The mania continues: Stanford bookplates, from the artist’s perspective

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Some time ago I  wrote about my burgeoning addiction to enchanting bookplates here.  The obsession began with the Stanford bookplates, but continued into an ebay spending spree, and German bookplate collecting societies, and a book about bookplates, and now heaven only knows where we’ll wind up.

So far, here: In the latest chapter of my saga, Lisa Haderlie Baker sent us a note explaining her story in bookplate design.  It began, like most of our sagas begin, with her parents:

“I created my first bookplate for the Stanford Libraries for my parents.  My father had been a professor of oceanography and marine biology at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove for decades, and he wanted a memorial book fund established in his and my mother’s name.  In this case, I started with my pen and ink drawing of Te Vega, the Stanford marine research vessel my Dad sailed on throughout the southern Pacific in the mid-1960’s, and then I designed the bookplate around the illustration.  That bookplate led to another Hopkins donor who liked my drawing, and then on to the general Stanford University Libraries by word of mouth, and the recommendations of the library staff.”

That first bookplate began with the millennium, a dozen years ago. Others followed.  “The bookplate design process always starts with the inspiration and ideas of the donors,” she writes. “Each individual or family has time to give detailed input, to provide photos, quotes, and artwork if desired, and to review a series of mockups until we reach the final design.”

Lisa writes that she uses a variety of tools to create the bookplates: “I do traditional pen and ink drawings or watercolors for some, but I also work in illustration and photography software on the computer. I collect vintage and antique borders and decorative elements, and I have a vast variety of typefaces to pull from as needed.”

She described some of the other bookplates she has made since the debut bookplate in 2000:

The Samson/Copenhagen Judaica Collection  (2003)

This tiny bookplate for a large collection of books and manuscripts had a dramatic history:  “The pieces were assembled by the Jewish Ashkenaz community in Copenhagen over many centuries – from 1517 to 1939. Concealed by Danes from the Nazis in WWII, the collection ended up in New York, and then eventually came to Stanford. The bookplate had to be tiny (2 x 2.5″), because many of the volumes in the collection were very small. I found an antique border to frame the medieval Jewish woodcut of hands supplied by the curator of the collection, and framed the image in soft blue on ivory stock.”

Edmund W. Littlefield Poetry Fund  (2005)

Every picture tells a story, and this bookplate began with a photo: “The donor in this case had a beautiful photograph, taken in their garden, of a bronze sculpture of a contemplative man holding a book. Very few Stanford bookplates had used a full color photo at that point, and although I originally designed the piece to be black and white, we all agreed that the color photo with its soft greens and beautiful lighting was much more evocative for a poetry collection.  I chose an elegantly decorative typeface, Mrs. Eaves, to echo the quiet beauty of the image.”

Steeve and Helen Kay Book Fund  (2007)

She began in the South Pacific and continued into Southeast Asia:  “For this book fund of Burmese studies, I originally thought a beautiful antique tinted map of Burma I had found would be a good solution, but I also suggested a bold image of Burmese temples as another idea. The donors liked this concept, and after sketch approval, I drew an imagined perspective of sepia-colored temples against a pale aqua sky in Adobe Illustrator.  I put all of the copy at the bottom to allow the towers to soar skyward.”

Glen Mclaughlin Map Collection  (2011)

And then her bookplate tour ended in sunny California: “Early maps often showed California as an island off the western coast of North America, and Mr. McLaughlin chose this image for his extensive California map collection.  I used a scan of a 17th century map, put the image in Photoshop and carefully cut out the”island” of California from the background that included the rest of the continent. I placed the title in a grand Dutch cartouche of about the same vintage. The intricate details of garlands, cupids and frame all had to be carefully cut (also in Photoshop) from the map it originally came from. The dashed border is adapted from a border often used on these early maps, and the typefaces were carefully chosen to fit the period look of the bookplate.”

Lisa at Glacier Bay

The size of the final piece of artwork is tiny, but the scope of interests they cover is awesome: “from marine biology, physics, mathematics and mineralogy, to collections of ancient Judaica, to Polish literature and Asian studies, to medieval manuscripts and antique maps, California history, and poetry collections. As a lover of history and an avid reader, it has been fascinating to research each of these topics to produce the best combination of art, photography, typography and design.”

“Every bookplate project is different, which is part of the magic of these little gems,” she writes.

More on bookplate mania later…


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