNN list...Thanks,

From Jane Peach

I’ve been to Powell’s Books many times.  Every visit to Portland has to allow for at least two trips to Powell’s. There are still parts of it I’ve never set foot in, a bookstore with maps for you to pick up at the front door is daunting to even the most determined visiting bibliophile.  Despite its vast size it still has that cozy used bookstore feeling that suggests books are more than just a commodity there. 
I’d like to visit some of the others on that list – The Strand & Foyle’s for their history alone. 
I always enjoy your posts, it’s a very pleasant part of my Sunday morning routine

Bookplate Exchanges

This cartoon from The New Yorker seemed appropriate. 

Here are a few bookplates for possible exchange.

 Send scans of  your duplicates to

Engraved plate by W.P. Barrett

Polo Players Artist unknown
Carlyle Baer was for many years the director of The American Society of Bookplate Collectors
Pencil Signed woodblock by Adrian Feint

Engraved plate for Arctic explorer/pilot
Senator from Arizona and Republican presidential candidate

Engraved by A.N. Macdonald in 1921

Engraved by The Western Banknote Company

Designed by K..Kawaaski in 1933
printed from six blocks
Wood engraving by J.J. Lankes
Magician's Bookplate

Mystery Rebus Bookplate from Barbara

I have come across your interesting website many times in the past, but this is the first time I have had a query. I hope you can help.
I have come across what appears to be a rebus bookplate (attached), but haven't so far been able to decipher it. 
The hare and tree might possibly be Trehair, and there might be also be a Shepherd (or similar spelling). Perhaps also a Knight - or 'Sir'. No idea what the Sunderland refers to, or why the plate is dated 1909.
Have you by any chance ever come across this design before?

Best wishes,
Note from Lew- Send scans of your mystery bookplates and I will try to assist you.
See you again next Sunday .

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Interview With Bookplate Artist Daniel Mitsui

This interview  with the noted bookplate artist Daniel Mitsui was conducted via Email.
It was from my perspective  a very effective format and I hope to do several more  of these interviews with artists , collectors and booksellers  in the next few months.

Do you use a bookplate ?
The saying is that the cobbler's family is always ill-shod, and I suppose that holds true here; I do not have a custom exlibris for my family library yet. I started drawing one years ago, but had to set it aside as I was busy with other projects. By the time I revisited it, I was no longer satisfied with the design. I have a new design in mind, one that will function also as a colophon for my publishing imprint, but I probably will not have it finished this year.

In the meantime, I am using the printer's proofs and overruns of the universal bookplates I issue in my own books.

What was the first bookplate you designed ?
I received my first exlibris commission in 2007 from an English philosophy professor. It was for his daughter and depicted her patron saint, Agnes. The same man has since commissioned bookplates for all of his children and godchildren, and for his wife. The subjects include St. Francis, St. Dorothy, St. Barbara, St. Columba and St. Margaret of Antioch.

Before I received that first commission, I had not considered designing bookplates and did not even clearly understand what they were. After posting my first two or three bookplate designs on my website, you contacted me and it was through your web log that I realized how many exlibris enthusiasts and collectors exist. In order to build a better portfolio, I drew bookplates as gifts for family members and friends over the next year.

I receive commissions for custom bookplates pretty consistently, usually about half a dozen each year. This year I have received quite a few more; I have already completed ten.

What was the most challenging bookplate you designed ?
Generally, bookplates are easy work for me; detailed black and white ink drawing is my greatest artistic strength, and this is what the medium requires for printing.  Composition is something that comes naturally to me; I don't have much trouble figuring out how to arrange dozens of elements into a small space.

Bookplates do require me to incorporate unique subject matter which I normally would not draw. This is a challenge, but an enjoyable one. Probably nine-tenths of my drawings are based on late medieval Northern European art. Most of my bookplates are designed in the same style. But on occasion, I am asked to draw a stave church portal or a Korean turtle ship, or something in a Victorian or Persian style.

What questions from a client need to be asked before you begin ?
It is one of my artistic peculiarities that I do not like to prepare rough drafts. I've found that doing so results in a less lively drawing. Because of this, I want to have all of the details of a commission worked out before I put pen to paper. Generally, a patron gives me a central subject or theme, a list of other details to include, the name and motto, and a general description of the intended style. 

