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Barbara Abele Bookplate Collection, 1915-1998 | Special Collections & University Archives

By Ellen Jarosz

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Collection Overview

Title: Barbara Abele Bookplate Collection, 1915-1998Add to your cart.

Predominant Dates:1970-1998

Primary Creator: Abele, Barbara

Extent: 6.5 Linear Feet


I. Bookplates by Subject, A-Z

II. Bookplates by Designer, A-Z

III. Collector Files, A-Z

IV. Correspondence

V. Subject Files

VI. American Society of Bookplate Collectors and Designers (ASBCD)

VII. Published Materials

   1.) Bookplates in the News

   2.) Other Publications

Date Acquired: 09/18/2003

Subjects: Abele, Barbara, d. 1998--Archives, American Society of Bookplate Collectors and Designers--Archives, Bookplate Collection, Bookplates--Collectors and collecting, Bookplates--History, Bookplates--Specimens

Forms of Material: Personal Papers

Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The Barbara Abele Bookplate Collection documents the historical development of bookplates, bookplate designers, and collectors, as well as the communication networks they used when interacting with each other. The collection dates from 1915 to 1998 with the bulk of documents created or collected between 1970 and 1998. It consists of six main series: Bookplates by Subject, Bookplates by Designer, Collector Files, Correspondence, the American Society of Bookplate Collectors and Designers (ASBCD), and Published Materials. The Published Materials series includes two subseries: an incomplete run of the newsletter Bookplates in the News, and other miscellaneous published works, all relating to bookplate collecting and designing.

The Bookplates by Subject and Bookplates by Designer series consists of files of bookplates arranged alphabetically by subject, and designer’s last name, filed from A-Z.

The Collector Files are composed of information about different bookplate collectors, and include some correspondence press releases, and news articles.

The Correspondence series consists of correspondence both with individuals and institutions written by Barbara Abele from the 1970s-1990s primarily about sharing and building her collection of bookplates. It is arranged alphabetically by correspondent or general subject.

The Subject Files consist of a few photographs and files generated during research for public presentations made by Abele, and about bookplate collecting. They are filed alphabetically by subject.

The American Society of Bookplate Collectors and Designers (ASBCD) consists of membership directories dating from 1966, 1977-83, and 1992, and yearbooks dating throughout the 20th century, filed chronologically by year of publication.

The Published Materials series is comprised of two subseries: Bookplates in the News and Other Publications. The collection does not contain a complete run of Bookplates in the News, but does include issues from July 1970 to April 1998. They are filed chronologically. The second subseries, Other Publications, includes a collection of published works drawn upon by Barbara Abele when performing research about bookplates and when networking with other collectors and designers. They are filed alphabetically by author, and inventoried in the Container List below.

Biographical Note

Bookplates, labels indicating ownership pasted inside the front cover of a book, probably originated in Germany in the mid-15th century. The earliest dated bookplate still in existence was created in 1516, and is also German. In North America the earliest known bookplate, dated 1674, was found in colonial New England, while the earliest example created by an American engraver dates from 1749.

Many themes and motifs can be identified in bookplate creation throughout history. Pictorial bookplates include portraits, images of books, views of libraries, and various landscapes. Early armorial bookplates in 16th-century England consisted of a simple unornamented shield, symmetrically mantled helmet, crest, and scroll where the owner's name was usually inscribed. Allegorical bookplates were popular in France during the reign of Louis XV and in England by the mid-18th century. Personifications of the Christian cardinal virtues and other abstract ideas, such as truth, justice, wisdom, hope, and faith usually appeared on bookplates from this period, as well as symbols of the interests and occupations of the book's owner, such as the scales of justice, and naval and military trophies. Toward the end of the 19th century, German designers began to use nude figures as a major motif in bookplate design. This fashion was followed in the rest of Europe and the United States, where figures were treated naturalistically, sometimes with erotic intent.

