The E-Sylum:  Volume 5, Number 46, November 17, 2002, Article 13


  We hit a nerve with our discussion on book
  inscriptions - opinions are all over the map:

  Ralf W. Böpple of Stuttgart, Germany writes: "I regard a
  decent bookplate or an author's inscription as an integral
  part of any specialized work, e.g., on a numismatic topic.
  This is not the defacing of a book, there surely is a
  difference between inscribing a book and converting the
  pictures of the Presidents in the history book into Looney
  Tunes characters!

  I do not use a bookplate (yet), but I ask for an autograph
  any time I buy a book or even a small pamphlet directly
  from the author. I would even go so far as to say that
  autographs or book plates do not keep a book from the
  possibility of being 'mint state'. Of course, for a book with
  inscription being in mint condition, this would mean that the
  owner actually never even read it..."

  Dave Lange writes: "When I first realized that I had enough
  books to start thinking of them as a library, I ordered a blind
  stamping tool with my name and initials.  My attempts to use
  this gadget produced often unsatisfying results:  Thick paper
  didn't displace well enough for the impression to be readable,
  while the cheaper newsprint resulted in what looked like a
  cut-cancellation on old bank notes. With some practice I
  became skilled enough to get the desired depth of impression,
  but I began to wonder what others would think of my
  actions when the time came to dispose of my library.

  After a couple years of blind stamping I switched to using
  a bookplate. I gave some thought to having one prepared
  that was unique, but the availability of a pre-printed, adhesive
  backed design that appealed to me soon retired that thought.
  I've been using this same design ever since, but I may have to
  abandon it soon. It seems that the publisher has stopped
  having these labels intaglio printed, and the new issue of that
  same design appears to be a rather crude lithograph.  It's
  much darker and has suffered a loss of detail.

  As for writing in books, I too used to think that this was
  sacrilege.  Things changed, however, when I entered
  numismatics as a career. I soon realized that the only way to
  keep up to date on everything was to maintain a scrapbook
  for magazine and newspaper articles of value and to mark
  up my reference books with my own notes and observations
  on coins. While most of my library remains in nice condition,
  my variety attribution books are filled with various quickfinder
  notes, as well as weights and other technical data on particular
  specimens. Since these books are likely to be updated and/or
  reprinted, I don't feel too bad about "ruining" my own copies."

  Denis Loring writes: "One collector's opinion:  I'd rather not
  see the BODY of a book defaced.  However, I think
  bookplates,  inscriptions, etc. are harmless at worst, and can
  be a welcome addition to a book.  They can give that
  particular copy context and make it unique among thousands
  of other copies.  If the inscription is from the author or a
  historically important figure in the book's domain, so much
  the better.  My copy of Penny Whimsy probably sits at the
  bottom of the condition spectrum, but is autographed by
  Sheldon and Paschal and has a full-page handwritten
  inscription by Breen.  I wouldn't trade it for the most  pristine
  copy around, even with a dust jacket."

  Another perspective comes from Robert Christie: "Personally I
  don't give a hoot about who the previous owner was no matter
  how well known they may be.  Autographs don't interest me.
  What I do think is cool is to own a book some previous owner
  has scribbled their own thoughts in.  Such a book adds
  personality to it.  It's been thoroughly used and enjoyed.

  I own "American Half Cents - The Little Half Sisters" by Roger
  S. Cohen Jr., which purchased at a Kolbe auction some years
  ago.  I don't know the names of any of the previous owners,
  but obviously that one of them had a fascination and enjoyment
  of the series because it has many notes in blue and red ink
  concerning rarity, pedigree and so forth.  Of course it would be
  nice to own this book in mint condition also."

  Martin Purdy writes: "I used to write or stamp my name in all
  of my books, or affix an adhesive bookplate, together with
  the date and place of purchase.  I've lost the habit, mainly
  because I've been acquiring books at a faster pace than I can
  keep up with, but I do find when I pull an earlier acquisition
  off the shelf and see where I was when I bought it, or when
  it was bought, it adds to my appreciation of the book, or
  makes me think, "goodness, have I had it that long and still
  not read it?"

  I enjoy the bookplates of earlier owners, or their signatures
  and dates, regardless of whether they were well known or
  not - you can see where your book has been, how far it's
  traveled, etc.  I would think twice about writing in the body
  text of a book (except, perhaps, to mark some egregious
  error!), but inside the cover or on the flyleaf is another
  matter altogether.

  My 1815 edition of Lempriere's Classical Dictionary has
  an Indian ink signature of "John W Marshall, 65th Regt.",
  a printed bookplate, presumably of the same owner, a
  rubber stamp and handwritten label of other members of
  the Marshall family, and one other signature.  I'm rather
  reluctant to add mine after what seems such a long interval
  since the last entry, so there is no evidence of my
  ownership yet!"

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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