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.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Some Ongoing Rockwell Kent Research

The best and most complete printed resource for information about Rockwell Kent bookplates is
Rockwell Kent The Art of The Bookplate   by Don Roberts. Before it was published in 2003 the most helpful resource was a small  printed checklist by Dan Burne Jones ( a keepsake from The American Society of  Bookplate Collectors and Designers)

 Leo Hart was a well respected printer in Rochester New York. When he asked Kent for bookplate suggestions Kent  came up with the design  of a punning plate using a lion and a deer.

 The bookplates were printed by Hart's company.

After Mr. Hart's death many variants of the original  were  printed as memorial plates without Kent's input.
Here is one I found on the internet

Here are three more from my own collection:
These two images were sent by Scott R Ferris
If you have other examples of Leo Hart memorial plates please send scans and they will be added to this posting

This is a Kent inspired bookplate used by Leo Hart's son and daughter in law.  
It is in many Kent collections
It is listed in the Keepsake but it is not listed in Don Robert's book..
For clarification I sent the following email  to fellow collector Will Ross :

Dear Will,
   In 1978 the American Bookplate Society issued a small keepsake about the bookplates of Rockwell Kent.
It included the Joan and Horace Hart bookplate.
Ken Roberts did not include it.
Can you clarify the omission ? Was the keepsake listing in error?
If so, do you know anything about the bookplate?

This was his response:

Hello Lew,

Hope you are well. Interesting query. I remember very well discussing the issue of this bookplate, and some others, with Don while he was doing the compiling.

Don decided, and rightfully so in my opinion, only to include bookplates that were designed by Kent to BE bookplates. The Joan and Horace Hart plate, like some others, is actually based on an illustration used for another purpose. In this case the dust jacket to Shakespeare's "Venus and Adonis," published by Leo Hart in 1931. In fact, I have a letter from Horace Hart dated February 14, 1969, where he says exactly that. I will be happy to send a copy to you if you wish.

*Another example are the plates J. Edouard and Elizabeth Diamond did, which are quite large, based on illustrations RK did for the complete works of Shakespeare.

Hope this answers your question. Keep up the good work! Enjoy every weeks "Confessions."


*Note from Lew- This is an example of one of the four Diamond plates using a Kent illustration.
It is printed on silk thread paper and certainly is quite large ( 8 inches wide by 10 inches high)

Here is another bookplate listed in the keepsake which is not in the Roberts book.

Elbridge Hadley Stuart was the son of the founder  of The Carnation( Milk) Company.
If anyone out there can send additional information about the plate it will be added to this posting
 From The Let The Buyer Beware File
Rockwell Kent designed a bookplate for George Henry Corey in 1940
About thirty years later the image was" borrowed" .

That wraps it up for today. See you next Sunday.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Two Hours at the Book Trader

Yesterday I visited a local Philadelphia bookshop, The Book Trader. They have been in Philadelphia for over thirty years and it's always nice to see a bookseller survive and prosper.
  I have only gotten a few bookplates there but hope springs eternal..
The trip as it turns out was productive..  Here is what I found:
I believe the bookplate was done by silkscreen. The owner lived in Moorestown New Jersey .
The artist was A. G. Hull a cartographer also from Moorestown New Jersey.
Any additional biographical information about the owner or the artist would be most welcome.

The second bookplate was for Oscar F. Roller an early 20th century lithographer in Philadelphia

I contacted David Doret , a  knowledgeable lithographic collector and he  referred me to
  Philadelphia on Stone Biographical Dictionary, Library Company of Philadelphia, 
.The search did not unearth any information about Mr Roller but the database is an excellent resource so here is a link:

I'll be back on Sunday . See you soon.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

This Week In Bookplates July 6,2014

 Many years ago I bought two large loose leaf albums .One for 18th century British bookplates and the other for  19th century items.. Both albums are bursting at the seams but the 19th century album is particularly unwieldy because I inserted many 20th century items in it.
I just created a new album specifically for the 20th century English bookplates  It contains among others the  bookplates of John Farleigh ,about whom I knew very little.To learn more about him I purchased a copy of The Wood Engravings of John Farleigh  by Monica Poole.That is my primary source for the John Farleigh checklist.shown below.

