Collecting Delaware Books

Delaware Bookplates

Delaware Bookplates by Henry I. Law was published in 1940 by the Bruin Press of Washington, D.C. It is an attractive book, 7.5 inches by 10 inches, 55 pages, and sports warm yel low boards and endpapers. It was issued in a glassine dust jacket.

Though born in Pennsylvania, Law was educated in Wilmington schools and was a graduate of Goldey College. He worked for local electrical contractor Frederic G. Krapf for seventeen years. In 1938, he established a large electrical supply company in Wilmington. His interests and activities were broad and included the Masons, the Shrine, De Molay, the Lutheran church, boating, and archaeology. He collected firearms, coins, Delaware history books, and bookplates.

Law describes the origin of his interest in bookplates.

law's own bookplate
Law's Own Bookplate

"The writer has enjoyed the task of assembling and collecting the material necessary to compile this monograph as well as the pleasure of meeting new friends who have the same love of books and bookplates. The idea of collecting the bookplates goes back to the purchase of the first item of Delawareana, Christopher L. Ward's The Saga of Cap'n John Smith. Adding other volumes of Delaware literature and to his library the need was felt to mark them, that they might not stray. In the search for a suitable design many Delaware plates were found, to the extent a new interest was born."

It is amazing how often Christopher Ward appears as an influence in Delaware letters.

The book includes a short essay on the state of the bookplate art in Delaware. The greater portion of the text is a list of known bookplates with detailed descriptions. Most of these were in the author's collection. The bookplate owners are a cross-section of Delaware's business, social, and artistic world. A number of colonial figures are represented. It concludes with a list of bookplate artists, biographies of some of them, and their work. Artists listed are Brandt Alexander, Bertha C. D. Bates, Albert Kruse, Henry I. Law, Howard Pyle, and Ralph Crosby Smith. Many of these names are familiar to Delaware book collectors.

Three actual bookplates are tipped in. In addition, the frontispiece is a reproduction of the bookplate of The Library of the Delaware Academy of Medicine.

Delaware Bookplates is an excellent reference for the bookplate collector, and it is quite collectible itself. It is nicely printed, but has three defects that require attention from the collector. First, the glassine dust jacket is often browned and may be high in acid. It should be stored separately. Second, the glue holding the tipped-in bookplates has seldom lasted the half-century. Make sure there are three bookplates and have them professionally reattached. Third, and most startling, the cloth and paper of the boards was not properly matched. A sudden humidity change can cause the boards to temporarily warp like parentheses. Standing the book on edge so air can reach both sides of the boards cures this.

Collecting bookplates is a field of its own, quite different from book collecting. Collectors, for instance, try to trade rather than buy.

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