In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries many books were published that were smaller than the ones we see today. Smaller books were less expensive to publish or own and were more portable. Small bookends were produced to hold up small books, and these bookends turn up today.
Ronson made several small bookends. One of our favorites is this pair of Arab Scribes. It conjures up images of foreign travel. These polychrome beauties are 3.75 inches tall and are marked L.V. Aronson 1923. Plain pairs in green can also be found.
Roycroft also made bookends of a small size into the 1920s. They are collected today for their Arts and Crafts association.
We have seen bookends much smaller than these; a pair of Lincolns and a pair of Dante and Beatrice, each about 1.5 inches tall. Alas, we didn’t collect any of these very small bookends and therefore do not have a picture to show.
Other examples of small bookends are those that accompanied sets of small books sold by the Little Leather Library Corporation. The books themselves were were published from 1916 to 1923. The sets with bookends appeared about 1922. The original publishers, Charles & Albert Boni, entered into a business arrangement with 2 advertising executives, Max Sackheim and Harry Scherman and Little Leather Library took off. Volumes originally sold at Woolworth’s for a dime each, and the brand was Innovatively marketed by including individual volumes in packages of Whitman’s Chocolates. By 1918 multi-volume sets were sold by mail-order through full page advertising in nationally distributed magazines. One 1918 advertisement invoked General Pershing’s request for books for our boys fighting in Europe and offered “If you purchase 10 of our Little Leather Library volumes …… we will give you in addition a Kit Box containing 5 books, which can be sent to someone in the army or the navy.”
Advertisements in national magazines in 1922 and 1923 feature bookends with the Little Leather Library sets. The September 30,1922 ad in THE LITERARY Digest included , “… book ends fashioned by Elbert Hubbard’s famous Roycrofters of East Aurora, New York; they are of hand-hammered copper….” with a 30 volume set of books. The November 1923 advertisement in Popular Mechanics offered Lincoln Bookends.
While most of these Little Leather Library Books remain an inexpensive collectible today, selling for about $2.00 per volume, some of the accompanying bookends have increased significantly in value, especially those made by Ronson and by Roycroft, these can range in price from $50 to $200 a pair. An Aronson (Ronson) Elephant atop a stack of Little Leather Books was made to go with the LLL books.
UnEarthlyBooks.com has an good article on Little Leather Library and lists the following bookends as LLL promotional items: Abraham Lincoln, Elephants on Books (Aronson), Monk Polychrome, Monk Bronze, Hammered Flower (Roycroft), Praying Hands, Ten Commandments, Knight, and Longfellow.
If you have any the following periodicals from 1922 or 1923 you may want to check them for LLL advertisements: National Geographic, The Mentor, The Literary Digest, Popular Mechanics, The Outlook. Who knows, perhaps we can expand the list of known LLL Bookends.
If you have small bookends you’d like to include in this post send a picture to firstname.lastname@example.org