BOOKPLATES with WINE MOTEFS
How to Commission Them âHow to Use Them âHow to Collect Them âHow to Lave ThemHow grateful I am to have still with me, on my shelves, so many old Mends, the books which I have been collecting all my life. There are, I know, many bibliophiles who have a far greater number of books than I have, but I cannot imagine anybody having assembled a more representative collection of books of wine interest, not only books dealing exclusively with viticulture and winemaking, but others in which wine is considered from the moral, social, economic, and medical angles. Thus although the Bible cannot be called a 'wine book,' I did not hesitate to buy, which I had the chance to do so, a beautiful folio of Gutenberg's Bible, printed at Mainz between 1450 and 1455. with Isaiah's description of the planting of a vineyard."
So wrote Andre Simon about his lifetime passion of collecting wine books â which could also aptly define a WAYWARD TENDRIL. Obviously Andre cared for his wine books and he did not hesitate to commission a bookplate for his beloved books.The artist is unknown, but the motif is right and proper for a "bibulous bibliphile" â an old vine with clusters of grapes, a medallion with an inscription, and a few books in the corner. The design has one flaw though: the owner's name is represented with initials only. Since the prime function of a bookplate is to assist the proper return of the book to its rightful owner, that kind of guesswork with initials, picture puzzles or whatever is not recommended.
Rule #1: A bookplate should display the name of the owner loud and clear.Sibiet amicis
Our Wayward Tendrils would be non-existent without Gutenberg's stroke of genius in 1440. With his inventionâthe casting of separate metal typesâGutenberg initiated the art of printing books like the beautiful Bible Andre Simon had the good fortune to purchase. Since wine drinking and the growing of grapes are essential parts of the German culture, it is no wonder that one of the early German bookplatesâthe woodcut by Albrecht Diirer from 1502 for his friend Willibald Pirckheimerâis a coat of arms decorated with cornucopias of grapes and vines. During this time the artists were learned people, well-trained in Latin and Greek, and with a thorough knowledge of history and symbolics. Diirer (1471-1523) is no exception, and he has taken the opportunity to show some of his language skills. Observe Pirkheimer's motto: Sibi et Amicis (for himself and his friends). Bookplates should be a passport to friendship and not a mark of nasty protectiveness.
Bilibald is a generous friend quite in harmony with the andent toast: "May we never want a friend, nor a bottle to share with him." Liber means book, so the plate is meant for Bilibald's books. The same message is often sent by adding the word Ex Libris to the design of the plate. Ex Librisâspelled in two words with no hyphenâis Latin for "of books," implying the "owner of these books." The same message may be sent with English phrases like "N.N.'s book" â "Her book" â "Belongs to* â "From the Bbrary of â "From the books of et cetera. When you write about bookplates as a concept, you may use exlibris written in one word without capital letters.Rule #2: In a bookplate design, the words Ex Libris are written in two words, using capital letters, and no hyphen.
A Thing of BeautyOne of its main attractions for a Wayward Tendril is the Wine library founded by the Napa Valley Wine Library Association. In a time when most libraries have succumbed to practical methods of book identification, like ugly stamps or the ubiquitous bar codes, it is a pleasant surprise to find hundreds of wine books decorated with an excellent bookplate designed by Mallette Dean. The serene motifâa vintner picking grapesâhas been printed in the rich ruby colour that a bottle of noble red wine achieves after several years of maturation in the wine cellar. There is a lesson to learn in the Wine library of St.Helena: in caring for their books, Wayward Tendrils should give priority to beauty at the expense of the practical and opt for bookplates instead of bar codes.
Most wine districts boast a beautiful countryside with idyllic hamlets inhabited by friendly people. The optimistic and positive culture of wine often influences the art of the region, the loving care of gardens and vineyards, the architecture of castles and patrician homes, the design of decanters and drinking cups, the local dishes, the abundance of fine restaurantsâin all, a haven for the good things in life. California's Napa Valley is a fine example of this tradition. In the center of this wine valley you will find StHelena, a town living by and living for wine.
