Studio: international art — 1.1893

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Designing for Book-Plates


London and Berlin have raised the fad to an The habit of making any sketch serve for a

accepted position; and in France, Germany, book-plate, by the addition (usually upon a scroll

Sweden, the United or cartouche) of its owner's name, common as it is,
States, and Great cannot be defended. A picture, however dainty
Britain, mono- or clever, is but cheapened by its frequent occur-
graphs in bulky rence; besides, the decorative quality which should
tomes, pamphlets, distinguish such a label is absent, as a rule, in
and magazine arti- an ordinary picture. The essentials of the non-
cles, are accumula- armorial book-plate seem to be, first, that the de-
ting to fill pages of vice be in itself a suitable decoration for its
bibliography. intended position; next, that its subject is dis-
That the artistic tinctly relevant to its purpose; and also, that it is
level of the mass individual both in its motive and in the way it
of plates is high denotes its owner's position or tastes. Further-
cannot be said. A more, it should show his name clearly legible, and
few, indeed, an- whatever motto or legend it bears should be strictly
cient and modern, in keeping with its theme.

are worthy of con- So far, we have touched chiefly the choice of

sideration ; a large subject, which is less important, at least from one

number are inter- point of view, than its treatment. A book-plate

esting either by as- should not be a mere picture. To say that decora-

sociation, or from tion should at least be decorative is a truism that,

their fanciful con- obvious though it appears, is constantly ignored.

designed by r. anning bell CdtS ;

b u t

the majority are either tame heraldic
emblazonments, or feeble devices of
mean design, poorly executed.

As the cheapness of photo-en-
graved blocks has brought book-
plates within the reach of every one,
their preparation may soon become
a recognised branch of design.
Hitherto, except in a few cases where
draughtsmen of note have executed
a book-plate for a gift to a personal
friend, they display little more than
the skill of the average mechanic.
The splendid exceptions which oc-
cur from the time of Albert Diirer to
that of Mr. C. W. Sherborn are but
isolated instances, which only serve
to emphasise the poverty of the rest.
There is no reason, however, why
the subject should be deemed be-
neath the attention of pen-draughts-
men. Many wealthy book-collectors
are willing to pay for designs at
least as much as a publisher would designed by r. anning bell

give for similar work ; and the book-
plate itself, although but a trivial thing, has some It is clearly essential that in heraldic plates
relation to scholarship, which dignifies and raises it decorative treatment should be invariably adopted;
to a higher place than is usually accorded to yet we find the motives, which a glance at old
mere commercial decoration in black and white. German plates, or the illustrations to Foster's

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