Do Bookplates, etc. Deface a Book?

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Postby magicam » 08/03/04 06:20 PM

Recently Ive been tinkering with the idea of putting a bookplate in my books and thought it might be fun to ask what you booklovers think about this. Is it good practice to insert ones bookplate in a book? The same question applies to stickers, embossing, and handwritten notations like This book belongs to . Just so we dont get sidetracked, lets assume that a book owner has the legal right to do anything he/she wants with the book, so the question is really focusing on should he?

The pros are that it identifies the provenance of a book, and sometimes with a famous magician or collector, this can increase the value of a book or make for some interesting history. The cons are that bookplates can be unsightly (the same goes for inked ownership notations, stickers, etc.) and purists might say that these things deface a book. Another problem is that some books dont have blank preliminary leaves, so putting in a bookplate would mean covering up something that was printed.

My opinion? Regardless of whether or not a previous owner was famous or not, I like seeing who owned a book and getting a feel for its ownership history. But I dont like ugly bookplates (true, it is a matter of personal taste), or bookplates that are way too large for the book, covering an entire page or pastedown. I also wish that bookplate users only lightly pasted their bookplates in the book, so that future owners could remove the bookplate if they wished. I dont care for stickers, embossing, and inked ownership statements because they cant really be removed without damage to the book. All in all, I dont see anything really wrong with a bookplate, provided it is installed properly in a book.

I dont have bookplates for my books, except for the dozen or so generic bookplates I pasted in some books when I was 13 or 14 years old (using a really ugly bookplate showing a mermaid sitting on a rock). Fortunately, none of those books are really valuable or rare. If I did create a bookplate, it would probably come in two sizes, one fairly small for small to medium sized books and another a little larger for large books. It would probably be printed on rice paper and glued in with a very small amount of glue at the top portion of the plate with water soluble glue (to facilitate easy removal by future owners).

A related question might be whether or not it is proper to annotate a book. With all but rare books, I dont have a problem with this but think the owner should annotate with a pencil. When I was in my early teens and quite impressionable, I wanted to be like Houdini and wrote comments (in retrospect, they are funny to read) in ink in a few of my books. I stopped doing that long ago and there are only a few books with such annotations and they are common books.

Your thoughts?
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Postby Guest » 08/03/04 10:57 PM

Magicam, very good question. I have a decent size "library" of magic books and to this point I have not bookplated and I use another method of making notations.
Reason for no bookplates is sheer laziness. I think it's a great idea if for no other reason to preserve an important part of magic history ..YOU! Not to meantion the fact it also helps insure that you're book doesn't wind up inadvertantly in someone elses library.
For making book notes, besides memos in a notebook, I use Post-its. They aren't perminate and adhesive doesn't seem to stain pages.
That being said, even though I am very organized when it comes to my books and I really cherish the information, in the end they are just tools. I think <my opinion folks> that magicians as a rule are so wrapped up in collectability and resale value they forget what the books are for. Tools to help us think, spur ideas and to help in pursueing the art that is magic.
So dog ear those corners, make those side notes and personalise them books. When you're gone the books will remain and maybe the next owner will enjoy the thought that another magician , big name or not, used that book to further his art.
Just my opinion.
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Postby Brisbin » 08/03/04 11:07 PM

The easy answer to this is that the bookplates affect the value of your books positively IF you are famous. If not, it's probably a minus to a majority of book collectors. Like you, I think it is interesting and important to see bookplates from the previous owners. I enjoy knowing that a book came from, say, Jack Chanin's estate, or the library of J. Elder Blackledge (a well-known collector of conjuring books.)

Magic Inc. published a couple of wonderful booklets on book collecting, which include insights on this topic: "The Magic Bookman," and "How's Your Library." In one or the other, there are many examples of unique bookplates that magicians used.

My preference is to place a bookplate in an unobtrusive corner of the inside back cover - sometimes concealed by the dustjacket.

It's probably best to avoid highlighting or writing in your books, unless you're sure that they are working copies that you don't plan to sell. Don't write or "annotate" your collectible books; use a notebook instead.

Just my two cents as a modest collector of magic books and ephemera.
"No Dough, No Show" - Stan Kramien
"What the mind harbors, the body manifests." - Tohei Koichi
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