Social Posturing in the Edwardian Bookplate, 1901-1914

Ohagan, Lauren (2020). Social Posturing in the Edwardian Bookplate, 1901-1914. Book Collector



While the chief purpose of a bookplate is to express ownership, marking possession is, in fact, just one of its many communicative functions. Bookplates often involve a reiteration or performance of a person’s existing identity and status, but they can also forge new identities and statuses, which are dependent on the roles and relationships between owners, inscribers and readers, and which guides how the self is displayed and interpreted. Self-presentation was particularly important in Edwardian Britain, as the period was one of intense class struggle marked by a heightened awareness of class consciousness. As the lower classes sought social mobility and access to power, the upper classes fought to hold onto the
‘hallowed structure’ of British society. As a result, social posturing – overt displays of status associated with a condition higher than one’s own – became essential. Aware of the book’s liminal position as a semi-public object, many Edwardians saw bookplates as a chief way to carry out this act.

Viewing alternatives

Item Actions