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2000-09, 327, Bookplates, Jeff Bidgood

Premium or Prize Plates

In the September 1999 issue of The Bookplate Society‟s Newsletter their “A Bookplate Alphabet” reached the letters P and Q and in-cluded the following.

PREMIUMS. The bookplates designed to record a prize or award of a book or books to an individual from an institution are referred to as premiums. They form a separate category in the Franks

1 catalogue. Some of the eighteenth century premi-ums are fine compositions. In living memory many schools and Sunday schools presented books as prizes always with a (sometimes universal) premium pasted inside. Some school keep up the tradition but others now give book tokens, and where premiums are still used they are poor things. Brian North Lee wrote on the premium bookplates of Trinity College Dub-lin (Journal 9:2 Sept. 1991, pp.51-77).

After a talk to the Sydney branch of our Book Collectors‟ Society in September 1999, which included showing some of my collection of premiums, it was felt that, space permitting, it might be possible to write a series of articles to show some examples of such bookplates in forthcoming issues of Biblionews.

This is the first of such articles and contains what I call universal premiums, that is those plates which have a common theme and are found in large quantities. In the collection there are in all nineteen of these universal premiums, without counting variations, of which there are many.

The size of the plates varies within each section. Overall the smallest is 88mm x 65mm and the largest 138mm x 99mm. Those illustrated here are shown in their actual size.

Finding a date for the printing of these plates is very difficult, even to within a decade. The date shown is some indication but the date on Plate 3, 1957, would lead one to believe that someone “got a bargain” and purchased a life time supply in the late 1920s to early 30s! Generally speaking Plates 1 to 4, judging by their style, range from the late 1880s to the late 1930s but once the booksellers may have had large stocks and sold them until the late 1960s.

Plate 1

These early plates were usually very elaborate and very colourful includ-ing a large amount of “gold”, no doubt to leave in the mind of the recipient the thought that they and the book were “very valuable”.

Plate 4 is an Australianised version of the English and German plates as demonstrated by the wattle, flannel flowers and Christmas bells. In the main the plates appear to have been printed in Austra-lia.

Plate 5 is a type that appeared in the 1930s. These used only sin-gle colours, generally (real?) gold and (real?) silver.

Plate 2

Plate 3

Plate 4

However, in the last few years colour is again coming into vogue and a good example is the last item, Plate 6, of which I have copies in 3 separate colours with 4 different animals. Unfortunately the platypus depicted in this one is rather difficult to see in the black and white photocopy. In the original the colour is green.

Plate 5

There may be a subtle difference between the import of “Awarded to” and Presented to” but it escapes me. Or it may be just to give people a choice, but over the centuries no one has come up with a third category.

Plate 6

You may judge for yourself the veracity of the statement in the above quotation that “they are poor things”, particularly in connec-tion with the middle years. The reader might also bear this state-ment in mind in following articles in this series.

Jeff Bidgood


  • 1  Catalogue of the Sir August Wollaston Franks (1826-97) collection of bookplates held by the British Museum.



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