The birth of a bookplate

Posted on 16th July 2020 by simonbeattie

I suppose I had always been attracted by the idea of having my own bookplate, so when my parents asked me what I would like for my 30th birthday (back in 2005), I suggested having one made. Likewise, I have always been attracted by wood engraving, and so I approached Simon Brett to see if he would accept a commission. When, a couple of weeks ago, I blogged about a book of mine currently in the Grolier Club‘s New Members Collect exhibition, a number of people commented on my bookplate, so I thought I would set down something of its history.

It is fascinating working with someone like Simon, giving him some ideas and seeing what he comes up with. I wanted certain elements on the bookplate, such as Exeter Cathedral (where I used to sing), but I also was interested in combining two styles of wood engraving: what I think of as the traditional English style, as immortalised by Thomas Bewick, and the kind of artwork one finds in post-war Soviet books (which at the same time serves as an allusion to my having studied Russian at university). I also suggested the idea of incorporating beech leaves, to represent Buckinghamshire, where I am from (and, indeed, still live).

I still have copies of Simon’s initial sketches, where you can see his thoughts, and developments, in incorporating various aspects of my life and interests (Exeter, German, Russian, books, and beechy Buckinghamshire) in the design, which I thought I would share for the first time here:

I have always been very pleased with the finished bookplate, and was delighted when the V&A accepted one a few years ago for their collections.

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6 responses to “The birth of a bookplate”

  1. Christine says:

    Thanks so much for sharing these drafts Simon! I’m going to share this with my father, who is about to embark on the bookplate design process with Andy English. (I surprised him with a commission for his birthday.) Fun to see Pushkin make an appearance in the earlier drafts!

  2. Harriett Smith says:

    Love the finished product! (and it somehow reminds me of Harry Potter; maybe it’s the flying leaves).

  3. Kathleen McCook says:

    Hi, Appreciate you sharing the journey and different styles you considered. Well done.

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