A note on Brunsdon Yapp

img_2508Found in The Biology of Space Travel (London, 1961)— a typed note on the biologist Brunsdon Yapp. It was dated 2005 and initially refers to Yapp’s bookplate. There is a short entry for him at Wikipedia but this fills out the existing info on this excellent human being.

Brunsdon Yapp’s father came from Hereford to Bristol for the sake of his family’s education, and his two daughters went to Bristol University. William Brunsdon Yapp went to Bristol Grammar School before going to Downing. Christened William and known at home as Billy, he preferred as an undergraduate to be called Brunsdon, inviting friends to call him Brunny. Brunsdon was his mother’s maiden name, but I think his choice was dictated more by a desire to be different than by any desire to give particular credit to his mother. He read Natural Sciences, taking biological options. He went on to teach at Haileybury and Manchester Grammar before being appointed secretary to Oxford Local Examination Boards. Then he became a lecturer, subsequently a senior lecturer at Birmingham University. Service on the National Parks Commission won him the OBE. He was a member of both the Athenaeum and the RAC, the London club that is, not just the roadside motoring organisation.

‘An Introduction of Animal Physiology’ was, I fancy, the book that won him his appointment at Birmingham, and he prepared a series of revisions of Borradaile’s Manual of Elementary Zoology, a more advanced work than its title suggests. Published after his retirement, his ‘Birds in Mediaeval Manuscripts’ was a significant contribution to antiquarian studies. In 1962 Yapp’s ‘Birds and Woodlands’ was published by Oxford University Press. He regarded it his most important scientific work. The frontispiece is C. E. Tunnicliffe’s picture of ‘Cock Pied Flycatchers in Sessile Oak’, which I understand was specially commissioned. It was also used, on a green background, on the dust jacket, and Yapp later adopted it as his bookplate. I have not seen it in publications about Tunnicliffe, though I have not looked very hard. Continue reading

Hollywood bookplate (1928)


A bookplate from Hollywood 1928 right at the end of the silent movie era. It was done for actor and film director Robert G. Vignola (1888 - 1953) and was found in his copy of Emil Lucka's Eros. The Development of the Sex Relations Through the Ages (Putnam's , N.Y. 1915.) It was drawn by the film costume designer Walter Plunkett, presumably a friend of the distinguished director and 26 years old at the time. By this time Vignola had acted in many movies and had directed at least 60, some of which are no longer to be found.

Vignola's  career seems to have come to and end  just after 'talkies' came in, a not uncommon fate for older directors. The figures in the bookplate represent stars of the time and probably relate to movies he had made. Other film  directors who had bookplates include George Cukor, Bryan Forbes, Charlie Chaplin and Cecil B de Mille.

John Rylands on the art of the bookplate

Rylands letter 001Bookplates have been out of fashion for many decades, but throughout most the nineteenth century up to the early twentieth century, bibliophiles spent good money commissioning artists to design these very personal items. The bookplate craze reached a sort of height in the Edwardian period and the following unpublished two letters from the lawyer, antiquarian and businessman, (1846 –  23) dates from this era. The addressee is J.A. Twemlow (1867 – 1954), a medieval historian and archivist who became an authority on the early history of Liverpool.


Bidston Road,


7th Feb: 1911

Dear Mr Twemlow,

Thank you for the book-plates of Prof & Mrs Barnard. Of course they are far above the average of armorial plates & I hesitate to criticise them; however I will truthfully express my thoughts.

                                 All the lettering of Prof. Barnard’s plate rather displeases my eye, being quite modern. I should have liked more mantlet; but that is merely a matter of taste, for the present mantlet follows some excellent examples.

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The man who gave his name to Sydney, Australia

It’s a long way from East Anglia, to Sydney, New South Wales, but Thomas Townshend, who was born in Raynham, Norfolk, in 1733, and who became Viscount Sydney in 1789, was the Home Secretary who gave his name to the growing coastal community which later became Sydney Town.

Here we have his bookplate, probably printed soon after his elevation to the Upper House. It depicts a coronet over a shield that features the scallop shell symbols of his branch of the Townshend family. The son of a minor aristocrat, Townshend   attended Clare College, Cambridge and in 1754, not long after graduating, entered the Commons as Whig member for Whitchurch at the age of just 21.He subsequently held offices in various ministries until Shelburne appointed him Home Secretary in 1782. Not long afterwards he was elevated to the Upper House as Baron Sydney and under Pitt the Younger continued as Home Secretary until 1789. In office he declared his intention of reforming convicted felons by sending them to make a fresh start in New Holland, as Australia was then known. His policy proved so successful in New South Wales that the Governor, Arthur Phillips named the tiny community of Sydney Cove after him. Subsequent Australian historians, however, have been less enthusiastic about Sydney’s role in Britain’s transportation policy.

