Thursday, January 14, 2010

Antioch Bookplate Company I

Antioch Bookplate Company


Edith Anderson Rights

Suddenly my attention has been focused on the Antioch Publishing Company (formerly the Antioch Bookplate Company) a concern with which most Americans who love books are familiar. [All facts about the history of Antioch Bookplate Company and any quotations used in this article were taken from the company’s publications: catalogs, brochures, and online web sites.] The spark for this attention was the announcement [New York Sun, June 14, 2007] that Antioch College (founded by Horace Mann) of Yellow Springs, Ohio, plans to close its doors on July 1, 2008, because it can no longer function in a fiscally valid manner. A few days later concern was expressed about the future of the periodical Antioch Review, a publication earlier spun off from its parent institution; unlike the Antioch Publishing Company which had never been officially a part of the college.

The Antioch Bookplate Company (the earlier name) is, so far as I can determine, the only business that has provided bookplate services for nearly a century, had absorbed an unknown number of their smaller competitors and is still the principal producer of universal bookplates in the United States. Small bookplate divisions still exist in companies, a few companies have survived more than a few years, and new companies still appear, but Antioch Bookplate Company is the largest and best known in the United States.

As early as 1946, I (then a college student) chose the Antioch bookplate G9 for use in my personal library. Later, in two decades (1984-2004) of inspecting institutional bookplate collections I saw and photocopied for my own use those advertising brochures and bookplate catalogues as appeared in these collections in order to identify properly some of the bookplates that had entered my collection. Any inspection of a bookplate collection created in the early 20th Century may well disclose a small brochure produced by a graphic artist who offers a group of designs from which an individual could choose a bookplate; any number of these entrepreneurs solicited business in this manner, although most collections have only one or two of these brochures. Most of those bookplate brochures by individual artists had no publication date although in some cases a date can be surmised from the age of the collections in which they appear. So far the only other significant 20th Century catalog, that I have seen, came from the firm Berliner & McGinnis.

Antioch Bookplate Company II

Recently in inspecting the Notre Dame University’s online bookplate registry online, I found that collection (created probably around 1945) contained about 70 Antioch bookplates of that period but had no record that these were universal bookplates from Antioch.

While many bookplate collections (deliberately or not) contain a surprising number of universal bookplates, little has been done in documenting these ‘universals’ as a separate segment of any particular collection. Generally in fact, they are felt to have little value at all. The twenty-six examples, gleaned from my collection, are only a representation (not an exhaustive survey) of Antioch’s output since 1926.

There are at least four types of publication sources for universal bookplates beyond the Antioch Company. Probably the most common is college and university bookstores that sell bookplate packets with the institutional seal as the principal image, a sure source of sales to students, parents and alumni. Another source consists of the companies (such as Gaylord, Augsburg Press, and Library Bureau) that concentrate on supplying the needs of institutional libraries with a few bookplate designs in their inventory. At various times manufacturers of book oriented products have advertised their product with complimentary bookplates as did Globe-Wernicke with their sectional book cases and (in the present day) the QPB (Quality Paperback Books) and National Geographic firms. Additionally fund raising projects promoted by museums or other institutions may offer a particular design for a bookplate for purchase by their memberships; i.e. the one found in numerous collections with an individual’s name and the name Saranac Lake also imprinted.

The Antioch Bookplate Company is known to Americans, interested even minimally in the use of a bookplate, since their packets are to be found in most shops that sell books in the United States. Antioch College, where the bookplate company was founded and originally housed, was a school that advocated an education that alternated work and study. The company was never an actual Antioch College department or ever officially affiliated with the college. It was founded in 1926 by Ernest Morgan and Walter Kahoe, both Antioch College students, working at the campus print shop as part of a work-study program offered by the college. Distressed by the volume of paper cut-offs, trimmed from publications of the Antioch College press in the printing process, they wanted to find ways of turning this waste paper into something useful. In exchange for janitorial work and as a part of their work-study program, they scrounged printing supplies and used the shop’s press after hours to print a trial press run of decorative bookplates on strips of waste paper.

