Bookplate of William Penn (1644-1718)

The bookplate of William Penn, Quaker leader and founder of the American state of Pennsylvania, from a French edition of the Imitatio Christi (1649).

Despite appearances, this bookplate does not date from 1703. While this book is known to have been owned by the Penn family, bearing the signature of Granville Penn, William's grandson, it is unclear whether it was in fact William Penn's own copy. The bookplate is a later printing, probably inserted in the book in the nineteenth century. It is a well-executed copy (of which other examples exist) of William Penn's 1703 bookplate, and is pasted on the reverse of the title page, where William typically placed his bookplates. Whether its presence indicates an attempt at fraud, perhaps to increase the value of of the book when the Penn family's library was sold, or is simply evidence that the family reprinted the plate at a later date, adding it to books in the family collections (which may or may not have been handed down from William), is a matter for speculation. 

Gift of George Udny Yule.