After leaving office in 1789 Sydney, now Viscount Sydney, retired to his country pile, Frognal House, near Sidcup in Kent, where he died in 1800. As the bookplate came from the estate of a descendant of the poet and essayist Austin Dobson, who was a great enthusiast of the Georgian period, it is very possible that it once formed part of his personal collection.

Faux armorial bookplate – an enigma

Found - a bookplate or possibly heraldic design for a coat of arms. Among some bookplates and ephemera but printed rather than engraved, perhaps clipped from a printed item (nothing on the back) and measuring six inches square. Possibly a jokey faux armourial design for a bookplate. I have seen other comic designs on these lines.  The words 'Thingummy ad Nauseam' point at its satirical intention.

I am not sure when people started saying 'Thingummy' for people whose names they had forgotten, or for people who were annoyingly ubiquitous but this design is almost certainly from the 20th century. Bookplates often sum up the interests and pastimes of the collector - in this case it would be drawing, possibly ornithology, deer stalking, coffee drinking, Olympic sports... The flying carpet might indicate an interest in travel, possibly eastern...the bird (a white ostrich or an egret?) wearing specs and holding a pen could mean an interest in literature - along with a wastepaper basket full of discarded papers. The design to the right of the cup could be part of a jigsaw puzzle..

Austin Dobson winds up an artist

Austin Dobson was one of those rare examples—Anthony Trollope, Kenneth Grahame and Charles Lamb were three others—of a writer who had a day job in quite a different field. He was a career civil servant in the Board of Trade who somehow found the time to publish very entertaining essays, principally on themes in eighteenth century art and literature, and much experimental minor verse. As a seventeen year old bibliophile I discovered the Georgian period through Dobson’s wonderful Eighteenth Century Vignettes. In Dobson’s time, the three Brock brothers of Cambridge, all brilliant draughtsmen, were falling in love with the period, as did, a little later, the architect, Sir Albert Richardson, who held dinners  with his friends at his Georgian mansion in Ampthill in which everyone dressed up in Georgian costume. I don’t think Dobson went that far, but I could imagine all five men getting on very well together.

This bookplate, which was discovered among many other examples, among the papers of a descendant of Dobson’s, is interesting enough, but becomes more so when we find that there exists a sketch by the bookplate’s designer , the well-known American book illustrator E. A. Abbey, in which Dobson is depicted ‘winding-up’ the designer to get him to create this  very bookplate.[RMH]

Laurence Ambrose Waldron

Found in a collection of other examples, this is rather dull little bookplate, considering it came from the library of Laurence Ambrose Waldron (1858 – 1923), one of Ireland’s great and good in the first two decades of the twentieth century-- a patron of the Arts, a Nationalist politician, public benefactor, and ardent book collector with a library of several thousand volumes.

The conventional design of the bookplate is even more bewildering when we consider that Waldron was such an Arts and Crafts enthusiast, that in the early 1900s he built a mansion, which he christened ‘Marino’ in this style at Ballybrack, just outside Dublin. He later commissioned the Beardsley-influenced cult illustrator Harry Clarke to create nine exquisite stained glass illustration of Synge’s Queens (below) for his new library there. In 1998, after having not been seen since 1928, these were sold by Christies for over £300,000.

The only possible explanation seems to be that Waldron had the bookplate printed some time before his enthusiasm for Arts and Crafts and Clarke took off. As he succeeded his much more conservative father (also called Laurence) at the age of 17  in 1875, the design was probably made between this date and the building of ‘Marino’. [RH]

Bookplate of Waldron's father *
*Many thanks Mullen Books

Show me the Money, Coutts

Sent in by Hertfordshire's top jotter Robin Healey for which much thanks. The tradition of writing family histories appears to be alive and well.

I’ve always been mildly amused at why the heir to a banking fortune ends up with the name Money-Coutts. And I’m equally certain that my aunt, who wrote a history of the Coutts family, was also tickled by the name.

Anyway, here’s an attractive bookplate which an inscription in pencil on the reverse assures us was designed by the gifted painter and book illustrator, John D Batten (1860 – 1932), in 1889, at the age of 29. The design is eclectic, featuring a central circular panel that owes much to Burne-Jones, and spandrels that are crammed with writhing Art Nouveau-style  foliage.

We can be sure that the design was very much to the taste of Batten’s patron, Francis Money-Coutts, 5th Baron Latymer ( 1852 – 1923), who had studied Law at Cambridge but  was considered too unstable to join the family firm. Instead he practised as a solicitor in Surrey while pursuing under the pseudonym ‘ Mountjoy’ his preferred vocation as a poet and general man of letters, safe in the knowledge that he was not likely to end up in a garret. He also befriended the composer Isaac Albeniz, becoming his benefactor and contributing the lyrics to a series of operas.

