Monday, October 09, 2017

An Interview with Daniel Mitsui

This is  an email interview I recently had  with Daniel Mitsui.

My questions are highlighted in blue and his responses are in black.

Daniel Mitsui

In ten years you have become the most prolific living American bookplate designer.

How many bookplates have you completed and how many are you currently working on ?

I do not keep perfect records of the things I draw, so I do not know exactly how many bookplates I have designed. Probably eighty or ninety.

Bookplate commissions are not steady; some years I only draw a couple, and in other years I draw a dozen. I suppose this is because I do not actively seek out bookplate commissions, but let inquiries about them come to me. This means that most of the commissions I undertake are from people who are really enthusiastic about the bookplate and have a distinct idea about what they want on it, which is helpful.

At the moment, I have two bookplate commissions secured, and I am discussing four others that I expect will be secured soon. There is a real thematic variety in these - one is to be in a medieval Irish style, one to make visual references to old movies (Cleopatra and The Seventh Seal), one to take its inspiration from M.C. Escher and the Borges short story The Library of Babel. None of the bookplates are in the drawing stage yet, but I will probably put pen to paper for at least one in the coming week. 

Of all those bookplates which was the most challenging ?

It would be easier for me to say which are the least challenging.

Ornament has always been one of my artistic strengths; millefleur patterns, Celtic knots and fanciful lettering are the sort of things that I draw well without much effort. Some of the bookplates that I have drawn featuring these are, I think, among my most impressive - but they were not especially challenging. When not drawing bookplates, my specialty is medieval religious art, so the many bookplates that I have drawn featuring patron saints or heraldry were not especially difficult to realize either. Neither were those that take inspiration from biological illustration, as this is a minor specialty of mine.

I suppose the most difficult bookplates for me to draw are those that require me to adopt a style or subject totally different from what I normally draw. One reason I like bookplate commissions so much is that they require me, on occasion, to stretch myself creatively. For example, the John T. Barfield bookplate. This is not especially complicated in its design, but the patron wanted a Classical ornamental style and a landscape with a recognizable tree and house. These are the sort of things that I almost never draw.

The Kathy Tapia bookplate required me to draw a scene with dramatic foreshortening, totally unlike the perspectival space of medieval art. My wife posed for that one, on top of a stack of our own books. If you look closely, you can make out The Origin of the Serif and The Second Book of Negro Spirituals. I think the big open one is Dryden's translation of The Aeneid.

The Leonora Janisheski bookplate might also be the answer to your question, because the subjects are so outlandish to me: the Rietveld Schröder house (a famous work of Bauhaus architecture), Valeska Gert (an avant-garde dancer) and lemurs. When otherwise would I draw something like this?  Somehow, I was able to fit some medieval lettering and millefleur into it.

Of all those bookplates do you have one that you are particularly proud of ?

I think that the Renata Rua bookplate turned out very well; this depicts an Irish saint, Gobnait, in a style that is like that of early medieval manuscripts, but with some subtle influences from Utagawa Kuniyoshi and sangaku tablets. Medieval art was always accepting of international influences, so I think that this sort of approach is in its right spirit, even though the monks at Kells obviously knew nothing of Japanese culture!

I am very fond of the bookplate I drew for the maritime library of the Acania, which depicts the ship surrounded by a border of seashells and aquatic invertebrates. It's simple but very balanced. I'm not sure what exactly I did right there.

Andrew Lohrum's is a personal favorite, because of its especially clever choice of subject. I cannot take credit for that; the patron told me exactly what he wanted. It depicts an episode from the life of St. Francis of Assisi. He founded a religious order whose members are committed to complete poverty; they beg for sustenance, and cannot own personal property. Here, a novice has asked him permission to own a breviary, which is a book of daily prayers that all priests and monks and mendicants recite. St. Francis responds by rubbing ashes on his head, saying I am a breviary! I am a breviary! to demonstrate the vanity of wanting to own books.

You have created   ephemeral items like calling cards, greeting cards a
label for a musical instrument etc.

Can you put together a complete list with as many scans as possible?

