Friday, June 19, 2009

On Collecting Wine Bookplates: A Newcomer's Confessions by Rae Fahlenius. Part I

Part I

I have been collecting wine books for 25 years, rather casually, but not without great enthusiasm. Besides general works on wine, I have many books dealing with wine from different specific aspects, such as viticulture and winemaking, grape varieties, corkscrews, wine in the art of painting, wine humour, history of wine, wine terminology or even the miserable wine louse (phylloxera).

Of course, I had come to browse through some of the books in the course of the years, but last summer I decided finally to begin to read them. Any wine enthusiast must, I suppose, knows how white, rosé and red wines differ. And still something more, for sure. I aimed also to write a catalogue of the books, to check up possible dedications, autographs and even bookplates.

My attitude about bookplates had earlier been quite indifferent, they did not seem too interest me. However, I had noted that there were bookplates in some of my books in my collection. Two or three years ago I even wrote to a well known London bookseller who specialized in books about wine. I asked him for information on a certain Mr. Edward Hale, whose wine bookplate I had found in quite a number of wine books in my collection. I had purchased these books from this bookseller over many years. A few of these books I found in Helsinki too. No information was been discovered on Mr. Hale, but other old wine books with the Hale bookplate were found and, some of them with covers slightly damaged. The bookseller asked me politely, if I would be willing to take them too. For some reason I replied yes, though I already had several of the titles without the Hale bookplate. In the bookplate can also be found the name of Mark Wickham in small letters, no doubt, this is the artist.

Later the bookseller said he found more wine bookplates among his books. Naturally, I took some of these as well. Actually, I was not interested in the bookplates as such. I was interested in the books, and the bookplates revealed that the volumes came from the libraries of famous wine writers, merchants and gastronomists. I think that the ex libris of a connoisseur adds to the value of a book, though not monetarily, but rather some value in a cultural context.

These bookplates were of the classical design of the early years of the 20th century. Among the well-known collectors of wine culture and literature was André L. Simon (1877-1970). His ex libris are highly prized among collectors and this bookplate was found in A Practical Treatise on the Cultivation of the Grape Vine on Open Walls, by Clement Hoare. London et al. 1837. 2nd Ed.

The bookplate of Charles W. Berry reflects a wine theme depicting a hot-air balloon above London. Berry was a famous wine seller and writer living in London with a favourite pastime of hot air ballooning. In the bookplate the clock tower of St. James’s Palace is pictured on St. James’s Street was located the wine shop of Berry Bros & Rudd. However, it seems very unlikely that Berry ever flew his balloon over this part of the city. St. James’s Street has some other associations with wine too. H. Warner Allen wrote a book about the Berry family as wine merchants entitled Number Three Saint James’s Street, and a magazine published by the Berry’s had the same title. The wine shop of Justerini & Brooks is also located in St. James Street as well as the Hugh Johnson Collection, a specialist in wine accessories. Christie’s had their auctions and they still have a wine shop in King Street, which joins St. James’s Street farther away. I have the Berry bookplate in a book entitled The Blood of the Grape – the wine trade text book by André L. Simon (London: Duckworth & Co, 1920).

The bookplate of the famous Swedish gastronomist, Tore Wretman (1916-2003), depicts a man reading a menu at the door of a restaurant. The bookplate of Wretman is marking the ownership of a volume entitled Eloge de L’ivresse. This was written by a pseudonym Albert H. Sallengre and published in Paris about 1850.

In those days I discovered my first Finnish wine bookplate in an antiquarian bookshop in Helsinki. It was a simple ex libris depicting a bunch of grapes from Juhani Jaskari, who was a distinguished translator. In the book there was also the autograph of Mr. Jaskari, dated in 1955 in Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy. The book is Bourgogne Tastevin en Main by Georges Rozet, an interesting book to wine bibliophiles. It received the first Chevalier de Tastevin award in 1949.

Actually, it was the bookplates of Simon, Berry, Hale, Wretman and Jaskari that aroused my interest in collecting wine bookplates since the late summer of 2002. I had some background information on all the men, except Edward Hale. He was unknown to me, and yet, I had more than 20 books originating from his library. I imagine that his library of wine books must have been very extensive.

