« PreviousContinue »
other distinguishing features, should preserve them as of interest to the present or the future.
And all printed paper covers should be carefully preserved by binding them inside the new cover which the book receives, thus preserving authentic evidence of the form in which the book was first issued to the public, and often its original price. In like manner, when a clothbound book comes to re-binding, its side and back covers may be bound in at the end of the book, as showing the style in which it was originally issued, frequently displaying much artistic beauty.
Whoever receives back any books which have been out in circulation, whether it be the librarian or assistant, must examine each volume, to see if it is in apparent good order. If it is found (as frequently happens) that it is shaky and loose, or if leaves are ready to drop out, or if the cover is nearly off, it should never be allowed to go back to the shelves, but laid aside for re-binding or repair with the next lot sent to the binder. Only prompt vigilance on this point, combined with the requirement of speedy return by the binder, will save the loss or injury beyond repair of many books. It will also save the patrons of the library from the frequent inconvenience of having to do without books, which should be on the shelves for their use. How frequent this sending of books to repair should be, cannot be settled by any arbitrary rule; but it would be wise, in the interest of all, to do it as often as two or three dozen damaged books are accumulated.
If you find other injury to a book returned, than the natural wear and tear that the library must assume, if a book, for example, is blotched with ink, or soiled with grease, or has been so far wet as to be badly stained in the leaves, or if it is found torn in any part on a hasty inspection, or if a plate or a map is missing, or the binding is violently broken (as sometimes happens) then the damage should be borne by the reader, and not by the library. This will sometimes require the purchase of a fresh copy of the book, which no fair-minded reader can object to pay, who is favored with the privileges of free enjoyment of the treasures of a public library. Indeed, it will be found in the majority of cases that honest readers themselves call attention to such injuries as books have accidentally received while in their possession, with voluntary offer to make good the damage.
All unbound or paper covered volumes should be reserved from the shelves, and not supplied to readers until bound. This rule may be relaxed (as there is almost no rule without some valid exception) in the case of a popular new book, issued only in paper covers, if it is desired to give an opportunity of early perusal to readers frequenting the library. But such books should not be permitted to circulate, as they would soon be worn to pieces by handling. Only books dressed in a substantial covering are fit to be loaned out of any library. In preparing for the bindery any new books, or old ones to be re-bound or repaired, lists should be made of any convenient number set apart for the purpose, prompt return should be required, and all should be checked off on the list when returned.
No shelf in a well-regulated library should be unprovided with book-supports, in order to prevent the volumes from sagging and straining by falling against one another, in a long row of books. Numerous different devices are in the market for this purpose, from the solid brick to the light sheet-iron support; but it is important to protect the end of every row from strain on the bindings, and the cost of book supports is indefinitely less than that of the rebinding entailed by neglecting to use them.
Some libraries of circulation make it a rule to cover all their books with paper or thin muslin covers, before they are placed on the shelves for use. This method has its advantages and its drawbacks. It doubtless protects the bindings from soiling, and where books circulate widely and long, no one who has seen how foul with dirt they become, can doubt the expediency of at least trying the experiment of clean covers. They should be of the firmest thin but tough Manila paper, and it is claimed that twenty renewals of clean paper covers actually cost less than one re-binding. On the other hand, it is not to be denied that books thus covered look shabby, monotonous, and uninteresting. In the library used for reference and reading only, without circulation, covers are quite out of place.
Book-plates having been briefly referred to above, a few words as to their styles and uses may here be pertinent. The name "book-plate” is a clumsy and misleading title, suggesting to the uninitiated the illustrations or plates which embellish the text of a book. The name Ex libris, two latin words used for book-plate in all European languages, is clearer, but still not exact, as a definition of the thing, signifying simply "out of books." A book-plate is the owner's or the library's distinctive mark of ownership, pasted upon the inside cover, whether it be a simple namelabel, or an elaborately engraved heraldic or pictorial device. The earliest known book-plates date back to the fifteenth century, and are of German origin, though English plates are known as early as 1700. In France, specimens appear for the first time between 1600 and 1650.
Foreign book-plates are, as a rule, heraldic in design, as are also the early American plates, representing the coat of arms or family crest of the owner of the books, with a motto of some kind. The fashion of collecting these owners' marks, as such, irrespective of the books containing them, is a recent and very possibly a passing mania. Still, there is something of interest in early American plates, and in those used by distinguished men, aside from the collector's fad. Some of the first American engravers showed their skill in these designs, and a signed and dated plate engraved by Nathaniel Hurd, for example, of Boston, is of some historic value as an example of early American art. He engraved many plates about the middle of the last century, and died in 1777. Paul Revere, who was an engraver, designed and executed some few plates, which are rare, and highly prized, more for his name than for his skill, for, as generally known, he was a noted patriot of the Revolutionary period, belonging by his acts to the heroic age of American history.
A book of George Washington's containing his bookplate has an added interest, though the plate itself is an armorial design, not at all well executed. Its motto is "exitus acta probat"—the event justifies the deed. From its rarity and the high price it commands, it has probably been the only American book-plate ever counterfeited. At an auction sale of books in Washington in 1863, this counterfeit plate had been placed in many books to give a fictitious value, but the fraud was discovered and announced by the present writer, just before the books were sold. Yet the sale was attended by many attracted to bid upon books said to have been owned by Washington, and among them the late Dr. W. F. Poole, then librarian of the Boston Athenaeum, which possesses most of the library authentically known to have been at Mount Vernon.
John Adams and John Quincy Adams used book-plates, and James Monroe and John Tyler each had a plain namelabel. These are all of our presidents known to have used them, except General Garfield, who had a printed bookplate of simple design, with the motto "inter folia fructus.” Eleven of the signers of the Declaration of Independence are known to have had these signs of gentle birth-for in the early years of the American Colonies, it was only the families of aristocratic connection and scholarly tastes who indulged in what may be termed a superfluous luxury.
The plates used among the Southern settlers were generally ordered from England, and not at all American. The Northern plates were more frequently of native design and execution, and therefore of much greater value and interest, though far inferior in style of workmanship and elaboration of ornament to the best European ones.
The ordinary library label is also a book-plate, and some of the early libraries and small collections have elaborate designs. The early Harvard College library plate was a large and fine piece of engraving by Hurd. The Harvard Library had some few of this fine engraved label printed in red ink, and placed in the rarer books of the libraryas a reminder that the works containing the rubricated book-plates were not to be drawn out by students.
The learned bibliophile and librarian of Florence, Magliabecchi, who died in 1714, devised for his library of thirty thousand volumes, which he bequeathed to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, a book-plate representing his own profile on a medal surrounded with books and oak boughs, with the inscription—“Antonius Magliabecchius Florentinus.”
Some book-plates embody designs of great beauty. The late George Bancroft's, engraved on copper, represented a winged cherub (from Raphael) gazing sun-ward, holding a tablet with the inscription “Eis phaos,” toward the light.
Some French book-plates aim at humor or caricature. One familiar example represents an old book-worm mounted on a tall ladder in a library, profoundly absorbed in reading, and utterly unconscious that the room beneath him is on fire.