Into the horizon

Edwin B. Coddington bookplate

I found this bookplate, unglued but still tucked into the front endpapers, in a history that I spent today reading. The book, which I bought used last week, was published in the 1930s; the Internet tells me that Edwin B. Coddington, its sometime owner, was the longtime chair of Lafayette College’s history department and wrote the definitive history of the Battle of Gettysburg, published in 1968, some time after his death. I like the way the bookplate evokes the idea of American history. I’ve been using it as a bookmark, and I must have looked at it half a dozen times before I had a Sesame Street moment and realized that the Indian and the airplane don’t belong in the same picture.

7 thoughts on “Into the horizon”

  1. Actually, I think this etching may be quite deliberately designed so that each level from the bottom to the top evokes a different "stage" in history: the indian, then the covered wagon (actually crossing the continent to Oregon), then the homestead (with a much more expensive wagon rushing on its way), then the train, then what looks either like a telegraph or an electric line, then the airplane. Of course, the problem is that the Indians never left — they just stopped shooting arrows. "The persistence of natives," as the Western historians say. But it seems a fair representation of the idea of progress that you would expect from an historian of this time.

  2. That's the conclusion I also came to, sometime after my Sesame Street moment. I suspect the lone horse and rider of being the Pony Express. I thought you in particular would like this, Charles, on account of your interest in the West and its representations.

  3. I do have to say I'm very jealous of the whole idea of a personalized book plate. I wonder if I could get a friend to design one for me. What would your ideal book plate look like, Caleb? Or do you already have one?

  4. It looks like John Gast's "American Progress," but from the opposite point of view. What a lovely bookplate.

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