Bookplates are small prints used to mark ownership of books. Originally bearing coats of arms of wealthy families, when books were only owned by a few, with the growth in mechanical book production, there was also a growth in the use of bookplates. The late 19th and early 20th century saw a flourishing of the bookplate as an art form and a means of expression for both the artist and the book owner who commissioned the bookplate.
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Samuel W. French. [The Book Destroyed Architecture.] Pearson-Lowenhaupt Collection of American and English Bookplates. AOB 30
This bookplate, or exlibris, uses the classical Greek scroll motif to frame its three sections. These sections show the Pantheon in Rome, an eternal flame near an altar surrounded by books, and quotations from Victor Hugo and bookplate owner Samuel W. French. Between the middle and bottom sections, the names of two great men are invoked: the early printer Gutenberg and the artist/architect Michelangelo. All this supports the phrase “The Book Destroyed Architecture.” The argument is certainly provocative, and also idiosyncratic. This bookplate is an excellent example of how twentieth-century bookplates were often an expression of the owner’s personal beliefs or interests.