You are here

Carl H. Getz's Bookplate


I am interested in the bookplate of one Carl H. Getz, which appears on several websites that all seem to derive from an item in the Yale publication _Nota Bene_ for Fall/Winter 2003, which includes a picture described as “Bookplate of Carl H. Getz by Ralph Fletcher Seymour (c1950).” I became skeptical about the date, and I contacted a librarian at Yale, who told me that the source of the attribution and the date in _Nota Bene_ is not known; and Mr. James P. Keenan of the ASBC&D has told me that this bookplate, listed in a checklist of Seymour’s work, “is a zinc engraving that was designed and printed in 1920.” .

I believe that this bookplate might have belonged to a Carl H. Getz (1891-1945) who had successful dual careers in journalism (first as an editor, then as a free-lance writer) and public relations in the New York City area. This Getz may have been something of a bibliophile. A Carl H. Getz is listed as a donor to the American Bibliographical Society for several years in the second decade of the twentieth century; as someone who was for a time on the staff of _Editor and Publisher_, he maintained an acquaintance with many features of the print world; and as a journalist he reviewed quite a few plays and books of both fiction and non-fiction. Furthermore, the figure who is operating the guillotine in the bookplate bears some resemblance to a photo of Getz that appears an article published in 1923.

I would be interested in receiving any information that anyone might have about this bookplate and about its owner, and I am especially curious about whether type-designer Frederic W. Goudy might have had a hand in producing the bookplate. Goudy and Ralph Fletcher Seymour are known to have worked together occasionally, and Goudy certainly produced some bookplates. He was one of Getz's fellow residents in the relatively small, cohesive community of Forest Hills Gardens (Queens, NYC) in the early 1920s; in fact, Goudy's Village Press was located there 1909-24. The lettering at the top of Getz's bookplate looks to my relatively untrained eye like an exaggerated version of Goudy Old Style (created in 1915), and the lettering at the bottom resembles Goudy Heavyface (1925). The choice of a guillotine as the method of executing the delinquent book-borrower would constitute a joke to be shared between a publisher, a former editor, and others familiar with the mechanics of publication, considering that by the 1920s “guillotine” was well established as a term for a machine that cuts paper. And I fancy (beyond speculation) that the figure who is about to be executed might be a caricature of Goudy himself.