Bookplates: ‘An opportunity for Pen(sic)men’
With the rapid increase in ebooks, whither the bookplate? Twenty years ago, maybe less, it was still possible to stick in a favourite book a ‘plate’, or a remembrance, of purchase. This might be nothing more than one’s name written with a 2B pencil, or an actual ‘sticker’. This helped when books were borrowed or lent – a sort of simple tracking system Going back in time owners of great (and sometimes not so great) libraries had a plate printed – much in the manner of that shown below. The bookplate was an enduring legacy of ownership. And what of the penman? Will Carter was one (as was Reynolds Stone). Will was, however, critical of the fine penmanship that was able to inscribe with a quill pen on vellum. ‘…we are in fact neglecting a wonderful opportunity of enlivening our printed matter with a letter form which is the natural development of the incised roman capital…’ he wrote in an article published in the 1954 edition of The Penrose Annual. He concludes: ‘The penman of today has lagged behind the times, steeped in too much medieval clutter…Calligraphy must not be allowed to decline…let us get busy and sharpen it alright so that it can serve us well, for it is a good tool’. Going back to the bookplate, it makes me ask: ‘Why not have bookplates in ebooks?’
Illustration from Lettering of Today, 1937 and Rampant Lions Press.