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This is a very odd bookplate.
Horace Jones described it in his 1978 catalogue
Bookplates signed 'W.P.B' 1896 - 1928:
Baird, Florence, Pictorial - drawing room with 3 angels and 2 winged devils. Prints are known in which a female is introduced taking a book from a bookcase, but it is doubtful if this variety was ever used.
The text along the top of the plate states: THEIR BACKS WELL BOUND I LIKE TO SEE, BUT WHAT'S INSIDE IS GREEK TO ME. This suggests that Florence was not a great reader. The bookplates illustrated below have been found in inexpensive, small, leather-bound reprints of popular books: a travel book by R.L. Stevenson published by Chatto & Windus in 1905 and four novels published by Dent in 1902.
When I removed the bookplate from the edition of the Stevenson (see below, left) I found the same bookplate underneath, but with the figure of a woman taking a book from the bookcase (see below, right).
This indicates that the design with the figure precedes the version without. The third version of the plate (see below) was found in the books published by Dent, with the woman's figure, but without the engraved letters to the margin 'INV W.P.B. 1906'. All the bookplates are identical in design and of the same size, so come from the same plate, but they are printed on different papers and in slightly different inks. The bookplates with the woman's figure have rough-cut edges.
If the bookplate without the figure is more common according to Jones, why did Florence have the figure removed from the design, presumably her? The presence of the angels bringing books and the devils taking them away makes sense if there is a figure in the centre of the design as the devil on the right has received a book from the figure. The woman's figure has been burnished from the plate, the chair has been completed and two cushions added, and the background has been completed. A faint halo of the figure remains.
Why were proofs with the figure but without the initials W.P.B. used in books? Why weren't they also covered with the bookplate in which the figure had been removed?
Who was Florence Baird?
A likely candidate is Florence Katherine Villiers (b 6th March 1872, d 8th May 1955) who married Henry Robert Baird (1861-1929), Laird of Durris, on 31st August 1893. She would have been at least 33 years old when this bookplate was designed for her. She had a son, named Kenneth Alexander Baird (1899-1968), who was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Seaforth Highlanders in WW1 and then became a Barrister. He worked on the altar frontal of St Paul's Cathedral. He married Ernestine Teresa Wilhelmina Lawford in 1924 and they had a daughter named Janet (d 2006?) who married a man named Woodhead. Her daughter, named Kirsty, was probably born around 1960, so should be in her early 60s now. Perhaps she knows why Florence, her great-grandmother, removed the figure from her bookplate? If I am wrong or you can provide more information, please contact me.
Paper size: 105 x 75
Design: 93 x 62 mm max.
Credit: INV W.P.B. 1906 (centre of lower margin)
Designer: J.A.C. Harrison
Bookplate without the figure Bookplate with the figure
Bookplate with the figure but without 'INV W.P.B. 1906' to lower margin