One of my favorite things to do at museums, galleries and libraries is to peruse the book portion of their gift shop. I come across some of the most unusual, or specific books that would never end up on the front display table at a big chain book store. Recently, when I was at the Morgan Library & Museum to check out their Bookbinding Exhibition, I took a turn in their bookshop and came across a gold rush of interesting and unique books.
Tucked away in the corner of the lobby, through a series of glass doors and the restaurant, the Museum store had stacks of books on delightfully esoteric subjects - such as Miniature Books: 4,000 Years of Tiny Treasures, The Superior Person's Book of Words, and Writing: The Story of Alphabets and Scripts. After browsing stacks of similar titles, I settled on one called, A Treasury of Bookplates, from the Renaissance to the Present.
Dover Publications printed this wonderful visual history of a greatly overlooked art form. Spanning almost 600 years, the catalogue features pages of bookplates running the gamut from medieval to gothic, morbid, romantic, and fantastical. It's interesting to look at these miniature illustrations and surmise what the artist was trying to convey about the person who used the bookplate. Did he find joy through the written word, power, prestige, knowledge, or art? Perhaps these bookplates can tell us a little of the reader's history.