Rule #3: "A bookplate should be a thing of beauty and a joy forever, so the first cost need not or should not be a matter of much consideration" (Walter Hamilton, 1894).The Art of Boring
Leaving the cost out of account could mean choosing an expensive technique of bookplate execution like copper engraving. In the reproduction here presented, a fair amount of the intricate engraved collage for wine merchant Francis Berry will be lost, but the artist, Lord Badely, spared no pains in depicting the wine merchant's home ground. According to James Wilson, the English antiquarian bookseller and bookplate expert, Francis L. Berry (1876-1936) joined the family firm circa 1894, greatly increased its export business and friendship with Continental suppliers, and was for many years a senior partner. Berry's Wimbledon home was filled with the fruits of his collecting and connoisseurship, and his circle of friends included distinguished artists. His bookplate is a compilation of his life and work. The topmost vignette shows the interior of Berry Brothers & Rudd wine shop in St. James's Street; below it is the exterior of the shop with St James's Palace beyond. The composition includes vine and floral ornament, antique scenic prints and wine goblets (collecting interests), and some new and old wine bottles. The artist has put his name and the year of origin on a ribbon below to the right: "J.F. Badely 26." All of this is very interesting; however, to tell it all is the art of boring. This is a pitfall to avoid when commissioning a bookplate. Do not make the task of the artist impossible by asking for a design with a picture of your home, a symbol of your work, a reference to your kids, a full pictorial coverage of your many hobbies, some old books, a wise owlâand maybe your Zodiac sign just to finish the collage. Eventually you and your friends will be bored stiff by the messy design, and any sensible artist would resist such an approach. Just remember one thing: if you need a professional bookplate, and a bookplate for wine books, plus a bookplate for detective stories, etc., it is perfectly all right to have more than one bookplate. Indeed, the author of this article has more than fifty personal exlibris!
Rule #4: Keep the motif simple.A Cooper for Mr. Kuiper
The working cooper is a good example of a plain and pretty bookplate motif. The Dutch artist, A. Frederiks, also managed to put a pictorial pun in the design; such bookplates are called "redende exlibris" or "exlibris pariantes." The use of a pictorial pun is common in exlibris art as it is in heraldry, e.g. the Bowes-Lyon family crest bears a shield quartered with bows and lions, a "canting coats of arms.* For once we will let the owl pass.
Academic symbols like the owl (the bird of wisdom), the laurel wreath (symbolizing the art of poetry), oil lamps (a signal of education and knowledge) have been hackneyed by repetition; likewise, conventional themes involving piles of books or similar subjects should be avoided. A Wayward Tendril would not even dream of such trivial bookplate themes. Just imagine the abundance of motifs in the terroir, the vines in the vineyard, the workers picking grapes, the wine press, fermentation vats, wines maturing in barriques, the bottling and cellaring, and last but not least, the pouring and drinking.Allan Jordan's handsome woodcut for Karl Weidenhofer is another fine example of a black and white wine motif. There is a lot to say in favor of the black and white exlibris design. They are less demanding for the artist, they are cheaper to print, they are suitable for most books, and the risk of becoming bored with the design over the years is notoriously less with the simple black and white design.
Rule #5: Avoid the owls and pay attention to an attractive black and white wine motif.A Question of Size
The correct place for the bookplate in any book is the center of the inside front cover, not on the free endpaper, which may curl. Care should be taken to place it properly. It should be attached by a colorless glue intended for use with paper and photos. Pre-glued paper is not recommended. (We all can imagine the disastrous results of a bunch of pre-giued bookplates stored in a damp place.)
The original size of Durer's exlibris for W. Pirekheimer is 20 x 14 cm (8" x 54"). Obviousfy that is not a very practical size for a bookplate to be tipped into modern books. The measurements of a rather large book like The Oxford Companion to Wine are 25 x 19 cm (10" x 7V), while Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book at 19.5 x 9.5 cm should be a good fit for any pocket, but a bad fit for Pirckheimer's bookplate. A bookplate 8-10 cm (3-4") tall and 6-7 cm (24-3") wide would be handy for most modern books.
It is all a question of sizeâas one of Moses' spies in the land of Canaan remarked at the sight of a very large cluster of grapes. The scene in the ex-libris of German lawyer, Joachim Kr etz, of two scouts carrying an enormous bunch of grapes, is a very popular wine bookplate. It is designed by the Polish artist Zbigniew Dolatowski, who has specialized in detailed iinocuts in book-friendly sizes.In his linocut for Josef de Belder, a Dutch bookplate collector, Dolatowski has illustrated the famous quote by Benjamin Franklin: "Behold the rain, which descends from Heaven upon our vineyards, and which enters into the vine-roots to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy."
