I bought this book from a charity shop recently. I was looking for an old book to experiment with – I have been having some ideas about altered books recently and thought I ought to get something in to play about with. I chose this one for its smallish size (about 13 x 19cm) and simple but strong binding. Also, it was only £1.99! I noticed that it had a bookplate inside the cover and thought that it could be something to play around with:
I thought it was a quirky mid twentieth century design, the bright colours and blocky design seemed to point that way. Back at Lestaret Towers later that day I had a better look and was intrigued by the monogram:
A little internet research later revealed that this was the work of the legendary Edward McKnight Kauffer, designer and commercial artist, probably most famous for his simple and striking London Underground posters. Further research revealed that Ifan Kyrle Fletcher was “a bookseller specialising in Performing Arts and founder of the Society for Theatre Research” as well as author and editor of a number of books on the performing arts. Someone well-connected enough to commission a personal bookplate from the most famous designer of the day.
Pasted onto the flyleaf is a letter that I did not notice when I bought the book. It is dated 1925 and although Fletcher is not named as the recipient of the letter, it is clearly a response to a previous letter and is concerned with issues of the theatre, so I think I can safely assume that the letter was to Fletcher, and that it was he that affixed it within the book. The yellowing of the papers suggest that has been there some considerable time and not a later addition.
Haphazard remarks indeed! Signed C. Nabokoff. Not Nabokov, although I did a double-take at first! So who was C. Nabokoff then? I appears that the erstwhile Mr. Nabokoff was something of an historian, author and critic, and although I could find references to a number his books, there was no information about who he was was. I turned the page of my book to the frontispiece to find that C. Nabokoff wrote the preface – Doh! There you go then.
This edition was published in 1918 and there are a few available on the antiquarian book market. They are not hugely valuable at £8-10 but there are other copies with attached related correspondence and ‘discreet bookplates’ that are double the price. Sweet!
I can find only one reference to McKnight Kauffer designing a bookplate for anyone other than Fletcher but sadly no images. There are some excellent galleries of his work here and here amongst others. Classic stuff worth rediscovering.
A gallery in Richmond has a framed original of this bookplate for sale and has it dated circa 1920. It is significantly more valuable. Nice.
Needless to say, this book is no longer intended for ‘alterations’ and has joined the permanent collection in the Lestaret library.