Libraries & Culture 38.4 (2003) 398-400
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Courtesy of Sharon M. Wasserman, Director, Library and Research Center, National Museum of Women in the Arts.
The elegant 10-by-12.5-cm bookplate of the Library and Research Center of the National Museum of Women in the Arts was designed in 1985 by the painter and printmaker Pamela Wedd Brown (1928-). The museum, founded in 1981, invited Brown to design its bookplate. Brown, a noted artist for five decades, studied art in Paris, Tokyo, and Washington, D.C., and has had her works displayed in [End Page 398] major galleries and in numerous exhibitions since her earliest in the Salon d'automne, Musée de l'art moderne, Paris, in 1947.
During a telephone interview, Brown noted that the bookplate for the National Museum of Women in the Arts is the only one that she has designed. She reported that she spent about a month working on the bookplate, doing several pen-and-ink versions from which the library selected the one shown on this issue's cover for use in its collection. The bookplate depicts a classic female form, draped in graceful robes, with a circle representing the world and the artist's palate, lyre, and paintbrush representing the arts. 1
A bookplate designed by a woman is particularly appropriate for the museum's research library, which focuses on the art of the book as well as supports the museum's efforts to represent the contributions of women to the visual arts. The library's basic collection contains over 18,500 books and exhibition catalogs, extensive archives on women artists, and video and audio tapes about women's art and women artists or directed by women. Special collections include artists' books, the archives of the International Festival of Women Artists held in Copenhagen in 1980 and in Nairobi in 1985, the books and papers of several women artists, and the Maria Messenger Collection of Bookplates. 2
The Messenger Collection, acquired by the library in 1986, includes over 2,500 bookplates collected by Maria Messenger, a turn-of-the-century New York bookplate collector. About 150 of the bookplates are by woman artists, most of whom are not familiar to us today. One exception would be Jesse Willcox Smith (1863-1935), an illustrator who did covers for Good Housekeeping throughout the 1920s but who is best known for her illustrations of children's books such as Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies (1916). The Messenger Collection contains a bookplate that Smith designed for Florence McDonald Baylis. Another bookplate in the collection, one created for Marjorie Mary Lane Mullins, was designed by Ruby Lind Lindsay (1885-1919), who, although a well-known Australian illustrator specializing in decorative type, ornamental letters, and tailpieces, remains less noted than her husband, the cartoonist Will Dyson. 3 Some women bookplate designers, like Mathilde Ade (1877-1953), a Hungarian lithographer and children's book illustrator, and English designers Edith Anne Greene (fl. 1893-96) and Annie Theodosia Benthall (fl. 1897-98), are unknown to us. Nevertheless, in their time they designed bookplates for themselves and their families and friends as well as for others and were members of bookplate societies in their countries. 4
The names of most of the Messenger Collection's bookplate owners are no more recognizable to modern Americans than are their [End Page 399] designers, although Edith Anne Greene did design a bookplate for Lady Gregory, who is no doubt known to any student of Irish literature. It is hoped that eventually the women designers and owners of bookplates will be identified and appreciated as have women in many other arts. The Maria Messenger Collection of Bookplates in the Library and Research Center of the National Museum of Women in the Arts is an important resource that supports the library's and museum's goal of representing the contributions of women to the visual arts.
Judith Overmier, Professor Emeritus, School of Library and Information Studies, University of Oklahoma
1. Telephone interview, Pamela Wedd Brown, Washington, D.C., 25 February 2000.
2. Krystyna Wasserman...