Antioch Bookplate Company III

With permission from the college, the students named their venture The Antioch Bookplate Company. Eventually Kahoe sold his interest to Morgan; while Morgan continued his education during daylight hours and printed bookplates and bookmarks by night. Relatives and friends pitched in to help him with his fledgling business. To sell his product to dealers, Ernest Morgan hitchhiked his way around the region. “As Morgan neared the end of his academic education, he was offered an attractive employment opportunity with McGraw-Hill and he had to decide between a promising future with an established publishing firm or continuing the struggle to make his own business grow. After much thought, he chose to risk following his own course because his dreams included much more that simply earning a living. His goal was to create a ‘community of work,’ based on the Quaker values with which he was raised. These values included honesty, mutual respect, tolerance, recognition of the dignity of people and their ideas, and corporate and individual responsibility. Far ahead of his time, Ernest looked upon the workplace as a community of equals, sharing in the process of meaningful work and its rewards. By 1929, profit-sharing was a practice of the company, an institution that pioneered in democratic, inter-racial and profit-sharing policies.

The first flyer from Antioch, presumably in the1930s, consisted of ten design images, coded in the catalog as M. The two most often seen are the first featuring owls and the second having a stylized gazelle, both universally popular images for bookplates. A later undated single sheet flyer depicted twelve new images including that show two additional very popular themes, the first with a familiar verse by an unidentified author and the other with a frigate under full sail. Variations of the frigate image have been used without the compass rose and with the addition of lines from Emily Dickinson’s poem: “There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away.”

With the publication of the 1944 catalog (35 pages), the company’s inventory of designs had grown exponentially. They had also acquired the design stock of Stenzel & Company of New York City and the black and white designs of the Rustcraft Company of Boston. Rustcraft had in the 1920s and 30s also carried a series of at least eight four- color designs enhanced with gold accents that Antioch apparently did not acquire. The bookplate image of M6 had appeared also in an earlier Joseph G. Bolger flyer, although Antioch, using the same pictorial, restyled the lettering. The design used as R66 is representative of the twelve bookplate designs identified in the Antioch catalog as “the more popular items of the series formerly published by the Rustcraft Company, of Boston.”

Antioch Bookplate Company IV

The opening page of this 1944 catalog illustrated, for the first time, the reproduction of Spitzweg’s “The Bookworm” that shows an elderly gentleman standing on the top of a library stepladder in front of a tall bookcase reading one book while holding another in his right hand, a third book under his left elbow and a fourth between his knees. This design was still carried in their 1990s catalog, although recut earlier; however, the original artist was identified only in the 1959 catalog.

Designs featuring silhouette images and a Viennese scherenschnitte were offered in the 1944 catalog and a few of these and others became dated. Two innovations also appeared in 1944. The first was a series of twelve zodiac designs created by Juanita Gould [see Bookplates in the News, #97, July 1994] without Antioch catalog numbers. The other was the introduction of color in a series of ecclesiastical designs by John Huchthausen and a series of five in bright colors by Owen Wise.

When the Company incorporated after World War II, employees were allowed to nominate two of their own board members, a practice that continues to this day. The company grew and prospered. While producing most of America’s bookplates, the Antioch shop also published the Yellow Springs newspaper.

The 1959 Antioch catalog of 32 pages announced the company’s acquisition of the bookplate designs Rockwell Kent had prepared for the Greenland Press and the designs of the Etchcraft Company (the best of the entire series catalogued as E) and illustrated eight designs (printed in brown or blue) commissioned from Lynd Kendall Ward [see Bookplates in the News, #105a, July 1996]. For the first time in this catalog, most of the images are accompanied with the artist’s name. Robert Whitmore’s design of a tree rooted in a book, first published as M7, is shown in its recut version. A more recent publication by Antioch explains this design as “the whitmore tree. knowledge and growth, two items necessary for learning, are timelessly represented in the graphic of a strong, healthy tree being nurtured by a large book. This icon, popularly referred to by Antioch employees as “The Whitmore Tree,” was designed by Robert Whitmore in the late 1920’s exclusively for Antioch Bookplate. Ernest Morgan, our founder, fondly remembered this graphic as one of his first purchased (and favorite) bookplate designs, which he commissioned from his good friend Robert. It is our most enduring design and still one of the most active bookplates in our line. It is also the basis for our current logo [again recut].”

