Tastefully Plated… Books

When looking to identify a book as one’s own, the discerning bibliophile will opt for a book plate. Book plates range from lighthearted and fanciful to historic and dignified.

Book plate including family arms of the Fifth Earl of Lonsdale.

Here at NSLM, we have thousands of books with the plates of collectors past. Many enshrine the book owner’s love of turf and field sports.

Book Plate of Harry Worcester Smith.

Book plates have been considered collectible items since the 1950s, with whole organizations devoted to the collecting of plates. We recently came across a collection of draft book plate designs by Robert Ball. Ball’s completed book plates are gorgeous, contemplative pieces, and many of the rough drafts in the book are sketched out on wax paper.

Finalized book plate in memory of Frederick Sprague Barbour for The Norfolk Library.


A copper plate of a draft book plate for Jerome Marks Rich. Mr. Rich rejected this design and the plate was sold in 1970.
Positive draft book plate for Jerome Marks Rich.
Robert Ball drafted a book plate for Henry Ford. This pencil sketch is on wax-lined tissue paper.
A draft book plate for the NSLM? We were surprised to stumble across this piece. To our knowledge, the plate was never completed and NSLM has no books with the plate.

More to come as we see if we can research the history of the NSLM book plate by Robert Ball. It would be wonderful if we could identify a completed version!

Thank you to all our readers for a great 2016! Staff will be out of office next week for holidays, and we’ll update the blog again on our new Tuesday schedule beginning January 3.

Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail


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