John Farleigh (1900-1965)

John Farleigh Checklist

Bank of England  1932

Sir Harold Bellman 1930's ( former Governor of the London School of Economics)

Chelsea Polytechnic 1930's

Harold Hutchinson  1950's (Calligraphy  by Ann Camp)

William Maxwell 1933

Thomas Hudson Middleton circa 1954

Jane Elizabeth Peace  1933

Benjamin Weiss 1936

* "In Graven Images (P.185) John Farleigh mentions engraving a bookplate in 1928 .
This has not been found "
*Ref. P.118 The wood engravings of John Farleigh by Monica Poole

Note from Lew- I would like to obtain a copy of the Thomas Hudson Middleton bookplate for my collection .If anyone out there has one for sale or trade please contact me.

Here is an article copied from the Tapei Times July 6th 2014

PROFILE: Artistic principal spurs interest in bookplates

By Kuo Yen-hui and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Wu Wang-ju, principal of New Taipei City’s Jimei Elementary School, holds up one of his bookplates in New Taipei City on March 23.

Photo: Kuo Yen-hui, Taipei Times

Well-known among his peers for being a fount of creativity in advancing arts education, New Taipei City’s Jimei Elementary School principal Wu Wang-ju (吳望如) recently set a new standard when he introduced bookplates in school libraries in New Taipei City, which generated huge interest among students and parents in creating bookplates.
Bookplates, also known as “ex libris” in Latin, meaning “from the books of,” are usually a small print or decorative label pasted into a book, often on the inside front cover, to indicate its owner.
Though Wu’s desk was covered in official documents awaiting his signature at the time of the interview, he said he was quite happy to set aside some time to talk about the art of etching and bookplate collections.
Wu said he was introduced to etching in an art class in the second grade of elementary school, where the teacher taught them how to do relief printing using the stencil technique.
The students had to cut out a pattern that they liked before placing it on a wooden board to be printed onto another piece of paper, Wu said, adding that the class had sparked his interest in the subject.
He took the subject at arts college and as he did his military service in Kinmen County, he chose 53 statues of lion-like figures called fungshihyeh (風獅爺) that are found throughout Kinmen as the subjects of his first series of etchings.
He was later invited by the local government to exhibit his work in Kinmen, which Wu said was a great source of pride for him.
Wu said he has tried his best through the years to teach his students the many printing techniques he learned in college, such as screenprinting, and how different template materials affect etchings.
The unpredictability of the final product’s appearance is what makes printmaking fun, as it not only inspires printmakers to be more creative, but also reminds them to pay attention to details, he said.
The materials that a printmaker has to work with present their own set of difficulties, Wu said.
Pointing to gypsum as an example, Wu said the mixing of gypsum, how it is cut, how to prevent it from becoming water-stained and how it reacts in different weather conditions are all things a printmaker has to be aware of.
Wu said that he once failed 12 times in a row making a gypsum print due to hot weather ruining the final product.
“It was an experience that taught me to think what I could do to make printmaking more easily accessible and more fun for students to learn,” Wu said.
Wu said he found a solution — using a resin board, a material similar to polystyrene — while traveling abroad a decade ago.
Resin is softer than wood and rubber and although it somewhat lacked the artistic sense of printmaking, it was more accessible to students as they could draft their patterns on the board with pencils before cutting them into the board with a knife, Wu said.
“It saved time and also increased the students’ interest in the subject,” Wu said, adding that the extended time needed to complete a print is also the main reason printmaking is not taught in schools very often. It takes on average two to three weeks to complete a print from scratch.
“Students may show interest in the first few classes, but they usually start losing interest or become impatient by the third or fourth class,” Wu said.
Introducing ex libris prints in classes significantly cuts down the time to make the prints and also makes the work easier to complete, Wu said. “As an indicator of the ownership of any book, the ex libris shows the viewer the level of artistic appreciation of the owner and their creativity,” Wu said. “Bookplates are fun to make or to collect.”
“On the one hand the promotion of ex libris prints popularizes the items among members of the public and on the other, it facilitates production by students,” he added.
Wu said he dreams of one day starting his own ex libris museum to further introduce Taiwanese to bookplates, as well as facilitating interaction between book collectors.

Odds and Ends

    This is a product I found very useful in labelling the new albums. 

