The Bibliomaniac’s Prayer and Mystery

bookplate001

I found this bookplate in a batch of old papers. I love it. It made me curious to know who this Herman Blum was, and if he  designed the plate himself, and if that is him in the photo. So I researched a little bit, and here’s what I found.

I believe this is Herman himself in the photo. I found a Herman Blum (b. 1885, d.1973) who was chairman of the board of Craftex Mills of Pennsylvania, a trustee of the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science, a member of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, a member of the US Civil War Centennial Commission, and “an avid collector of historical books and manuscripts.” I wish some of his books had accompanied the plate!

Harold wrote at least one book of his own: “The Loom Has A Brain: The Wonderful World of the Weaver’s Art”.

blum

The poem on the bookplate is excerpted from “The Bibliomaniac’s Prayer”. Only part of the poem is quoted, and some of the words were altered. I prefer the original language where the jealous others wail. And who is “Ohmnia”? There’s a Latin word, “omnia” which means “everything” but I could find no definition for “ohmnia” anywhere. It remains a mystery. 

Here is the original poem:

The Bibliomaniac’s Prayer

by Eugene Field

Keep me, I pray, in wisdom’s way,
That I may truths eternal seek;
I need protecting care to-day, –
My purse is light, my flesh is weak.
So banish from my erring heart
All baleful appetites and hints
Of Satan’s fascinating art,
Of first editions, and of prints.
Direct me in some godly walk
Which leads away from bookish strife,
That I with pious deed and talk
May extra-illustrate my life.

But if, O Lord, it pleaseth Thee
To keep me in temptation’s way,
I humbly ask that I may be
Most notably beset to-day;
Let my temptation be a book,
Which I shall purchase, hold, and keep,
Whereon, when other men shall look,
They’ll wail to know I got it cheap.
Oh, let it such a volume be
As in rare copperplates abounds,
Large paper, clean, and fair to see,
Uncut, unique, unknown to Lowndes.

The reference to Lowndes in the last line is to William T. Lowndes‘ “Bibliographer’s Manual of English Literature” catalog of rare and second-hand books.

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