Antioch Bookplate Company V

The catalog of 1959 also illustrated four of eight designs (printed in brown) created in the 1950s by a new artist Benton Ferguson; in 2001 the series was labeled ‘The Young Moderns’ and had been expanded ten designs, each with stick-figure people whose faces are obscured by their open books. Another artist, Mark Kelley contributed three designs for a series of eight color bookplates for children, William Pringle provided four designs, and Carl S. Junge was credited with a single design for bookplates that were otherwise plain labels. Dorothy Burrage Chandor’s cat on a stack of books, John Hucthhausen’s leprechaun, and Cullen Rapp’s ornamented label, all introduced in the 1950s, were designated ‘old favorites’ by 2002.

Among the new offerings in the 1966 catalog of 29 pages were Raymond Da Boll’s calligraphic design created for himself [see Bookplates in the News, #15, January 1974] that was printed originally by Antioch and later adapted as a stock plate with minor changes; and even later republished using only Da Boll’s calligraphic lettering; a reproduction of Katsushika Hokusai’s Wave now designated an ‘old favorite’ and (also without identifying the artist) a contemporary design.

By 1968 sales had reached $350,000 annually. That year Lee Morgan, Ernest’s youngest son, joined the company, and during the next two decades the product line expanded into new book-related items such as bookmarks and journals.

In the 1980s the company was renamed Antioch Publishing Company and eventually established operations in Canada, the United Kingdom and Mexico and has continued to expand. From a two-person operation utilizing a borrowed press in 1926, Antioch Publishing grew to have 600 employee-owners by the 1990s. For seven decades the company has continued the community-oriented spirit and human-centered values of its founder through its recycling programs, its charitable foundation, and its employee profit-sharing plans.”

Antioch Bookplate Company VI

The catalog of the 1990s covered Antioch Publishing Company’s expanded product line, relegating its bookplate coverage to pages 41 through 47, with thirteen new bookplate offerings among the many older designs like the ancient map of the world and the bouquet of massed flowers.

The online listing of 2001 and 2002 contained illustrations of two designs which had obviously been part of Antioch’s stock for years and that were newly labeled as ‘old favorites’ without any reference to their earlier catalog numbers: the sepia design of an owl in a leafy background, and a colored design of a central medallion with two birds and three flowers within a scrolled branch.

Since 1926 Antioch Bookplate Company has published numerous versions of their philosophy and general policies that are interesting and informative. While universals, by their very nature, are not tailored expressly to an individual owner’s taste, in 1959, Antioch stated that: “bookplate art … alone among the arts seeks to show, in graphic form, some clue to the personality and spirit of its owner, some suggestion of his motivating values or interest, or something of his feelings about literature and life [and that] hidden beneath the sedate workaday exterior of each of us there is another self, a freer, truer self which most of us are afraid to show the world, lest our dignity suffer. There is a hunger for romance, poetry and adventure. Thus a personal bookplate should be both a device for identifying the books with their owner, and in a deeper sense a medium for identifying the owner with his books … to get a design that somehow ‘fits,’ not just in subject matter, but in feeling as well.”

And for those individuals who were not satisfied with a ‘universal’ design Antioch suggested: “If you have a design of your own, or can obtain such a design from an artist, our charge for making a cut is $3.00 … We strongly advise that wherever possible special designs be done by artists who can collaborate personally with their clients.” One such ‘commissioned’ bookplate [that I have seen] was prepared for and used by S. Barksdale Penick’s library in his home in Montclair, New Jersey. A print of this bookplate is in the Montclair Art Museum’s collection and reproduces the over-mantel metal sculpture of garden tools that hung over this library’s fireplace. Mr. Penick was later the president of the Montclair Art Museum’s board of trustees.

Antioch Bookplate Company VII

The (undated) enclosure in an Antioch bookplate box promised that “If, for any reason, you are disappointed with the bookplates you order we shall consider it a favor to have them returned regardless of whose fault it may have been, for few things are more annoying than a displeasing or defective bookplate.” Whether this policy is still in effect is not known.

Antioch designs represent the selected work of many artists through its eighty-plus years, and have covered a wide range of subjects and styles. While the designs illustrated here are representative, other recognized bookplate artists (in addition to those already cited) provided designs including Valenti Angelo, Franklin Bittner, Bank B. Gordon, Dan Burne Jones, and Thijs Mauve.

Antioch bookplates do have a ‘universal’ appeal, although many designs became dated because of changes in modern opinions about styling. Many of their designs have been used for decades – are still popular, as their recent designation as ‘old favorites’ states. Certainly Dorothy Chandor’s cat deserves this accolade as does the bookplate featuring Sir Galahad in addition to the Spitzweg adaptation.