A bookplate (or ex libris) is a label placed inside a book to mark ownership. The rise of bookplates occurred concurrently with the advent of printing from moveable type, whilst the collecting of bookplates arose in Britain in the early nineteenth-century as an offshoot of the genteel pastime of collecting coats of arms into albums. The Ex Libris Society was formed in London in 1891 and lasted into the early years of the twentieth-century. In Australia, bookplate collecting and owning a bookplate became the height of fashion among the cultured between the World Wars. In recent years, there has again been increasing interest in bookplates among book lovers and artists, and societies have been formed in Melbourne and Sydney.
I visited a little antiquarian shop in Weesp (not far from Amsterdam) to do a little browsing. After half an hour I was done and ready to leave. I was taking a last look at the shop's shelf of House of Orange books (books about the Dutch Royal House) when my eye was drawn to a book with an interesting but untitled spine. The book turned out to be a catalog of an exhibition of portraits and objects relating to the House of Orange-Nassau on the occasion of the inauguration of Her Majesty Queen Wilhelmina (1898).
One year after her glorious Catalogue 10 Michèle Noret has published a new catalogue, again a wonderful collection of remarkable picture books and illustrated children's books of the 20th century. Collectors and antiquarians who know the market, also know, that it is absolutely no matter to bring together such a richness and variety of book-art. Michèle Noret obviously has a good nose for this sort of books, but it is not only her resourcefulness, that helps her, it is her great knowledge and competence and her aesthetic intelligence which lead her to find these wonderful books and graphic art - and(!) to describe them in an adequate and always informative way. Looking through her catalogues always means to get in touch with important names, styles, developments of book-art, specialties of illustrative art. The series of her catalogues (happy the collectors who kept them!) is like an international compendium of modern artist's books for children, indispensable for an intensive knowledge in this field, a real source book thanks to the many coloured illustrations. (A desideratum would be an index of titles and artists which comprehends all of the catalogues.)
Two folks identified the key elements of this month's crocodile mystery in their comments: Misha Teramura correctly noted that the inscription in the middle of the page - "pp. 184-190 refer to the progress of religion westward toward America" - refers to George Herbert's final poem from The Temple, "The Church Militant." And David Shaw noted that the other inscriptions - "8652″ on the top left and "A176″ on the bottom right - look to be an accession number and a shelf mark. But let's back up for one moment to understand why I find these marks interesting. The book in question is a first edition of George Herbert's The Temple (STC 13183). It's an interesting work, and a popular one in the 17th century. And as you can see from the notations on the front pastedown and the recto of the first free flyleaf, it's a work that was prized by later collectors.This particular copy was owned by Sir Leicester Harmsworth before it came into the Folger Shakespeare Library collection, and its value is shown in part by the blue goatskin binding signed on the bottom turn-in by Riviere and Son. Its value is more obviously indicated by the inscription on the pastedown, "a copy sold in the Terry sale in Dec 1935 for $3600."