mid-18th century through mid-20th century
Bookplates, small paper panels denoting book-ownership, have their origins in Renaissance Germany. Their use was standard in the eighteenth century, when books were vastly expensive and hard to produce, and they became popular as status symbols and collectibles during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries’ renewed interest in “the culture of the book.” Our collection demonstrates the extraordinary aesthetic range of bookplates, including abstract designs, landscapes, human subjects, crests, and mythological figures, ranging in style from the staid and classically armorial to the privately iconographic and bizarre.
The majority of this collection consists of bookplates belonging to notable Virginians, including Lieutenant Governor Robert Dinwiddie, Declaration-signatory George Wythe, Constitutional co-author Gouverneur Morris, Revolutionary general Hugh Mercer, Col. George Lee Turberville, DAR Magazine contributor (and great-granddaughter of Patrick Henry) Elizabeth Henry Lyons (“Lift the Latch and Find Me,” her bookplate says), Civil War major and correspondent John Hooper, Richmond city councilman and industrialist James Branch Ransom (whose mock-armorial crest features a cartoon chicken), prominent Richmond physicians Samuel Dove and John Brodnax, authors John R. Witcraft and the Rev. Philip Slaughter, Powhatan-born U.S. comptroller John Skelton Williams, and aviator, polar explorer, and Medal-of-Honor-winner Rear Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd, of Winchester, a descendant not only of Pocahontas and John Rolfe but of William Byrd II, founder of Richmond. Also included are bookplates from Rainbow & Hannah’s Circulating Library in … more