Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Book Trade Chronicles

These little stamp-sized labels which can often be found in the back of old books are fleeting treasures of biblioGraphic design. Anyone who appreciates the design of book covers or ex libris bookplates will surely find these small book trade labels equally noteworthy. Sometimes referred to as book shop or trade labels, they were most often attached to the back paste boards of books and have become a permanent record of their origin after leaving the dealer's store. This practice has more-or-less been abandoned since the 1970s according to Greg Kindall of Seven Roads, who has the largest online collection of book trade labels. Once upon a time, bookbinders used to paste their personalized label, or bookbinder's ticket onto endpapers as well—another practice which has virtually disappeared in the commercial book publishing industry—but has resumed in some fashion by small custom bookbinders. Taken on their own, each of these frequently handlettered trade labels are historic chronicles of design and emblematic of typographic styles around the world. Most of the book trade labels displayed above are from the online collection of RS Brandt with the exception of the very last featuring a lantern which is from my own archives. It belonged to Harry Hartman who was a blind book dealer in Seattle. Labels below are from the Seven Roads archive.



  1. Nice piece. While the number of booksellers who use labels has decreases greatly, there are still hundreds of us who still use them, though most are in Europe and Asia. Visit for more information on these labels.

  2. Jennifer, Sr. LetterologistApril 17, 2011 at 4:21 PM

    I'm delighted to hear the label practice lives on and hope this trend continues. And thanks for the booksellers link Gabe. Wonderful!

  3. I've featured book trade labels a few times on my own blog Exile Bibliophile ( and since Greg stopped updating Seven Roads a few years ago, I started a flickr group where people can share their own:

    Great post!


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