Frederick W. Skiff's bookplate,
by W.F. Hopson

Frederick W. Skiff (1867-1947), of Portland, Oregon, was a notable bibliophile and prolific collector of Americana. He also authored a few books: Adventures in Americana: Recollections of Forty Years Collecting Books, Furniture, China, Guns and Glass, Metropolitan Press, Portland, Oregon (1935) and Landmarks and Literature: An American Travelogue, also by Metropolitan Press (1937).

After Skiff died in 1947, his collection went to the San Francisco auction house of Butterfield & Butterfield, in San Francisco. The auction catalog (left) featured Skiff's bookplate.

For the book I obtained with Skiff's bookplate, I hit the trifecta. In addition to the bookplate, the book contains an inscription by the book's author and an inscription by the book's prominent owner. The book is The Joy That No Man Taketh From You, by Lilian Whiting; Little, Brown, and Company; Boston (1907). The author's inscription:
To Frederick W. Skiff, Esq. with grateful appreciation of his most kind courtesy & the faithful regards of Lilian Whiting, Boston. Christmastide, 1916.

And she didn't stop there. On the next page (blank page before the half-title page) she quotes a passage from William Vaughn Moody:

From wounds and sore defeat
I made my battles stay,
Winged sandals for my feet,
I wove of my delay.

I guess it will be impossible to know what, if any, meaning that passage held for Mr. Skiff. Perhaps it was just something Ms. Whiting came across, liked, and thought to amend to her inscription.

And although Ms. Whiting thoroughly documented the presentation to "To Mr. Frederick W. Skiff, Esq." and the year and time of year with "Christmastide, 1916," Skiff desired to repeat the information in his own hand above his bookplate (and a touch on the bookplate):
Presented to me by Miss Whiting Christmas 1916 F.W.S.
That line of penciled inscription and its location is the icing on the cake for me.

William Fowler Hopson (1849-1935) was the Connecticut-born, American artist/engraver who created Skiff's ornate bookplate. Hopson was a well-known and well-respected artist, drawn (pardon the pun) to bookplate illustration. In researching Hopson, I discovered Jose Vicente de Braganca's excellent blog, Ex Libris//Bookplates. It's a great site, very informative, well-written and nicely presented. He wrote about Hopson earlier this year in this entry.

And if you've got a late 19th-century Webster's Unabridged Dictionary lying around, you might find between the covers a few thousand engravings by Hopson, who was commissioned to do the work.

I'll close with some enlarged sections of Hopson's artwork for Frederick W. Skiff's bookplate.


  1. Thanks for the very informative article about Skiff and Hopson. I just purchased a 1904 book by John Fox, Jr. titled "Christmas Eve On Lonesome" which carries the Frederick W. Skiff bookplate as shown here in your blog post. Coincidently, I live in San Francisco where I found the book at a library sale.


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