Boston book designer, illustrator and teacher Amy Maria Sacker (1872-1965) was one of several bookplate artists to be celebrated by the Troutsdale Press and bookseller Charles E. Goodspeed – also from Boston – in a series of short volumes dedicated to the work of ex libris designers of the day.
Their 1903 study of the work of Amy Sacker carries no additional author’s name and is entitled simply The Book Plates of Amy M. Sacker. If the 21st century reader can manage to get beyond the initial sexist preamble of the article and the pompous language, what follows is an interesting look at a woman ex libris designer.
The Earliest Women Bookplate Artists
Never since the beginning of the bookplate have there been so many women designers in this branch of art as there are to-day. Poor and illy-made designs are largely in evidence among the men designers, and it is only too true that the women who have essayed in this field are still more afflicted with dearth of ideas and weakness of execution, but among the very large number of women who have designed book-plates although many of them are amateurish, and undertaken in a spirit of dilettanteism, there are a great many showing a decided ability and knowledge of art.
In the earliest days of the cult the first woman designer of prominence was Anna Berry, who has left us at least one plate, that of her friend Anna Damer, that can be safely ascribed to her. Beyond this lady, and Margaret Este, whose name appears on a plate dated 1774, or some nineteen years earlier than the Damer plate, England seems to have had no women designers. But in France there were many, perhaps the most prominent, as well as most prolific, being Louise de Daulceur, who engraved quite a few plates for Bonchardon, Pierre, Gravelot and Eisen, in a very acceptable manner. Madame Jourdan is also noted as a designer of plates, as well as Therese Crochery, Charlotte Nonot, and others. Mention should also be made of Mme. Pompadour, who designed and etched the little label for her library at Crecy.
The Art and Bookplates of Amy Sacker
To-day women designers constitute a factor to be considered. The old fallacy that their work shows the impress of the eternal feminine in their lack of strength, boldness and character has been exploded. There are any number of women designers now whose work if placed alongside that of the sterner sex we would find it difficult to distinguish one from the other.
Please click on thumbnails to scroll through the gallery:
Miss Sacker’s work seems to be, at least in her book-plate drawings, of sufficient boldness. Her designs are strong and virile and the product of a practiced hand. They are in no way amateurish but show the impress of good training and hard study. The decorations, on the other hand, are somewhat feminine in spirit and execution and in this wise form a fitting foil to the inevitable boldness of the book-plates. While there is a certain sameness to be found among the plates in the manner of treatment, one would hardly call this a fault when placed against the excellence of the designs themselves, and in fact, in these days of specialization, when even artists and designers endeavor to work out for themselves a peculiar style and technique, this is a feature that would excite little if any adverse criticism, and it is best by all means for designers to draw in that style in which their drawings will appear to the best advantage when viewed as separate studies, as they were intended, rather than to jump about from one form to another for the sake of variety, and master of no style. At least the blacks and whites are well balanced and form effective contrasts as they should.
Source:The Book Plates of Amy M. Sacker (1903)
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