Monday, November 30, 2009

Bergismeinnicht impression

Bergismeinnicht. That’s the title of this little German book published by Joseph Wesener in Paderborn in 1820, nearly 190 years ago. It took a small amount of detective work with Fraktur letters to decipher the title from the sounds associated with some of the symbols, with which I was unfamiliar.

This title also seems to be a variant of Veriss Mein Nicht, but both seem to translate into Forget Me Not.

Among Johann Sebastian Bach's vocal works is a chorale melody attributed to Bach under the title, Vergiß mein nicht. But this book appears to be a collection of quotations or thoughts from great minds such as Geothe and Schiller. There’s a lot from those two in particular.

However, the forget me not for me is the impression or embossed seal on the title page. The impression is deep enough to be visible on several subsequent pages.

I'm making an educated guess here that the seal, if that's even the proper term, is an ownership mark. It has crossed my mind that it could also be a publisher's mark, but its application to the page makes it unlikely. It's slightly askew and steps on some of the printing. In either case, could I have found a more appropriately titled book for such an item?

It’s a beautiful, detailed image quite different from the embossed ownership seals found in many books from the 20th century. Those are usually nondescript in design with a circle containing the name of the owner and sometimes the words library or ex libris.

Not so for this little masterpiece. Several things distinguish it from other ownership seals I'm used to seeing. First, it’s octagonal. Second, there is no indication of a name or ownership--quite odd, I would think, for an ownership seal. Third, the design is so detailed—it’s actually an image or three images, to be exact, of a man with a hat engaged in some activity. I could almost swear the man is holding a fishing rod in one or all of the images. There's also a vase of flowers.

The incorporation of these images into an ownership seal is something I've not seen before, or at least I don't remember. I don't deal with books of this vintage too often.

I'd like to see other examples of similar seals from this or other eras, but I'm not having any luck finding them through Internet searches. Maybe I'm not using the correct terminology or key words. I've also tried cameo with no luck.

These days, anything is collectible it seems and there are all sorts of collectible items pertaining to books. I know because I collect them and write about them on the Bibliophemera blog. There are bookplates, bookseller labels, bookmarks, billheads, etc, but I can't find anywhere a documented collection of antiquarian ownership seals, stamps, embossings... whatever.

Like the identifying marks on antique silver or pottery, I had hoped to find a collection of famous ownership seals against which I could compare this curiosity.

Forget me not? I'm trying not to, but so far this bergismeinnicht is proving rather forgettable.

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