10 February 2014

Walter W. Stone Bookplate

The ACT Heritage Library recently accepted a donation of a copy of John Gale’s Canberra History and Legends in its first, 1927, edition. While this is not an especially remarkable addition to the collection (we have 4 copies), the bookplate fixed inside the front cover certainly is.
Bookplate belonging to Walter W Stone.
Image curtesy of the ACT Heritage Library

It – and the book – belonged to Walter W. Stone (1910– 1981), a noted Sydney book publisher and a lifelong book lover and collector. He was a founding member and major supporter of the Book Collectors Society of Australia, and an influential member of many other literary and historical societies. Just before his death he was awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for services to Australian literature.

Bookplates at their best are miniature works of art, designed to reflect the owner’s personality and interests. They were very popular during the 1920s and 1930s but became less fashionable from the early 1940s. Many designers were already well known artists, and included members of the Lindsay family. Wal’s was designed by Raymond Lindsay, second son of Norman Lindsay, and is regarded as a fine example of the art.

We note the overt Australian references in this bookplate – the eucalyptus, the swaggie and the kangaroo, as well as references to Wal’s interest in literature represented by the books and theatre represented by the theatre masks, Thalia the Muse for comedy (laughing face) and Melpomene the Muse for tragedy (weeping face).

The bookplate is in keeping with Wal’s passion for Australian literature and history, but rather at odds with his attitude towards bookplates and their status as collectables. In ‘The cult of the bookplate’, Biblionews Vol 2 no2 Second Series 219 January 1967, he writes: “….. for a time it appeared that there was a cult of the bookplate and that artists, good and bad, were designing plates for prominent people who were asked to accept a few copies as a gift, and thus unwittingly accept some responsibility for them, it was because it was necessary to have sufficient plates available to keep collectors happy …..”

It is doubtful if Wal ever used his bookplate, but when some of his book collection was sold his bookplates were included with the purchase for those wishing to insert them. While the ACT Heritage Library does not collect bookplates as such, we are delighted by this addition to the collection.