The endangered art of bookplates
This post has been updated to include new information about Artstor’s public collections, formerly made available on Shared Shelf Commons.
Despite entreaties to the contrary, the debate about e-books vs. printed books doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Traditionalists frequently tout the sensual pleasures of paper (smell, which doesn’t have much to do with reading, comes up often), while readers of electronic devices usually point to convenience. There have even been studies about which format is better for comprehension and retention.
One thing that never comes up? Bookplates! Laugh if you want, but those small decorative labels with the book-owner’s name can be quite beautiful, and we haven’t yet seen an e-reader with one. Take a look at these examples from the University of Delaware’s William Augustus Brewer Bookplate Collection to see what they’re missing.
The collection of bookplates is freely accessible in Artstor’s public collections, and it includes more than 12,000 examples from the libraries of such personalities as Lewis Carroll, Samuel L. Clemens (aka Mark Twain), Charles Dickens, Walt Disney, Harry Houdini, Paul Revere, Eleanor Roosevelt, Alfred Stieglitz, and William Butler Yeats. Among the designers of the bookplates are such well-known artists as Edward Burne-Jones, William Hogarth, and James Whistler.
Artstor’s public collections are openly available and fully searchable to anyone–with or without an Artstor subscription. They are shared by institutions that subscribe to JSTOR Forum, Artstor’s web-based service for cataloging and managing digital collections.