Rockwell Kent

Ex Libris

I’ve just received a new shipment of these bookplates. They are for readers who would like a signed book but can’t make it to a book signing. If you’d like one, just email me with your address and, if you want a personal inscription, what you would like it to say. There is no charge. It’s just a way of saying “thank you” to readers. (Click the image to view full sized.)

A little background on the design. The woodcut illustration is by the artist Rockwell Kent. It was originally commissioned by the Antioch Bookplate Company for a mass-market bookplate in the 1950s. Those Antioch bookplates used to be very common. You could find them at any bookstore. They were tasteful, inexpensive and, for the genteel middle class, a little aspirational. (My mom had them.)

Kent was a prolific bookplate designer. Most of his work was for friends and private clients, though, like the plate on the left. (Source. More examples here and here. There is even a book on Kent’s bookplates.) The series he designed for Antioch made it possible for everyone to have a Rockwell Kent bookplate.

Antioch stopped printing bookplates a few years ago, but Karen Gardner has continued the business under the name Bookplate Ink, where you can still get many of the old Rockwell Kent designs.

Personally, I love Kent’s art. So when it came time to order a bookplate for my readers, I asked Karen if she would modify one of Kent’s designs to make a little more space for a signature and inscription, since the original design left only enough space for the owner’s name. I cribbed the “compliments of” line from a similar bookplate offered by Alain de Botton, and the result is what you see above.

I admit it’s a little loony to spend so much time thinking about bookplates. In the age of ebooks, soon there may be nothing to stick them on. All the more reason to enjoy them now.

Categories: Books · My Books    Tags: · ·


Rockwell Kent - Whale Beneath the Sea

Rockwell Kent, “Whale Beneath the Sea” (1930) (via). More here.

Categories: Art    Tags: ·

Not-So-Random House

Candide colophon

What is that little house in Random House’s logo? The New York Public Library explains (via):

In 1928, Random House commissioned the great American artist Rockwell Kent (1882–1971) to illustrate Voltaire’s Candide as the first book under its imprint. The volume’s colophon page contains the image of a house — intended to be where Candide and his companions lived and where they cultivated the final garden of the tale — which became the company’s logo, still in use today. Kent’s Candide is one of the landmarks of the American illustrated book, with specially made paper from France, a new typeface from Germany, and multiple illustrations, all exquisitely integrated. Random House issued a limited edition of 1,470 copies and another 95, these hand-colored in the artist’s studio.

Now, about that Bantam rooster…

Image: Kent’s colophon page for the 1928 Candide, number 83 of a limited edition of 95 copies hand-colored in Kent’s studio. Approximate value of the rare hand-colored books: $25,000. Image source: Felt & Wire.

Read more on Candide, including the Rockwell Kent edition, at the NYPL’s site for the recently closed exhibit on the book. About Voltaire himself, look here.

Categories: Publishing    Tags: · · · ·