John Batten had a similar background to Money-Coutts. He also read Law at Cambridge, though at a later period, and like his future patron, was called to the Bar. Again, like Money- Coutts, Batten abandoned Law for his true passion, which in his case was Art. In 1886 he exhibited for the first time at the Grosvenor Gallery, which was owned by a kinsman of Money-Coutts, Sir Lindsay Coutts. So, it is very likely that the artist and the banking heir met through their shared association with the Gallery.

It would be interesting to know how the relationship developed over time, and particularly whether Money-Coutts became a keen collector of Batten’s striking, Pre-Raphaelite-influenced paintings.

Stephen Long bookplate

This modest bookplate pasted into a copy of The New Forget Me Not (1929), a miscellany of entertaining short pieces by contemporary authors, including Belloc, Beerbohm, Harold Nicholson, J.C.Squire, Vita Sackville West and Hugh Walpole, with superb decorations by Rex Whistler, came from the estate of the interior designer and antiques dealer Stephen Long, who died in his eighties in 2012.

From all that has been said about him since his death Long, a specialist in early nineteenth century china, whose eclectic shop in the Fulham Road was for decades a Mecca for lovers of the unusual  and 'shabby-chic', seems to have almost single-handedly invented the modern taste for interiors of painted furniture, naïve artifacts and stylish, if sometimes distressed ceramics. Indeed, a profile of his shop featured in the very first issue of The World of Interiors.

I attended the memorable sale at which  the contents of Long’s shop and flat were dispersed ,and as with other sales of iconic figures in the world of design and lifestyle—Andy Warhol and Elizabeth David come to mind—the prices paid by many punters (dealers included) for cracked pots and framed prints--  seemed to be greatly inflated. I was not tempted by most of the lots, but did buy some books, among which was this Forget-Me-Not.

There is no doubt that this dealer of the ‘old school’ possessed an extraordinary ‘eye’. I wish I’d met him. [RMH]

The Rolls Royce of Bookplates

Found -- the bookplate of Charles Stewart Rolls  featuring early sporting motor-cars to foreground with illuminated lamps, the moon rising behind an imposing country pile, and balloons ascendant in the sky above; inscribed “Charles Stewart Rolls” below, and with the coat-of-arms of the Baron Llangattock surmounting top centre with family motto “Celeritas et Veritas” (Speed and Truth)measuring 12 x 9cm. About 1905. Rather valuable - a clean one made over a £100 at Bonhams in 2013. The artist was known as WPB  (Barrett) and he produced several hundred bookplates, mostly for the landed gentry, featuring the house, the library and the pastimes of customers who ordered them at bookshops like Bumpus.

Charles Rolls was of course the co-founder (with Henry Royce) of the Rolls Royce car firm. He stood 6 foot 5 inches and died  young -he was the first Briton to be killed in a flying accident, when the tail of his Wright Flyer broke off during a flying display in the Southbourne district of Bournemouth, England in 1912. He was 32. He came from money and with a loan of £6600 from his father (Baron Llangatock) he set up one of the first car dealerships in London.

Paul Nash bookplate for art collector Samuel Courtauld

Found - a loose bookplate by Paul Nash  for the industrialist and art collector Samuel Courtauld. Produced around 1930, it measures a sizeable 13 by 9.5 cms, probably intended mainly for art books and livres d'artistes. The writer and broadcaster Lance Sieveking writes in his autobiography The Eye of the Beholder (Hulton Press, London, 1957) -'Sam Courtauld and Paul met at a dinner party I gave at Number 15 The Street, and Courtauld persuaded Paul to design a book plate for him. The result was one of the most charming he ever made.' The engraving is said to be the only one initialled by Paul Nash on the block. The bookplate is quite scarce as, presumably, it is mostly found in books held at the Courtauld Institute; few have entered the used book trade.

The woodcut is British Surrealist in style with an echo of Cubism and Vorticism - both movements had earlier attracted Nash. Samuel Courtauld's family fortune came from the textile industry (rayon), hence the bobbin and threads. The French flag refers to the origins of the name Courtauld, a French Huguenot family whose early descendant was the celebrated goldsmith Augustine Courtauld. The Courtauld textile industry was based in Braintree and Halstead in Essex. The view through the frame shows what appears to be a Martello Tower - these are closely associated with the  East Anglian Coast.

Bookplate of Chesterton of Kensington

Found in a copy of Bella Duffy's Madame de Stael (Eminent Women Series, W.H. Allen, London 1887) a bookplate of one E. Chesterton of Kensington. This is almost certainly a close relation of G. K. Chesterton, the writer, novelist and creator of the immortal Father Brown. He was from Kensington and a member of the family who owned the Kensington estate agent Chesterton's - which still flourishes in London's white hot property market of 2014.

