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.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ambiguous book covers

I found some interesting books on a recent bookscouting trip--some Western Americana, biography, poetry. But two stand out among the others merely because of their titles: Scouts in Bondage and Other Violations of Literary Propriety and Best Foot Forward.

I bought Scouts in Bondage for fun. It's a humorous look at books with unfortunate titles that could have used a bit more thoughtful editing. Some were innocent enough in their origins many decades ago, but the times have caught up with them and twisted the words into sexual inuendo and humorous ambiguities. Others were just poorly named to begin with.

English bookseller Michael Bell collected more than forty-five of these covers and presents them in facsimile in a 2006 publication from Simon & Schuster. More on these farther down.

I took a chance on Best Foot Forward for resale, though it didn't turn out to have much resale value. What I did discover, or snap to, after getting home with it is the questionable title. I had previously failed to see any continuance from the theme set forth in Scouts in Bondage.

I got disconnected from the book's title while reading about the subject of the book. It's all about a young man who overcame adversity to serve in World War II as a decorated pilot and later became a successful businessman. All this after losing both his legs in a flying accident!

Metaphors aside, for a story about a man with no legs, is Best Foot Forward really the best title to give this book?

Returning to the Scouts in Bondage book, following are images of some of the titles that make you chuckle, raise your eyebrows, or go hmmm...

Click the image for a larger view.

The Book of Blank Maps must have been created for travelers who like a challenge, I guess...

This author's name evokes images of a snickering Beavis and Butt-head.

The book's title cover.

The Girl Guide Knot Book. Hmmm... A companion volume to the one above?