The World’s Largest Collection of Art Deco Bookends at Bonhams

A Pair of Art Deco Bird Bookends circa 1925.jpg

The world’s largest known collection of Art Deco bookends is to be sold at Bonhams in London. The vast collection of 180 pairs will be offered over two sales, the first being the 2nd April Decorative Arts sale at Bonhams, New Bond Street. Classic Art Deco designs in bronze, glass, iron and marble are sculpted into animal form—elephants, pelicans and swallows—as well as nude maidens. Estimates range from £200 to £3,500.

Mark Oliver, Director of Bonhams Decorative Arts Department comments: “The vendor lives in Europe and had a passion for books and book ends, devoting 40 years to acquiring every Art Deco bookend he could find. Now downsizing, he has no room for the thousands of books and hundreds of bookends. We believe that this is the most extensive collection ever put together.”

The top lot in the collection is a pair of bronze modelled elephant bookends made circa 1920 by Ary Bitter (French, 1883-1973). The bronze beasts throw their weight against wooden props, straining against the load of the books between them. Each bookend stands at 17.5cm high and the pair is offered with estimates of £2,500-£3,500.

A Pair of Pelican Bookends (cropped).jpg

Other highlights include some quirky wrought-iron Pelican Bookends made circa 1925 by Edgar-William Brandt (French, 1880-1960) which are estimated at £1,500-£2,000. The stylised pelicans are depicted with open beaks and fountains of water pouring into their mouths.

René Lalique (French, 1860-1945), the famed Art Deco glass designer, features in the collection with Hirondelle—an elegant pair of frosted and polished glass swallows. The glass bookends are etched 'R.LALIQUE FRANCE' on the base and valued at £1,000-1,500.

History of the bookend

During medieval times the vast majority of people were not literate, only monks and scholars would have owned books. Vast, hand written and richly illustrated books would have been kept chained to lecterns. By the Renaissance period books had became more available, yet even then, only wealthy and learned individuals would have been able to own a small collection—enough to keep stacked horizontally in a small pile.

It was not until around the end of the 16th century that books became more accessible and collections grew to the size of libraries. Now, the need for categorical systems for arranging books meant that vertical storage was more practical, as well for ease of moving and removing books. Book shelves and heavy bookends became a necessity to store collections vertically.

Modern book shelves meant that bookends changed from being a necessity to a decorative item and the wonderful array of designs that appeared make bookends valuable collector’s item today.

Art Deco movement

Deco emerged in the interwar period when new technology was transforming culture. The war had broken down rigid cultural barriers and propelled society into an exciting new age. Influenced by futurism and cubism, Art Deco aimed at a sleek modern elegance that suggested wealth and sophistication. It is defined by geometric shapes, streamlined form and lavish decoration and its influence touched everything from jewellery, sculpture and fashion to furniture, cars and architecture.

The Art Deco name derives from the world exposition of arts held in Paris in 1925—the Exposition International des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes where the style was first exhibited. Famous Art Deco designs include the Chrysler building in New York and the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil—the largest Art Deco statue in the world.

First image: A pair of Art Deco bird bookends, circa 1925. Courtesy of Bonhams.

Second image: Edgar-William Brandt, pelican bookends, circa 1925. Estimated at £1,500-£2,000. Courtesy of Bonhams.

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