Vintage 1960s Latvian book plates – Lisa’s found art


Two more entries in our contest. SO SORRY about that! Penultimately — here is Lisa’s entry in our Found Objects Found Art contest, an intriguing stash….
She writes:


Have you ever gone to a thrift shop and spent your entire time digging through one special box, and never bothering with the rest of the store? That describes two hours of my life spent in downtown Minneapolis on a snowy afternoon. On the floor in the corner was a wooden crate filled with book cover printing plates, in a complete jumble, covered with dust. To describe me as a junkie for books, as well as retro graphics, is a bit of an understatement. Trying to maintain my cool, I inquired about their history (and their price) at the front counter; the clerk knew nothing. I purchased what I could carry. They now hang by my bookshelves, loved and appreciated.

An internet search provided some history. The publishing company, based in Minneapolis, printed these Latvian books (mostly pulp fiction, science fiction, and mysteries) between 1961 and 1964. The Twin Cities is home to many people of Latvian descent, and these were sold both domestically and overseas.

Each brass plate is ink stained, and you can see how the two- or three-color process came together for some stunning images. The book’s front, spine, and back were printed in one plate, layer over layer.

This “found object/found art” really speaks to me, because it embodies so much that I hold dear. The graphics alone are gorgeous, but hey…books aren’t printed like this any more. These have a warmth, and a sculptural, dimensional quality as well. And I like to imagine a Latvian immigrant, a typographer/printer like my own Italian immigrant grandfather, lovingly packing these away as his portfolio. Now they’ve found a home in my 1962 tri-level split, admired by someone who cherishes them just as much.

Thanks, Pam!

Lisa … a.k.a. “Beverly Sills”

  1. Jurgis says:

    i think these pieces are not Latvian origin. From the text i can read on these plates it’s Lithuanian. I could be wrong too – because both languages are really similar in writing…

    Other than that, they are really beautiful art pieces.

  2. Beverly Sills says:


    I think if you could see them up close, you’d know what they were also. The ink comes off in your hand just a little bit. I sent Pam another photo that had two more plates on it that were polished up a little more. I’m glad you like them! — Lisa

  3. Tikimama says:

    You rescued a piece of history! Isn’t it amazing how something like this, so specialized an item, just happens to end up in the thrift store that you visit – you being the person who knows what they are, first of all (!), and will appreciate and display them and keep them safe. Gives me chills…

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