I've never kept anything like a complete list for small miscellaneous projects like these, but here are some of the examples I found:

Bookmarks - John and June Mellman, Bloody Candlestick Mystery Bookshop

Business cards - Bloody Candlestick Mystery Bookshop (2), Bruno Cicconi, Donald Lambert, Stephanie Sheffield

Calling cards - Nicole Cuadra

Invitations - Clerical Tonsure, Pace Wedding

Luthier label - Miles Mibeck

Coats of arms - Bishop Joseph Perry, Shane Pliska

Note From Lew

If you would like to see more of Daniel Mitsui's artwork here is a link to his website

Friday, September 22, 2017

Support your local bookseller

Support your local Book Seller
I  never run paid advertising but I am always pleased to promote book shows, Book Sales and  Booksellers .It is tough out there in the real world if you are running an independent bookstore.

Here are  two noteworthy announcements

I received this email from Curtis Kise the owner of Neighborhood Books after I visited his store and complimented him on the attractive and reasonably priced framed bookplates he had for sale.

We are selling the framed bookplates for $5.95 - $8,95
 Loose or unframed ones are $1 each or 3 for $2, .
The exceptional ones range from $2 - $5 each.

The store is open seven days a week, 11am to 6pm, closed major holidays (next is Thanksgiving). We are located at 1906 South St. Philadelphia, Pa. 19146, 

 Our phone number is 215-545-BOOK

 email is

Thanks for doing this for us! - Curtis

Support The Bookplate Society

A new collector asked me yesterday why he should join The Bookplate Society

My response was Trust Me. Do It.

Perhaps I was too brusque so I will elaborate.
The Bookplate Society publishes well researched and profusely illustrated books about bookplates.
I use them frequently.In addition , most members go out of their way to assist me when I have questions about heraldry.Beyond that the member's bookplate auctions provide an opportunity to buy  items for your collection.
This book is currently available to non-members.
Price is £24 which is $31  and for a 1kg parcel Royal Mail quote £13.50, in other words $17.25, which I find grim but ipost and MyHermes are still more expensive.  So a total of $48.25 to non-members living outside the EU.

Item Description: The Bookplate Society, London, 2016. Soft cover. 199p. Publishers stiff wrapper. A biographical descriptions of 22 families and their bookplates with 249 black & white illustrations and an Appendix.
 Send Orders to:

Monday, September 04, 2017

This Week in Bookplates 9/3/2017-Part Two

Yesterday I wrote about the Brooklyn Book Show.
This morning I received this Email from Cara Schlesinger  owner of the Faenwyl Bindery

"I hope to see you this weekend at the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair, at Brooklyn's Expo Center in Greenpoint!
Do you have a book in need of special care - - repair or a protective slipcase or clamshell box? I'd be glad to talk with you about it at the fair. If you'd like to bring the book with you, please call me from the door at (917) 414-4575 and I'll come to walk you in.
I have a few passes for complimentary entry available for people who'd like a consultation - - reply to this email to let me know you're interested! "

Cara Schlesinger, Faenwyl Bindery

Here are some Brooklyn bookplates  from my collection.

Kurt Zimmerman recently mentioned Dr Purple in his book collecting blog

I wrote about Emma Toedteberg in yesterday's blog posting.
This bookplate was engraved by E.D. French

The Pratt Institute has an excellent bookplate collection which can be viewed by following this link

Mystery Brooklyn Bookplate

The artist's initial's are FB.Does anyone out there know who that might be ?By the way , if you have any Brooklyn bookplates send a scan to and I will add them to my next blog posting.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

This Week in Bookplates 9/3/2017

I am going to attend the fourth annual Brooklyn book show.( Sept 8-10)
If you are in or near Brooklyn and have bookplates for sale or trade please send me an email.

This is an exceptionally well run show  and at least two dealers  Tom Boss and Richard Thorner will be bringing bookplates.
Here is their contact information.

Here is a link with detailed information about the show


Fellow Collector Anthony Pincott sent me this information about the Emma Toedteberg Collection at the Brooklyn Historical Society.

