Uncategorized | February 21, 2012

We’re starting what will hopefully be a series of brief introductions to other literarily-minded blogs (that means blogs that take everything literally), and thought we’d bring you the first one on this gorgeous Tuesday afternoon in Columbia, Missouri.

We (along with the rest of the publishing industry) have been worried about the impact of the online world on the physicality of buying books, storing them, treasuring them, and (sometimes, late at night) leaving your spousal bed and creeping down the creaky stairs to canoodle with your favorite one; perhaps a signed first edition of Berryman’s Dream Songs, or a trade paperback of The DaVinci Code. Okay, we’re kidding. No one canoodles that book. It’s terrible.

There is however a group of people that venerate the actual physical presence of the book, and we’re going to try to speak to a lot of them over the next few months. We are starting  with Lew Jaffe, a self-described Bookplate Junkie, who has been running his blog for well-on six years now (or in other words, the internet time equivalent of the Holy Roman Empire), collecting, displaying, and writing about the surprisingly interesting world of bookplates. He has also been (and continues to be) an avid collector for over thirty years. It’s a life dedicated to how beautiful books are, and a life we whole-heartedly admire and wish was ours. Mr. Jaffe also (unlike, say, Andy Garcia in Ocean’s 11) does not keep his collection entirely to himself, choosing to share it with the World Wide Web and giving us all the chance to look into his collection. Living as we do in the age of the Kindle, it’s easy to forget sometimes how fantastically beautiful book plates used to be, how much artistic and aesthetic pleasure there lies in creating or gazing at one of the many book plates available on the website. We sat down with Mr. Jaffe and asked a few desultory questions about the Internet, book-collecting, and the Chinese market for Rockwell Kent;


Q. Given how much your website depends on the physicality of the book, the actual physical presence of it, how do you feel about what the publishing industry assures us is an unstoppable march towards the e-book. We’re thinking primarily of what happened to the music industry–the gorgeous, lavish covers of the 60s and 70s have given way to small pixelated images on our iPod. Are books, and the art that goes into them, going the same way as records–unimportant on the larger scale, strictly the purview of individual enthusiasts?

A. I have no idea what the future will bring.
When television first started to blossom the pundits were chanting  a death march for radio and they were wrong.
(Which strikes us as the best possible response to the constant carping and moaning we do about the “death of the book.” I guess we will just have to see. It’s heartily sensible.)
Q. What do you think is the central philosophy of this website? In other words, what makes it tick–both for you, the content producer, and the readers, the consumers? Why do people return (we have), and what do you think makes this blog as interesting as it is?

Your question is thought provoking. I have no philosophy.What makes it tick is my interest and enthusiasm for the hobby.
I suppose it is somewhat contagious. 
Q. Returning to an earlier question, you’ve been a collector for many years. How has the Internet affected the industry?

The internet has been a double edged sword. It has enabled me to purchase bookplates from all over the world but it has also made it more expensive to buy choice items. For example,Rockwell Kent is a cultural icon in China.When his prints and bookplates are offered on Ebay there is a strong likelihood the high bidder will be in China.

The Chinese know what they are doing.

Q. Have websites like, say, eBay helped you personally, or do you still depend on older models of collecting i.e. rooting around bookstores.

I stiil root around in bookstores but it is increasingly difficult to find items which I want to purchase.
–There’s change afoot in the bookplate collecting industry, but Mr. Jaffe’s website allows those of us without the deep pockets or the eBay accounts to still enjoy these productions. New posts go up on average once a week, and you usually get a brief introduction to the bookplate as well as interesting trivia about it. Find out about the differing styles, artists, and movements that make it happen. Think of it as doing for the bookplate what Michael Chabon did for comics with Kavalier and Clay. But less about magicians.
Check it out for more of the great book-art we’ve put up here.