Labels, stamps and typographical bookplates

Book labels and stamps were in common use before and after the widespread adoption of the generally larger and more decorative armorial and pictorial bookplates. They include inked stamps, made from metal, woodcuts or rubber, plain letterpress labels, those printed from a combination of type and type ornaments, and engraved and calligraphic labels.

The oldest stamp on display is the monogram of Narcissus Luttrell (1657-1732), a Member of the House of Commons, parliamentary diarist and book collector. The newest label is the Special Collections Bookplates banner set in Garamond on an 1832 Albion flatbed press by Tara McLeod, a New Zealand craft printer. Of the larger typographical plates, G.W. Hartley’s is also an example of what Lee describes as the Victorian’s liking for a "gently rebuking verse", with its instruction to borrowers to return the book to "avert the fate that thieves befal."

Identifying the owners of labels and stamps can be more difficult as they often convey little information, are not always easily dated by design and were created in their thousands. Although this task is made easier thanks to the reference works and databases created by those in the bookplate, bibliographic and provenance research communities, some of the labels and stamps displayed here remain unidentified. We welcome any information from readers.

Lee, B.N. (1976). Early printed book labels : a catalogue of dated personal labels and gift labels printed in Britain to the year 1760. Pinner : Private Libraries Association.
Lee, B.N. (1979). British bookplates : A pictorial history. Newton Abbot : David & Charles.
Pearson, D. (1994). Provenance research in book history : a handbook. London : The British Library.
Labels & Stamps