Moment of Indiana History

Ex Libris Indiana

One of the first serious studies of Indiana art sidestepped the state's Impressionist painters for its bookplate designers.

Esther Griffin White's own bookplate

Photo: Esther Griffin White, Indiana Bookplates, 1910

Artist Ray White designed a personal bookplate for his sister Esther Griffin White, who went on to publish a catalogue of personalized book labels by Indiana artists.

One of the first serious studies of Indiana art wasn’t a monograph on the now canonical Hoosier School of painters. While T.C. Steele and Otto Stark were mentioned, the book’s ostensible subject was a less prominent art form.

Indiana Bookplates came out in 1910 to positive reviews in The New York Times and The Indianapolis Star. The art form flourished at the turn of the century, and author Esther Griffin White was a collector of the personalized labels designed to paste inside books. A member of two international Ex Libre societies, White had exhibited her own collection of bookplates in cities across Indiana.

For the book, White culled designs from established and emerging Hoosier artists alike, along with bookplates commissioned by prominent writers and politicians. Hoosier School painter William Forsyth was represented, but so was Mary Overbeck, one of the four Cambridge City sisters whose art pottery was only later recognized and collected.

White’s book also catalogued bookplates designed for authors James Whitcomb Riley, Booth Tarkington, and Edward Eggleston as well as Governor Thomas R. Marshall.

Cutting a wide swath through the state’s cultural scene, Indiana Bookplates included essays on Hoosier painters—not only those who would later put Brown County on the map—but such Wayne County artists as John E. Bundy, Charles Conner, and George H. Baker.

For further reading:

George T. Blakey. “Esther Griffin White: An Awakener of Hoosier Potential”. Indiana Magazine of History, 86, 3 (1990): 281-310.

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Moment of Indiana History:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Moment of Indiana History

Search Moment of Indiana History

WFIU is on Twitter