October 22, 2012

Wayne Williams House hosts rare bookplates exhibit

By Craig Crosby ccrosby@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WAYNE -- It's a long way from Buckingham Palace to Wayne, and it has been more than a century since Queen Alexandra rested on the throne. But time and space somehow evaporate in the black and white etching, and history seems just inches away.

click image to enlarge

ON DISPLAY: Author Jack London's bookplate, from the collection of Elizabeth M. Hyatt exhibited Sunday at the Williams House, part of the Cary Memorial Library in Wayne.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

click image to enlarge

Frank Kirwin, of Braintree, MA, takes a photo of a wood carving by Ellsworth Crosby during an exhibit Sunday at the Williams House, part of the Cary Memorial Library in Wayne. The Library is exhibiting Crosby's cuts and bookplates from the collection of Elizabeth M. Hyatt.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Alongside the queen rest Roosevelt, Dickens and dozens of others, each combining into a smorgasbord of influence in politics, the arts and industry, unfolding history one card at a time.

"People are amazed by the depth of the collection and the history involved," said Holly Stevenson, who, with Jane Andrews, organized the bookplate exhibit that runs through next weekend at the Cary Memorial Library's Williams House.

A bookplate is a small label, typically about the size of a playing card, affixed to the inside cover of books to indicate ownership of the book. The plates include a drawing, typically something representing the owner, and the person's name. Bookplates were common trading currency in the early to middle part of the last century, but Wayne resident Elizabeth M. Hyatt, who helped establish the Cary library, sent out thousands of letters in the process of creating a unique collection, Stevenson said.

"It was her passion and her pastime," she said.

Hyatt collected 3,500 bookplates as well as 2,000 letters that accompanied many of the plates. The letters, many in the handwriting of the bookplates' namesake, or a representative, give the collection a personal touch and help re-create each plate's era.

"They really add that extra element," Stevenson said of the letters. "Many said because she was collecting them for the library, they were happy to give them."

The exhibit covers two rooms of the Williams House, which sits directly across the street from the library. The early 1800s architecture of the house only enhances the historic significance of the bookplates.

Interspersed among the bookplates exhibits are the detailed wood carvings of Wayne resident Ellsworth Crosby, who died in 1946. The carvings have spent years inaccessible on the top of book shelves in the library. The exhibit gives visitors a chance to study the depth and detail Crosby worked into each carving.

"Crosby's seven exquisitely carved figures reflect an aspect of American life and art in sharp contrast to the world of the bookplates," library officials said in describing the exhibit.

The bookplates have been kept in the library vault and displayed only sporadically since Hyatt collected them through the 1920s and '30s. The most recent exhibit was last summer.

"We were exposed to it last summer when there was a small display," Stevenson said. "We knew it would generate a lot of interest. It was begging to be shared."

Stevenson and Andrews filed through three binders worth of bookplates to pick the items to show off at the exhibit, which Stevenson said represents just a small fraction of the total number of bookplates and letters Hyatt donated to the library in the 1940s.

"It's hard to know where to start," Stevenson said.

The exhibit, which is free and open to the public, wraps up this week. The exhibit will be open from 2-6 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Craig Crosby -- 621-5642

ccrosby@centralmaine.com

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