A variety of methods can be used to make bookplates. As in the past, the majority of bookplates created today are printed. The plates used for making printed labels may be prepared by any photomechanical processes, such as zinc etching. For finer plates the design may be engraved by hand on steel or etched into copper.

Barbara Abele was a long-time collector and researcher of bookplates. She was the niece of Fridolf Johnson, author of the book A Treasury of Bookplates from the Renaissance to the Present, still considered the best modern introduction to the study of bookplates, and spent her life in Redlands and La Jolla, California. She died on April 8, 1998 in La Jolla. She was a member of the American Society of Bookplates Collectors and Designers (ASBCD), and her collection is comprised of thousands of bookplates, sometimes considered miniature pieces of graphic art.

Bookplates are sought by collectors and studied by scholars for the insights they provide into past cultures and societies. Abele’s bookplate collection illustrates the wide scope of past cultures and societies, the communication networks created between individuals who shared an interest in collecting and preserving them, and Abele’s own personal love of nature.

Also contained in the collection are some records of the ASBCD, formed in June of 1922, of which Abele was a member. Charter members included artists Sara B. Hill, Frederick C. Blank,

Elisha Brown Bird, Arthur H. Noll and collectors Rachael M. Hunt and Carlyle S. Baer. The organization’s goal is to further the study and collecting of bookplates. It also serves as a communication network for the entire community of people interested in the history, collection, and preservation of bookplates.

Subject/Index Terms

Abele, Barbara, d. 1998--Archives
American Society of Bookplate Collectors and Designers--Archives
Bookplate Collection
Bookplates--Collectors and collecting

Administrative Information

Repository: Special Collections & University Archives

Access Restrictions: This collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions: The copyright interests in these materials have not been transferred to San Diego State University. Copyright resides with the creators of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. The nature of historical archival and manuscript collections is such that copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine.  Requests for permission to publish must be submitted to the Head of Special Collections, San Diego State University, Library and Information Access. When granted, permission is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical item and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder(s), which must also be obtained in order to publish. Materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials.

Acquisition Source: Lori McFadden, Brenda J. Heaney, and Karen G. White

Preferred Citation: Identification of item, folder title, box number, Barbara Abele Bookplate Collection, Special Collections and University Archives, Library and Information Access, San Diego State University.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Bookplates by Subject],
[Series 2: Bookplates by Designer],
[Series 3: Collector Files],
[Series 4: Correspondence],
[Series 5: Subject Files],
[Series 6: American Society of Bookplate Collectors and Designers (ASBCD)],
[Series 7: Published Materials],

Series 4: CorrespondenceAdd to your cart.
Box 9Add to your cart.
Folder 29: AmericanAdd to your cart.
Folder 30: Arellanes, Audrey SpencerAdd to your cart.
Box 10Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Brown, Helen H.Add to your cart.
Folder 2: Edward Dean MuseumAdd to your cart.
Folder 3: EuropeanAdd to your cart.
Folder 4: Fire Museum of MarylandAdd to your cart.
Folder 5: General, 1974-1994Add to your cart.
Folder 6: Joyce, KathyAdd to your cart.
Folder 7: Langdon, MichaelAdd to your cart.
Folder 8: Libros LatinosAdd to your cart.
Folder 9: McRaddin (Abele), LoriAdd to your cart.
Folder 10: Plates to ExchangeAdd to your cart.
Folder 11: Rare and UnusualAdd to your cart.
Folder 12: Redlands LettersAdd to your cart.
Folder 13: Turner, MeirAdd to your cart.
Folder 14: UNESCOAdd to your cart.
Folder 15: Wagner, RobAdd to your cart.
Folder 16: West, JoanAdd to your cart.

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Bookplates by Subject],
[Series 2: Bookplates by Designer],
[Series 3: Collector Files],
[Series 4: Correspondence],
[Series 5: Subject Files],
[Series 6: American Society of Bookplate Collectors and Designers (ASBCD)],
[Series 7: Published Materials],

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