Project Gutenberg has just released one of its most attractive digitization projects for book lovers for a while – a 1902 edition of Book-plates of To-day, edited by Wilbur Macey Stone and originally published by Tonnelé and Company in New York. This showcases some fine examples of great bookplates from the era of Art Nouveau design, along with period essays on the purpose, aesthetics, and craft of bookplates.
The volume combines American and British bookplates of the period, along with examples from other sources. Though the tradition goes back to ancient Egypt, the examples in the book are mostly contemporary to the period of publication, but nonetheless fine for that. Some are stunning, some are folksy and amusing, some are appropriate – see Kenneth Bell’s below. There’s even a section on “Book-plates and the Nude,” for those who prefer to tag their reading matter with something a little more stimulating.
“The artistic book-plate is a genuine inspiration,” writes Temple Scott in one of the essays in the book. Readers and artists who can enjoy these delights for free courtesy of Project Gutenberg will probably agree. I can imagine ebook fans adapting them for their own self-publishing projects, cover design, homebrew ebook creation, or even being inspired to create their own digital bookplates. Anyway, they’re supremely attractive and will detain book and ebook lovers for hours just to contemplate them.