The Helen Pearson Bookplate Collection

A collection of 336+ historic bookplates and corresponding material from local artist and musician Helen Pearson. These bookplates were accumulated from her travels, acquaintances, other collectors and membership into several national and international bookplate societies. The collection was initially created and organized by Pearson. It arrived at Portsmouth Public Library as a bequest upon her passing on August 19, 1949. The collection was added to and at least partially mounted by then Library Director, Dorothy Vaughan.

One of the highlights of this collection is Pearson's own bookplate, sketched by her in 1927 and inspired by a comet she saw in Portsmouth. Born Nov. 13, 1870, Pearson was a Portsmouth native and raised in an artistic family. Her father, Amos Pearson, was a florist and music teacher originally from Ipswich, MA. Pearson's mother, Susan, also from Portsmouth, was both an artist and musician as well. The Pearson family boarded local artists, including Susan's sister, Mary E.B. Miller. Miller, who earned her living as a portrait painter, lived with the family for much of Pearson’s childhood. Other tenants in the Pearson home included illustrator Max Parrish and Ulysses Tenney, best known for his portraits of New Hampshire statesman, notably Franklin Pierce. Pearson was an accomplished concert pianist and attended Cowles Art School in Boston and was known for her pen and ink drawings in local publications. She spent time in both Boston and New York but preferred to live in Portsmouth where she continued her father's nursery and served as a patron of the arts.

Bookplates have existed since the fifteenth century and serve today as both historical records of ownership as well as biographical, societal, institutional, artistic and/or cultural statements. Various letters that accompany this bookplate collection acknowledge Pearson's interest in the artistic quality of the bookplates and the individuality displayed in each. Her collection features bookplates from around the globe and range from simple, typographic inserts for institutions to elaborate personal bookplates for European royalty. They have been digitized here for greater accessibility.
Browse 336 items in The Helen Pearson Bookplate Collection