This is the product I used for section dividers in the new albums

Some Interesting Links

The London School of Economics and Political Science has an ongoing blog feature about bookshops around the world which students and academics should visit.
There is even one from Brooklyn , New York.
Pilgrims Book House in Kathmandu
A bookstore occupies the first two floors of the former “Paris Department Store” (formerly Divatcsarnok). The building was once the site of the Terézváros Casino, builded in 1885 in neo-Renaissance style. Credit: jaime silva CC BY-NC-ND 2.0



La Maison Stern
The company "Maison Stern et Aumoitte" was founded in 1836 by a Mister Aumoitte who joined to a young engraver, Moses Stern. This partnership lasted till the end of the 1850s when Moses Stern took over the "House".
The ex-libris (bookplate) of Maison Stern transforms into a large letter "S" within which a standing lion rests its foreleg paw on an interlaced "MS" monogram. Completing this composition, there are an arm wielding an engraver's tool and two pieces of armor, a glove and a helmet. During the Universal Exhibitions of 1867 and 1889, Maison Stern is awarded the Gold Medal for quality. Thereafter Moses Stern will on occasion be a member of the jury awarding this same medal.
In the 1890s, Mr.Stern takes his son René as associate to the company which becomes "Stern and sons". René Stern takes over the shop in 1904. Maison Stern has been honored to count, among prestigious customers, the presidential Elysée Palace for its menus and invitations, embassies, nobility and French and foreign major companies. Each has long contributed to the good name of the "Maison".
Generations of engravers at Maison Stern have followed one another since. Nowadays there is a very strong will in the company to preserve, to value and to build upon know-how and techniques which tend to recede.

Monthly Viewers by country

I don't look at my page views by country statistics (furnished by Google) very often but I just glanced at them and was pleasantly surprised to see how many blog readers tune in from Saudi Arabia. China rarely shows up because of the ongoing tension between the government of China and Google

Entry Pageviews

United States
United Kingdom
Saudi Arabia

Next week I plan to write about Rockwell Kent and the Hart family

Sunday, June 29, 2014

This Week in Bookplates 6/29/2014

Bookplate Exchanges
Getting together with other collectors and exchanging duplicates is, from my perspective one of the most enjoyable aspects of this peculiar hobby.
Skype also enables you to conduct these exchanges with collectors from all over the world.
If you wish to exchange duplicates with other collectors please send me a brief list of the artists, themes,countries time periods etc. that interest you. If you have a Skype number send that also.
This is important.I plan to publish a list of everyone who responds on a future blog posting.
If you do not want your contact information shown on the blog posting be sure to tell me.
Send your brief exchange want list to

From last week's blog posting about Bookplate exchanges I have received two responses thus far

Oliver Furrer
Thank you for organizing this list of bookplate collectors for exchange of duplicates.
I am interested in armorial bookplates from Switzerland and France from 18s and early 19s centuries. I also have some German armorial bookplates I am ready to exchange.
My email address is
 Skype id is: olivierfurrer.
Olivier Furrer

Kevin Fry

I have no experience with this kind of thing and wasn't sure how to keep displaying new elements of a growing collection. I was looking for a framing or display system that is infinitely expandable, affordable, and doesn't require constant professional framing intervention .. or chew up wall space I don't have. 

I use acrylic magnet frames from Crate and Barrel. This method allows me to display endless numbers of bookplates, as long as I have spare shelf space. They are placed on bookshelves so they’re visually connected to the idea of books, and the frames are transparent so the display doesn’t really block the book collection. The bookplates sort of float in front. (None of them are in direct sunlight, of course.) These photos show a portion of my Rockwell Kent section … about 47 in total now. I keep other people’s plates on other bookcases on the other side of the room, so the Kent collection is unified.  

The acrylic frames, which use powerful tiny magnets to keep the two halves together, keep a tight, firm, flat hold on the paper, which I assume it’s a good way to keep them from harm, as long as they aren’t in direct line of a window. The plates remain completely undamaged (and easily removable) in this system since they aren’t really attached to anything. 

The frames you see here are all from Crate and Barrel and are 4” x 6”. They sell other sizes on their website and in their stores ( For the Kent collection I want everything to be uniform in the display so they’re all in the same size frame no matter how big the bookplate is, although smaller frames are available and theoretically could be used and mixed and matched.

Although I have no duplicate Kent items for exchange at this time, I am interested in adding to my Kent collection.

My Own Want List
I am interested in English and American Leather bookplates and currently have the following duplicates for possible exchange:

Two Interesting Links Sent In  By Blog Readers.

