Bookseller's Labels -- A Vanished Custom 

Back in the good old days, some of your "better" booksellers, of both new and second-hand tomes, often affixed their own custom-printed labels inside the books they sold.   These were usually quite tiny (like mini-bookplates) -- rarely bigger than a postage stamp -- and were customarily placed in an unobtrusive spot, most typically at the bottom corner (nearest the spine) of either the inside front or inside rear cover (the pastedown, in book trade lingo).  This was by no means a universal practice, or even an especially widespread one -- it's possible to look through dozens or even hundreds of vintage books without discovering a single label of this sort.  But that just adds to the twinge of delight that finding one almost invariably brings. 


I think the pleasure I take from these little things has something to do with a certain dimensionality they add to the mostly-unknown story of a particular book's previous life.  To buy a book unadorned with one of these is, often, to simply buy an "old book"; from the evidentiary front matter, one can usually divine that it was published by this or that company, in a particular year, and so what?  But the specificity of knowing that it spent some time -- perhaps was sold for the very first time -- at the Satyr Book Shop (on Vine Street in Hollywood, California) or The Book Shelf (in The Doctors' Building) of Cincinnati, Ohio, adds a nice geographical element to its journey to your shelves.  (Previous owner's inscriptions are often good for this as well, and have their own charm -- but give me a vintage bookstore label any day!) 


Anyway, the only idea behind this portion of my site is to display some of my favorites, from my ever-expanding collection. My collection, in fact, is expanding in two ways -- by discovery (new acquisitions) and rediscovery (a systematic review of my existing books) -- and has finally gotten to a size where it's a bit unwieldy to continue cramming them onto a single page. Hence, I've finally taken the obvious step of breaking them up into geographical sub-categories. No doubt further sub-division will be necessary in the future, but for the time being I'm starting with the following four "regional" sections:


(basically L.A. and vicinity)

Eastern U.S.

(East of the Mississippi)

Western U.S.

(excluding Southern California)




(My apologies if you've stumbled onto this page while I'm in the middle of doing this revision, which means that either all the links aren't working properly, or that the layout of the pages is a little on the crude side. It'll all look better, in time.)

You might also want to check out a recent discovery along these lines: a website called Seven Roads, maintained by a very nice fellow named Greg Kindall, which features an attractive "Gallery of Book Trade Labels". It's well-presented, and more international in flavor than my own. Greg's site also clued me into an interesting article (at the Alcuin Society website) that discusses the practice from a collector's perspective.

(OK, I got the Southern California page done -- the labels remaining below need to be redistributed onto their NOT-yet-done regional pages. Time, time....)

























 Home | Book Search