A Bookplate in a Book about Bookplates
October 23, 2012
Anyone with a love for books has likely come across a bookplate before. Bookplates are ownership labels, usually pasted on the inside cover of a book. As J. Hugo Tatsch and Windward Prescott write in their 1928 book Masonic Bookplates, these "may be an elaborate coat-of-arms or a plain label reading 'This Book belongs to John Smith.'" Bookplates often read "ex libris," a Latin phrase meaning "from the books (i.e. library) of," followed by the person's name.
In addition to containing a brief history of bookplates, with a specific focus on Masonic-themed bookplates, Tatsch and Prescott's book also reproduces a number of examples of Masonic bookplates. The book also contains Winward Prescott's "Descriptive Check List of 586 Ex Libris of Masonic Interest," an impressive list of nearly six hundred bookplates that are in some way connected to Freemasonry.
Fittingly, our copy of the "Subscribers' Edition" of Masonic Bookplates (no. 84 of 102 copies) contains a bookplate pasted in the front inside cover showing that it previously belonged to Alphonse Cerza (1905-1987), who gave the book as a gift to our library in 1985. Since all 102 subscribers (i.e. people or organizations that paid in advance for a copy of the book) are listed in the back of the book, we can conclude that Cerza was not the original owner.
Another nice aspect of our copy of this book is that it has a number of loose Masonic bookplates tucked in the book - possibly ones that Alphonse Cerza, or a previous owner, had collected. They include bookplates for the libraries of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, the Scottish Rite Temple (Philadelphia), as well as the private libraries of Dwight C. Kilbourn (1837-1914) and George Seymour Godard (1865-1936).
The bookplate for George Seymour Godard, pictured above, was designed by W.F. Hopson in 1921. It depicts an elaborate doorway and reads, on either side, "Some to Read, Others to Own," a sentiment that many book collectors might share. Godard was Connecticut's State Librarian from 1900 to 1936. His Masonic affiliation - the double-headed eagle of the Scottish Rite - is subtly indicated on the upper left of bookplate's illustration. A short biography of him in the 1906 book Men of Mark in Connecticut makes his Masonic affiliations clear.
The designer of this bookplate,William Fowler Hopson (1849-1935), was an accomplished artist from Connecticut. He is well-known today for his work in designing bookplates. A 1910 checklist of Hopson's bookplates lists 102 different bookplates designed by Hopson between 1892 and 1910. Godard's, having been designed in 1921, does not appear on the list, which ends nearly a decade earlier. You can see more example of Hopson's bookplates here.
J. Hugo Tatsch & Winward Prescott. Masonic Bookplates, Supplemented by a Check List of 586 Ex Libris of Masonic Interest. Cedar Rapids, IA: The Masonic Bibliophiles, 1928.
Call number: 05 .T219 1928
Gift of Alphonse Cerza