The illustration seems to be by E. Chesterton (a man) and is reminiscent of the style of Lucien Pissarro. The quotation is from one John Wilson, whom Holbrook Jackson, in his Anatomy of Bibliomania, notes was a London bookseller. Modernised, it reads thus:

“Oh for a book and a shady nook,
Either indoors or out,
with the green leaves whispering overhead,
or the street cries all about.
Where I may read at all my ease
both of the new and old,
For a jolly good book whereon to look
is better to me than gold” 

Forum Club (Grosvenor Place)

Found-- this intriguing bookplate. It can be seen in many books deaccessioned from the club's library. Until I researched the Forum Club I thought it had some occult or theosophical connection, as the women look like priestesses witnessing some sort of vision or apparition. In fact it was a normal London club, but solely for women, with 1,600 members.

It was founded in 1919 as The London Centre for Women's Institute Members, and lasted into the early 1950s. A number of suffragettes and early feminists were members, including Elizabeth Robins, Mary Sophia Allen and Sybil Thomas and Viscountess Rhondda. As well as accommodation for members (and their maids), the club contained a dining room, a lounge, a photographic darkroom, a salon which could by hired for exhibitions, a bridge room, a billiard room, a library and a hairdresing room. Formerly it had been the residence of of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who was Prime Minister from 1905 to 1908. A blue plaque commemorates his residency. During World War I it was The Princess Christian's Hospital for Officers - a convalescent home with 35 beds, affiliated to Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital in Millbank. A website in 2012 reported it was now boarded up but it will probably re-emerge as an oligarch's palace or a hotel.

Paul Klee- bookplate for Dr. Louis Michaud

Paul Klee's bookplate for his fellow Swiss school friend Louis Michaud (1880 - 1957) the clinician, scientist and teacher. Klee's only bookplate, with the printed initials 'P.K.' in the corner. A copper plate etching measuring 161 by 181mm, the design itself measuring 148 by 105mm. Listed in the Catalogue Raisonée (Kornfeld) as Klee's engraved Opus no 2. Known in only a handful of examples. Within a tree trunk frame Mephistopheles, seated in Dr. Faust's office addresses an eager student. Surrounding them are various objects comically recalling medical studies - a skull with a pipe in its mouth, a nude female torso, a retort, an inkwell, a baby in a wire covered jar and a stuffed hanging fish. Above and below merged, as it were, with the tree are a snake or lizard-like  figure. A cartouche at the top bears the owners name with 'Ex Libris' above, below are the first lines of a famous verse from Goethe's Faust- "der Geist der Medizin ist leicht zu fassen!" (The spirit of medicine is easy to grasp...") Ironic  in style, the bookplate also shows (according to Benoit Junod) 'the first signs of that distortion of forms of the living world which Klee was later to develop.' Sold several times in the last 2 decades for about £1600. No one ever plonks down the money, you usually have to take post-dated cheques and books and bookplates as swaps -- bookplate collectors are fairly cautious. However there is a new breed emerging in the Extreme Orient who buy high and without demur-- they tend to favour erotic bookplates...

Rudolph Putnam Messel—a forgotten member of The Brideshead Generation

When, a few years ago, I bought a copy of Ernst Toller’s Brokenbrow (1926) for its brilliant illustrations by George Grosz, I didn’t take much notice of the bookplate. Recently, I took another look and discovered that it was made for Rudolph Messel, Oxford friend of Evelyn Waugh in the early twenties and one of the lesser known members of the 'Hypocrites Club'.

Born in 1905, the son of wealthy stockbroker Harold George Messel, art was part of Rudolph’s heritage. Famous stage designer Oliver Messel was his cousin and his aunt Maud was daughter of the celebrated Punch cartoonist Linley Sambourne. In 1918, when he was 13 he lost his mother. On his father’s death two years later Rudolph may have become a ward of his uncle Leonard, who in 1915 had inherited Nymans, in Sussex, from his father Ludwig (also a stockbroker ).While Leonard was transforming the gardens of Nymans and filling the mansion with costly art works from around Europe, his nephew Rudolph was living an effete life at Oxford as a member of the notorious Hypocrites Club, whose more famous members included Evelyn Waugh, Terence Greenidge and Lord David Cecil. In 1926, aged 21, Rudolph stayed for a few days on Lundy with Greenidge, probably on the recommendation of Waugh, who had visited the island two years earlier with some fellow Hypocrites. Greenidge and Messel had interests in common . Both liked dogs and both were keen on film. The eccentric Greenidge was perhaps a little keener on dogs than was Messel and attracted attention on Lundy by a habit of kissing his pooch on the mouth.

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