Guest Post by Gabe Konrád
For those that collect books about books--publishing, bookselling, printing, binding, etc.--there are a surprising number of books to be had and large libraries have been built on these subjects. Even seemingly obscure topics like bookplates (ex libris) have produced shelf after shelf of books, from general overviews to astonishingly specialized volumes. But there are a small group of collectors whose focus is so obscure that the publication of a new book on the subject causes great excitement, especially when the new book delves deeper into the topic than any publication that has come before. The subject is the modest bookseller label, and Gayle Garlock's new book, Canadian Binders' Tickets and Booksellers' Labels (Oak Knoll Press, 2015) gives them the attention they deserve.
Bookseller labels are simple devices, small labels placed in a new or used book to advertise the bookseller who sold it. While the practice has nearly died out in the past few decades, there are thousands of examples from firms around the world and private and institutional collections of loose labels.
While it seems there isn't that much to be said about bookseller labels--and they often raise more questions than they answer due to the minimal information they contain and how difficult it can be to date them--they are actually an important tool in tracking provenance and the history of the book trade.
The book opens with the bookseller label's more respected brother, the binders' ticket, covering the types of binders' marks, the earliest Canadian ticket, binding families, tickets of allied trades, etc. Chapter two tackles signed bindings, including placement and the use of leather, cloth, and paper.
The following chapters delve deeply into bookseller labels, including those from new and used booksellers, and those utilized by shops that carried a variety of products, including books, like druggists, variety stores, stationery shops, and department stores. One of the more fascinating aspects is Garlock's exploration of design and printing in labels, i.e., what makes a successful label, including typography, material, shape, images, and additional text. He details label colors--both the ink and paper--label finishes, hot-foil stamping, embossed printing and blind-stamping, engraved printing, etc. This aspect of bookseller labels has never been discussed in any real detail until now.
This volume touches on a few of the larger label manufacturers, and dedicates several pages to the powerhouse Dennison Manufacturing of Boston, New York, Chicago, etc. Dennison's early hardbound catalogs are a holy grail of label collectors. The 1909 edition, for example, is beautifully illustrated with several tipped-in samples, including two bookseller and printers' labels.
Canadian Binders' Tickets and Booksellers' Labels is nicely illustrated, well indexed, with a lengthy bibliography, and includes a CD of PDFs of Canadian labels and tickets.
While the practice of inserting labels has been almost extinguished--for myriad reasons, including the fact that modern labels are often seen as a defect among collectors--it certainly won't stop us from seeing the beauty in their design, and Gayle Garlock has brought us a long way towards the scholarship of these labels, helping cement their position in the history of bookselling.
Gabe Konrád is the proprietor of Bay Leaf Books in Newaygo, Michigan. He is a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America and oversees the woefully outdated www.booksellerlabels.com.
Image via Oak Knoll.