When I started collecting wine ex libris last autumn, I also looked for all the books, exhibition catalogues and articles available on the subject. I thought there would only be a few and that I would find new items occasionally over the years to come. After all, I already had the experience of 25 years collecting wine books in many languages. In that time, I had found only a few wine ex libris, and just one belonging to a Finnish collector. Of course, this perception was to turn out completely false. I had not learned that a great number of ex libris are in fact loose, and available only through exchange.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

On Collecting Wine Bookplates: A Newcomer's Confessions by Rae Fahlenius. Part II

Continued from Part I

I gathered in short order information about wine bookplates and related literature via the internet. I discovered the site of Ex Libris Aboensis and I joined this Finnish society. The decision to join was prompted by the acquisition of my first book on wine ex libris two weeks earlier. This German book is entitled Wein-Ex Libris aus 21 Ländern by Herman Jung (1973). The book justifies the wine theme as a worthy aspect of collecting bookplates which furthered by interest in this subject.

At the same time as I joined the EA, I received an important note from the president of the society concerning the catalogue of an exhibition on wine ex libris, organized in connection with the meeting at Fredrikshavn just some weeks earlier. The exhibition was based on bookplates from the collections of the well-known Danish collector, Dr. Erik Skovenborg. There was still hope of an extra copy of the catalogue to be found in Denmark. This hope came true. My membership could hardly have begun at a better time.

Making use of the information I got from the internet, I then sent e-mails to many recipients. I continued visiting many web forums and left messages about my interest in collecting wine bookplates and related books. As a result, the number of items in my collections of wine ex libris and related literature increased quickly during winter and even more later on, during the spring. I now have hundreds of wine bookplates, but only a dozen of them can be classified as Finnish wine bookplates. Books, catalogues and articles are 17 in number, two of which are with a dedication, and signed by the author. These numbers greatly exceed the numbers that I thought would be possible to collect during my first year. It seems as wine ex libris collecting has taken my breath away.

The greatest surprise to me was the level of interest in bookplates so highly developed and wide spread in the countries of Eastern Europe. I have received wine bookplates from collectors from these countries more than France. France is one of the classic great powers in literature and, of course, wines. One hopes that a place of such fine food and wine would offer some fine ex libris, too.

Some of the bookplates in my collection are extraordinarily interesting. One of these is the first wine ex libris of Norbert Lippóczy, who is perhaps the most famous collector of wine bookplates that ever lived. Lippóczy (1902-1996) was a Hungarian-Polish collector and began to collect wine ex libris in 1957. in this year, commissioned his first bookplate which was designed by the Polish artist Jósef Szuszkiewics (1912–1982). After this turning point, Lippóczy went on to collect thousands of bookplates.

Many exhibitions have been organized being based on the collection of Mr. Lippóczy. In some books and exhibition catalogues are described in words the first ex libris of Lippóczy, “with which all that began”, but I have not seen the image until quite recently. A few weeks ago I managed to get two copies of the bookplate. The first one was found among 30 bookplates sent to me by a German antiquarian bookshop.

On Collecting Wine Bookplates: A Newcomer's Confessions by Rae Fahlenius. Part III

Continued from Part II

Because of the words “Mein“ and “ich“ it is quite plausible to think that this text comes from Mr. Lippóczy’s own handwriting. Soon afterwards, I got an exhibition catalogue (1973) related to wine ex libris and occasional graphics from an antiquarian bookshop in Poland. The exhibition was organized to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Hungarian poet Sandor Petöfi and is spiced throughout with wine bookplates of Mr. Lippóczy.

Actually, there are no actual reproductions in the catalogue, but there are three original bookplate prints tipped in and one of them is definitely Mr. Lippóczy’s first wine bookplate. In my eyes, the value of the catalogue is emphasized by the fact that you can find the date, 18.III.73 Tarnow, could be signed by Mr. Norbert Lippóczy.

One of the many good points I have learned during the last six months of collecting bookplates is, that the enigma of Edward Hale was solved, at least in part. Two or three months ago I got a message from California. I was informed that Mr. Hale was a Master of Wine and wine buyer for Harvey's of Bristol and that he passed on in the early 1990s.

Loose bookplates have their own and interesting role for collectors. In addition, if pasted into books, bookplates enter in a larger cultural circulation. Through them one can also try to reconstruct collections in libraries that have disappeared for some reason or other. Furthermore, many thoughts were stimulated when I found an ex libris in a book, not affixed to the book, but drawn directly on it with the greatest of skill. More and more interesting questions and other stimulating thoughts were stirred as I became acquainted with the art of the bookplate. But this is a worthy endeavour.