Do you have a series of scans or a video showing  the start , the progression and the completion of a bookplate?
Not that I remember saving. Once I start work on an exlibris I usually finish it within a few days, so it hasn't occurred to me to record its progression recently. Generally, I work on the ornamental parts first, then the lettering, and then the central image.

My sense is that you have completed and have been paid for more bookplates over the last four years than any other American artist .
Why do you think this has happened?

I receive commissions from bibliophiles and exlibris enthusiasts, many of whom find me through your website or recommendation. Most of my commissions, however, come from the same base of patrons who are interested in my religious artwork. This is evident from the number of bookplates I have designed featuring saints or religious themes. Often, these are commissioned as gifts to commemorate baptisms, confirmations, weddings or ordinations.

I would not be so prolific in bookplate design had I not succeeded in getting this group of patrons interested in exlibris. I imagine that many of them were not at first interested in bookplates per se, but saw in them an opportunity to commission original, personalized artwork from me on a small scale and at a low cost.

Your designs are unique. How would you describe them?
Black and white ink drawing has been my specialty since I was eighteen years old. I have explored many styles and forms of art in the fourteen years since then (including surrealism, comic strips and film animation) but my affinity for minutely detailed ink drawing with crisply defined lines and general horror vacui has never changed. I have for this entire time been fond of organic, non-repeating decoration. One of my signature practices is to fill borders and backgrounds with tiny cell organelles, seashells or plants.

Currently, my principal influence is late medieval Northern European art. Most of this is religious in nature, although I admire secular art from the same era as well. For obvious reasons, the two-dimensional media of manuscript illumination, panel painting, millefleur tapestry and printmaking most strongly interest me. The influence of works such as the Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries and the Sherborne Missal can be spotted in most of my drawings; illustrated incunabula such as those produced by the partnership of Philippe Pigouchet and Simon Vostre are especially strong influences on black and white bookplate designs. The 19th century medievalist William Morris is another obvious source of inspiration.

This late medieval style is one that harmonizes well with my own strengths as a draftsman, but it is not the only one. On occasion I enjoy drawing pictures that resemble Northumbro-Irish manuscripts (such as the Lindisfarne Gospels) or Japanese woodblock prints, and would welcome more exlibris commissions in these styles. Mughal miniatures have my curiosity as well. One day, I hope to integrate elements from all these different kinds of art into a single signature style.

If you were the recipient of a Guggenheim grant that enabled you to create art without concern about on going bills and expenses what would you like to create ?
Had I such funds, I would do the same things that I am doing now, but more quickly and with less worry about the cost and risk. My long-terms plans as an artist are to devote significant training, practice and study to improving my calligraphic hand, my figure drawing, and my land- sea- and skyscapes. As I mentioned, I want to work more in the Northumbro-Irish, Japanese and Mughal styles, and to complete a series of speculative drawings in each. Cartographic art is something that I've loved for years but not yet tried, and I want someday to draw an elaborate mappamundi.

There are dozens of letterpress broadsides and universal bookplates that I am ready to issue through my Millefleur Press imprint, but have not because I still need to secure funds to pay the papermakers and pressmen.

Eventually, my ambition is to publish not only broadsides and bookplates, but complete fine press books, all done with letterpress printing and handmade papers and bindings, all featuring my own illustrations and typefaces. Projects that I have in mind include new versions of short 15th century devotional blockbooks (Biblia pauperum, Ars memoranda, Exercitum super Pater Noster, Symbolum Apostolicum). I want to illustrate and publish a Book of Hours, which was the most popular devotional book for literate laymen of the late Middle Ages, and which has not existed since then. I would like to publish, using the style and (as far as I am able) process of Japanese woodblock printing, an edition of the Tenchi Hajimari No Koto, a text produced by the hidden Christians of Japan during the period of persecution. A work of secular literature that has my interest is The Rime of the Ancynt Marinere, which I would publish using the original 1798 text, matching the illustrations and typography to the deliberately archaic 15th century vocabulary and spelling.

Note From Lew

Here is Daniel's contact information:

See you again next Sunday.