With a little advance planning you can go to the show and visit the  Historical Society also.
Call Number: 2012.004
Extent: 23.5 Linear feet, in 48 manuscript boxes.
The Emma Toedteberg Bookplate collection, spanning from 1701 to 1982, was the bookplate collection of long-time Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) librarian Emma Toedteberg (1856-1936). The collection was originally created by Miss Toedteberg’s father, Augustus Toedteberg (1824-1909), and later expanded by BHS librarians. The present collection numbers over 7,000 bookplates ranging from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, including armorial, heraldic and presentation bookplates of individuals and institutions. Works of numerous engravers are represented such as Edwin Davis French, Charles W. Sherborn and John W. Evans.

Fellow collector Luigi Bergomi  has listed over two hundred bookplates on Ebay this week.. His seller name is Olindo.

To be continued on Monday 9/4

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Twenty Five Judaica Bookplates for Possible Exchange

Two Mystery  Bookplates

Fellow Collector Tom Boss Has sent two bookplates engraved  by F.B. 
Does anyone out there recognize this artist ? 
Send your response to

Judaica Bookplates for possible Exchange

I've been trying to get my duplicates organized but it is challenging because I've got the clutter gene.
If you have any Judaica bookplates for possible exchange send jpeg scans to

I'll be back in several days with bookplates of notable people for possible exchange.


Tuesday, August 01, 2017

The Wonders of the Internet

Shortly after I wrote about Charles Frederick Blank I received this email.


Hello.... enjoyed your blog on particular the obit. for Charles Blank and the Blank signed Bookplate proof....

I am a barbershop collector and have in my collection the original art work grouping leading to the bookplate.
However I still have yet to find an actual bookplate... 

So in the event you ever run across another of these plates I would be interested in acquiring it... I even talked with Charles Blanks grandson in hopes of getting one from him..but he would not sell his extra plate.

Chief Mike

a little about me..

Shaving Kit engraved by Charles F. Blank
Note from Lew
 I contacted Spencer Frazee Charles Blank's great grandson and he was very helpful in sharing information with me.
He has  an excellent Face Book page with many images of bookplates.

He also sent this scanned photo of his great grand father.
Charles Blank

An email from Spencer Frazee


This may be interesting to you.   
Frederick C. Blank is buried less than 2 miles from my house in 
Rockville, CT.  I actually live in Tolland, CT, but it's still less than
 2 miles away.  I've since bleached his stone and tidied up the 
grave site.  Link below includes photos and a little background.

Mystery Bookplate

If you recognize this bookplate please contact me.


I saw your awesome blog and thought you might like to see this do you know anything about Shoji?

.PS. it is in a 1936 book on Japanese woodblock prints by P. Neville Barnett which is also cool.

Sean Blanchet


The Smithsonian has a very impressive digitized research tool.
Here is the link for bookplates.  This site should be bookmarked.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Two Dumpster Tales

New York Times Obituary for Frederick C. Blank -1942

Mr. Blank's bookplate from The Richard Schimmelpfeng Collection

The One That Got Away

I am not exactly sure exactly what year I became infected with bookplaticitis. I assume it was in the early 1980's. 
By then Frederick Charles Blank had been dead around forty years.
At the time I was selling advertising space for a trade publication so I was a firm believer in the power of advertising. I placed an ad  in The Antique Trader  and was quickly contacted by a dealer who had about six hundred items relating to Mr. Blank . They included correspondence between him and King Gillette about a proposed bookplate. along with sketches.
The dealer explained that a picker found the items in a dumpster and the asking price was $125.00. Unfortunately, I had no idea who Charles F. Blank was and I declined the offer. Several days later I found out that I made a big mistake and contacted the dealer. You guessed it. By then the lot had been sold.

The One That Didn't Get Away

In 2010 a real estate broker called to tell me that he sold a house in which a bookplate collection had been stored in the attic.The new owner threw everything into a dumpster and the broker contacted me.
I bought the collection from him  without hesitation. The most significant item in the collection was this Charlie Chaplin bookplate.

