One of the most interesting things about working in an historical children’s literature collection, as I did for twenty years, is discovering the paratext elements of the books, the parts of the book that have nothing to do with the textual content.
One of these elements is the bookplate, which in content, style, whimsy, humor and declaration of ownership, provides some insight, I like to think, into the particular person who once owned the book I now hold in my hands. I can always speculate: Was Amelia a Southern belle? Did Ray dream of heading West? Did William grow up to be a philosopher or Margaret a lawyer?
Whether the bookplate suggests a book is a window into the world or a flight of fancy or simply says Ex Libris, to me they all indicate that the child was proud of his books, perhaps he was building a library which provided him a view of the wider world and a sense of discovery and adventure. It’s nice to think so.
Here are some bookplates I discovered while working at the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature, most with the first name of the young owner, Amelia, Florence, Walter, Donald, Ray, Sarah, Judy. Catherine, William, Margaret and Jean. Enjoy!