Monday, September 14, 2009

The Bookplates of Lionel Pries III

When Pries decided to create a new bookplate after 1945, he apparently studied multiple alternatives. He pasted these studies (and possibly some studies of earlier bookplates he had never used) on two pages of his "scrapbook"-these pages show the breadth of Pries's imagination, as well as his exploration of several bookplate designs reflecting a more modern graphic language. Pries selected one bookplate from this group and used it exclusively after 1950. It shows an Asian figure, identified by Richard Mellott (former curator at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum) as an attendant of the Buddha. It is the only one of his bookplates to dispense with the traditional "ex libris…," using instead the phrase "from the library of…" Unlike his earlier bookplates it was printed in red. The figure reflects Pries's post-1945 interest in collecting Asian (especially Japanese) arts and crafts objects.

Pries created cards and similar graphic works throughout his life. It seems likely that he created bookplates for friends and colleagues, but only one such design has been confirmed. In 1944, Pries designed a bookplate for University of Washington Professor Blanche Payne (1897-1972), who taught historic costume and apparel design in the School of Home Economics from 1927 to 1966.

The bulk of Pries's personal book collection was donated (by Pries's heir Robert Winskill) to the University of Washington in the 1990s, and that is the primary basis for our knowledge of his bookplates. A small collection of Pries's rare books was sold at auction, and Pries bookplates are now occasionally mentioned on-line in connection with books for sale by antiquarian and rare booksellers.

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