Over the many years that I have been collecting and selling antiquarian and secondhand books, I have been intrigued by the small booksellers’ labels that were once a fixture in the book trade. These are typically diminutive, usually small rectangles or circles of paper or foil, discretely pasted to the front or back endpapers of a book. Sometimes they are simple inked stamps.
While I have always noted the bookseller labels in the volumes that I have sold or kept in my personal library, I have refrained from removing the labels to start my own collection. My view has been that the labels became part of the book once the seller affixed them and that they provide a clear line of provenance. Although some collectors will reject an antiquarian book with a permanently glued bookseller’s label.
I recently ran across some collections of these little pieces of the book trade’s history and thought that I’d share some examples.