Lew , I hope you are doing well. I came across this website and figured  you would know about it already but thought it an excuse to say hi. Tim

Tim James
The American Bookbinders Museum
856 Folsom Street
San Francisco CA 94107

Hi Mr. Jaffe,
     My name is Ari and I work in the Genealogy, Local History and Rare Books and Special Collections department at the Cincinnati Public Library. I don't know if you've seen our collection of digitized book plates at our Virtual Library, but I think you might enjoy them. I really like your blog!
Ari Lavigne

Note From Lew- Both of the links are loaded with information and should be bookmarked.
See You Again Next Sunday.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Bookplate Exchanges

In last week's blog posting about keeping up with bookplate inflation I neglected to include the following:

Bookplate Exchanges
Getting together with other collectors and exchanging duplicates is, from my perspective one of the most enjoyable aspects of this peculiar hobby.
Skype also enables you to conduct these exchanges with collectors from all over the world.
If you wish to exchange duplicates with other collectors please send me a brief list of the artists, themes,countries time periods etc. that interest you. If you have a Skype number send that also.
This is important.I plan to publish a list of everyone who responds on a future blog posting.
If you do not want your contact information shown on the blog posting be sure to tell me.
Send your brief exchange want list to

Earlier this week fellow collector  Yosef  Halper visited me.

Since Yosef is also a bookseller in Israel he finds  all sorts of interesting  ephemeral items to tempt me.
Here are three examples:

Wounded man’s kit label

Exhibition Image One


A label similar to this was tied to George Arnott’s kit, when he was admitted to hospital. OHMS stands for On His Majesty’s Service. It had a reference number: AFW 3042. The wounded man’s Army number, rank, name and unit were to be written in. If the kit belonged to a soldier missing or a Prisoner of War, then WOUNDED MANS KIT was to be scored out and a cross was to be inserted under M or PW.


Date: 1945
Contributor: George Arnott
Location: Germany
Original Source: Courtesy of George Arnott private collection
Pen and ink drawing on a blank postcard

Other than Wie es geht ? I do not know what it says so a translation would be appreciated.

6/21/2014 Fellow Collector Wally Jansen sent this translation:

Hi Lew,

I'm not truly fluent in German but I'll take a stab at the text on that card:

(The bird in the tree is an owl.)

Whoo, whoo,
So hoot
the owls.
Little person you,
with the wolves
you must hoot (or howl).
And he howls: woo woo.
And the wolf speaks: I will not gobble you up.
And that is a true story.

Of course the German words have a cadence and rhyme that make it more appealing.  The word used for hoot and howl appear to be the same in German.

It seems a bit mysterious and I have a feeling that it may be related to some old fable.
Dear Lewis,
just had a look to your recent blog and found the handwritten card and
the translation by collector Wally Jansen.
Maybe it is worth to add that the German "mit den Woelfen heulen" ("to
howl with the wolves")
has a double meaning. It also means: "When in Rome, do as the Romans do".
This can be used as a friendly advice or even as a veiled threat...
There might be a language behind the language, I presume.
Kind Regards
Michael Kunze

Printed card 4 inches wide by 5 1/2 inches high
I know this was published in 1943 and probably is asking for money
 .Your help in translating would be appreciated.

Here are some duplicates I got from Yosef which are currently available for possible exchange:

  1. Hallie Flanagan
    Theatrical producer
  2. Hallie Flanagan was an American theatrical producer and director, playwright, and author, best known as director of the Federal Theatre Project, a part of the Works Progress Administration. Wikipedia
  3. BornAugust 27, 1890, Redfield, SD
  4. DiedJuly 23, 1969, Old Tappan, NJ

Carl Van Vechten
Self-Portrait of Carl Van Vechten Crisco edit.jpg
Photographic self-portrait by Carl Van Vechten, taken in 1934
BornCarl Van Vechten
June 17, 1880
Cedar Rapids, IowaU.S.
DiedDecember 21, 1964 (aged 84)
New York CityNew York, U.S.
EducationWashington High School
Alma materUniversity of Chicago
Spouse(s)Anna Snyder (?–1912),
Fania Marinoff (m. 1914–64)

Dubose and Dorothy Heyward-Wrote Porgy and Bess


 The paper cut illustration on the bookplate was done by Sarah E. Cowan

Dorothy and Dubose Heyward

Mystery Bookplate- 

Does anyone out there know who designed this bookplate ?

That's all for today. See you next week