Online Exhibits@Yale


[William F. Hopson business card]

[Business card of William F. Hopson], undated, 5.8 x 9.8 cm. Collection of Bookplates by William Fowler Hopson (BKP 47)


A prolific engraver and illustrator, Hopson executed over 200 ex-libris in addition to other graphic works during the so-called golden age of American bookplate design (roughly from 1890 to 1925). Hopson lived in New Haven, CT, with his home and studio located at 730 Whitney Avenue, as this business card indicates. 


Sometimes an ex-libris seems to express the artist’s own artistic vision rather than the patron’s personality. For example, the English designer and illustrator Pickford Waller (1849-1930) created bookplates mostly for friends and relatives. The example shown here is a bookplate for his daughter, Sybil, and it echoes some of the same stylized organic forms seen in Waller’s sketchbook from 1920.  

The patron, however, often has as much creative agency in the bookplate commission as the artist him- or herself. Irene D. Andrews Pace (1892-1962) was such an active participant in her bookplate commissions that she saved trial proofs and final prints, carved woodblocks or plates, any original sketches, and correspondence related to her commissions. Documenting the process allowed her to better understand the scope of the artist’s work and hone her connoisseurship while also monitoring the work in progress.

[Style No. 10 stock bookplate design]

[Style No. 10 stock bookplate design] by John D. Morris & Company, 1907. Collection of Bookplate Trade Brochures (BKP 121)





Of course, having a bookplate of one’s own could be as simple as ordering it from a catalog. A variety of ex-libris were available commercially in the early 20th century. Many individual artists and printing companies advertised their wares in bookplate brochures. Their marketing tactics included appeals to one’s sense of individuality, refined taste, and pride in ownership as well as the practical matter of security.