Rule #6: Make sure that your bookplate is designed in a handy size, and take care to place it property on the inside, front cover of the book.The Right Man for the Job
"Hie writing of one's name in a book is sacrilege. The writing of anything else, unless it be an inscription by the author, is an abomination. But no book, however fine, is marred by a seemly bookplate. On the contrary, it is often much enhanced," the Belgian artist Mark Severin wrote in 1972. He was one of the right men for the job and created wonderful exiibris in woodcut and copper engraving. Since his death, we have to look elsewhere for the right man. Few are so lucky as the author of these lines to have amongst his patients a talented advertising designer. The rules of good advertising are these: listen to the client, use dear and concise illustrations, draw perfect letters and add colour with syle. Combining these qualifications with a deep insight into the technical graphic process, Per Christensen had the sure recipe for an excellent book-plate designer. He has enhanced my wine books with a friendly Dionysus whose smile cheers the reader every time the book is opened.
Unless you are a very talented artist you should look for a professional as the right man for the job. A dilettante sketch tipped into your wine books will mar them for sure, and in the years to come you will have plenty of opportunity to regret that you did not look for the right man. Help can be found at The American Society of Bookplate Collectors and Designers, Cambridge Bookplate, Box 340, Cambridge, Mass 02238. Or you could try The Society of Wood Engravers, Box 355, Richmond, Surrey TWIG 6LE, England. Ride #7: If you plan to commission a bookplate, look for a professional artist whose line of work suits your taste, and beware of dillettante work.A Collector's Dream
By definition of Walter Hamilton, "the ideal collector is one who has money, taste and leisure." All Wayward Tendrils, I guess, are ideal collectors by definition. In addition to the collecting of wine books, any Tendril should give some careful consideration to the idea of collecting bookplates with a wine motif. Strong ties connect the bookplate with books and the graphic arts. Most bookplates are original works of art printed in relatively small numbers. They do not demand a lot of space on your shelves. They may be bought at reasonable pricesâhowever, the best way to collect exliforis is to commission a bookplate of high quality from a reputable artist and then exchange your plate with other bookplate owners. That method will also give you most fun.
But even with a flying start, you will find it next to impossible to top Norbert Lippoczy, an enthusiastic collector from Poland who, over decades, has been able to collect more than 5,000 bookplates with wine motifs. Descended from Hungarian vintners, lippoczy gathered more than 1,000 books on wine culture in the Hungarian, Polish, German and Russian languages. His library of wine books and wine exlibris has been donated to the Wine Museum in Budapest "No thing more excellent nor more valuable than wine was ever granted to mankind by God" was the opinion of the Greek philosopher Plato. This conception, Vinurn - Donum Dei, is the motif of Otakar Marik's woodcut for the great collector and wine lover Norbert lippoczy.
The Lure of Bookplates
Even at this early stage it may be too late; you may have contracted an incurable infection of bookplate-virus, already. Even if a few cases of spontaneous recovery have been reported, there is no known cure. So if you are nursing an ambition to commission a bookplate, perhaps you should think twice. You might still be able to resist the privilege it confers of making you a patron.
Today we may envy, but we cannot emulate, figures like Lorenzo de Medici. But it is possible for us to commission from a living artist a personal bookplate exactly to our own wishes. Do not listen to people who have the strange notion that a book is complete without a bookplate. What is a book, they claim, without the reader. Contrary to a movie or a television play, any book needs the culture and the imagination of its reader as an active partner. The bookplate then is a document of the owner's taste, culture and personality and his way of rendering the book complete in cooperation with the author. So while the book represents the author, the bookplate represents the reader as the irreplaceable and vita! partner in the book as a work of art.
The condition inflicted by the bookplate-virus is a chronic but not a fatal disease. You may live and collect for many years to come, and once in a while the fever in your blood will rise at the sight of wonderful bookplates like the figure cut in wood for Kunderman Jeno by the Bulgarian artist Pencho Koulekov. Just don't say you were not warned.