Here is a detailed inventory of the collection. The original owner was Katherine C. Bartholomew.

Mystery Bookplates

Dear Mr. Jaffe,

I received an inquiry regarding the bookplate of Robert Hoe, and your name was referred to me as someone who might be able to proffer some assistance or opinions. 
One of our members recently acquired a book bearing the blue bookplate of Robert Hoe, which differs from (but is quite similar to) his red bookplate.  The red bookplate I am familiar with, but the blue one I have never seen before.  The question is, do you know if the blue bookplate is a variant of the red, or if it could be the bookplate of his son, Robert Hoe III?
I have attached photographs of both bookplates herewith.  Any thoughts you might have on the matter would be greatly appreciated.

With my best regards,


Sophia Dahab, MLIS
Assistant Librarian
The Grolier Club
47 East 60th Street
New York, NY 10022
Phone: 212-838-6690

This title page was sent by Tom Boss .

7/19/2017 Fellow collector  Richard Cady  sent the following message:

 I think both your plates are Robert Hoe's.

Grolier Club members at around the turn of the century often had their leather bookplates printed in varying colored leathers as well as on paper.  And there are some design variants.  I have three Hoe plates - one reddish, one brown, one blue. In my own collection Cortland Bishop had at least three - green, red and blue.  William L. Clements four, Barton Currie two, Ernest Gee two, Frank Hogan five, Pierpont Morgan two, W. Van R. Whitall two, John Camp Williams three (diamond shaped), and assume this is just the tip of the iceberg.  RHC

Hats off to Stephen Fowler, owner of The Monkey Paw Bookshop in Toronto
In this day of diminishing antiquarian book shops Mr. Fowler figured out a way to
get customers from all over the world .

Monday, July 10, 2017

More Recent Arrivals

Jeffrey Price has a new wood block bookplate engraved by Andy English.
I asked him to write something about his new plate and this is his response:

It started with the idea of  referencing M. C. Escher’s artwork and including my own Latin motto. I enjoy the phrase ‘Seek the Extraordinary,’  and the closest Latin translation of that is ‘Quaerite Singulari.’ I used ‘Ex Collectione’ rather than ‘Ex Libris’ for flexibility, thinking that I may put it on the back of a picture from my gallery, a book from my collection, or perhaps exchange it with other collectors..
     Both Andy and I are fans of Escher’s work, especially his 1931 series of  woodcuts titled ‘XXIV Emblemata.’ Emblemata prints have a history going back hundreds of years. Their function was to educate by illustrating a moral lesson or motto with a memorable picture, often created in woodcut. The design Andy created has its roots in an Emblemata print of a sundial, in which the transience of time is shown by a passing shadow. But a fortune-teller’s crystal ball sees the future, and I am indebted to good fortune. 

Andy even crafted a reflection of Artists’ Market in this sphere, and you can even make out the number 163 of our address in the image. The tiles are engraved like Escher’s, and the garden is 100% Andy English. Andy cut his initials into the block in Escher’s style, tying  everything together quite neatly.

Jeffrey Price                                     

Artists' Market Inc.
The Artists' Bookplate Museum
163 Main Street
Norwalk, CT 06851 USA                   

Here are a few recent additions to my collection

By way of explanation I purchase bookplates that fit into themes that have  some weird appeal to me.

                       Severed Heads

For quite some time I have been fascinated by bookplates with severed heads and exposed brain matter. I call it my Donovan's Brain collection.
If you are turned off by this topic do not click onto this memorable link from the movie
  Underwater awakening

If you want similar bookplates from your own collection added to this posting send jpeg scans to

This bookplate was designed by Roberto Buonacconsi
I see no artist's signature on this plate but the previous owner noted that it was done by Pavel Simon
This bookplate shown above is a gift from fellow collector James Keenan.
It was etched by Matthew Collins

Okay, this is not a bookplate. It is a magazine cover which reflects my own fears about our current president - his misguided , and very muddled mindset.
As a nation we survived the civil war , two world wars and the great depression
 Hopefully we will also survive this very sad turn of events .