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The Bookplates of Theodore Brown Hapgood

One of the possible reasons that the name Theodore Brown Hapgood is not today too well known is that he was the consummate jack-of-all-trades artist. His designs were applied to book covers and jackets, title pages and vignettes, illuminations and frames, monuments and tablets, ecclesiastical vestments and last, but not least, bookplates!

Hapgood was born in Somerville, Massachusetts in 1871. He was a cheerful, friendly man who was known as “Happy.” His friend Parker Archibald said: “The chief characteristic of ‘Happy’s’ work… is its quality of finality. He worshipped fine craftsmanship. Therefore, his greatest delight was in providing master craftsmen with designs worthy of their skill.”

T. B. Hapgood worked with an amazingly large number of clients, which attests not only to his talent but also to his ability to get on well with other craftspeople. He seems to have worked for as many different publishers as anyone during that period.

 

His bookplates are a delight. Some reproductions of them were published in The Hapgood Brochure (Charles Goodspeed, 1907) which was one of the Troutsdale press’ twelve “Monographs on American Bookplate Designers.” These dozen works are all unfortunately scarce because they were issued unbound (leading to loss of text, etc.) and because they were limited to 75 copies on paper and 25 on Japan vellum.

Some of Hapgood’s bookplates were exhibited in the Wellesley College arts and crafts show “Inspiring Reform.” His plate for George Fred Daniels was pictured in the poster magazine “The Red Letter” in 1896. The longest article about Hapgood the designer was written by William A. Kittredge for “Print” and entitled “Theodore Brown Hapgood American Designer 1871-1938 and reproduces a number of designs including bookplates.

 

Ex Libris Chronicle
Director: James P. Keenan