IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT: Haunting book plates from West Chicago Public Library District

Happy Halloween from the IDHH. Tonight we’re staying in and looking back through our most chilling collections from our contributors. If you’re feeling the boundary between this and other worlds thinning tonight, and looking for a little more, we recommend starting with Cornelia Neltor Anthony and Frank D. Anthony Book Plate Collection at West Chicago Public Library District.

The Cornelia Neltor Anthony and Frank D. Anthony Book Plate Collection includes over 6000 individual book plates collected over 12 years by Cornelia Neltor Anthony before she donated her collection in 1935. At one point considered the second largest collection, just behind the Library of Congress’, the book plates show the more eerie side of individual book collecting.  Used to claim ownership of a book, to both deter book thieves and provide instructions for those who come across lost books. Here among the ex-libris are depictions of reading and what books contain, including dark and stormy nights:

Prescott Final
It was a dark and stormy night. Waves and lightning were shaking the castle. From the library of Winward and Hazel Prescott. Designed by Charles William Sherborn. 1911.West Chicago Public Library District. Cornelia Neltnor Anthony and Frank D. Anthony Book Plate Collection. Permission to display given by West Chicago Public Library District.

 Reading by candlelight:

Greeley Final
Reading through the night, the pages lit by candlesticks. From the library of Phoebe C. Greeley’s collection, designed by Julia Collins Stohr. 1926. West Chicago Public Library District. Cornelia Neltnor Anthony and Frank D. Anthony Book Plate Collection. Permission to display given by West Chicago Public Library District.

or other scenes with archaic and occult moods:

Banks Final
When the storm cleared a full moon rose behind the tower. Book plate from Helen Banks, designed by Charles Searle McDonald, 1922. West Chicago Public Library District. Cornelia Neltnor Anthony and Frank D. Anthony Book Plate Collection. Permission to display given by West Chicago Public Library District.

Including fantastic and macabre images of reading:

Book plates pull together the arcane and the scientific, blending what appeals to contemporary readers, including mysticism. These images provide commentary on the purpose of the book, and attitudes people have with reading, including their desires and daydreams. Not all books are spell books, but some spells are to protect them.

henry-parsell
A Sator Square embedded in religious and mystic signs and tools. From the library of Henry Van Arsdale, designed by Jay Chambers, 1921. West Chicago Public Library District. Cornelia Neltnor Anthony and Frank D. Anthony Book Plate Collection. Permission to display given by West Chicago Public Library District.

These book plates also include a healthy dose of melancholy and death. Pulling from mythic and christian symbolism, and literature itself.  The owl symbolizing knowledge, wisdom, magic and skepticism, and the skull as memento mori- the reminder of both death and memory, heighten the fear factor.

 For more meditations on fear, reading, and the arcane, including black cats, bats, magic, star-crossed lovers, and hauntings of the skull and owl variety check out the rest of the collection from West Chicago Public Library District on the IDHH Happy Halloween. 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *