Ainslie Hewett was an artist and designer best known for his distinctive bookplates. Approximately one hundred of the 132 bookplates known to be designed by the artist are included in this collection, along with original drawings for bookplates and woodcuts, ten cut copper plates, artist's proofs, articles by and about him, and a checklist of his work. Also present are his advertisements and his price list for designing bookplates and family coats of arms, and for giving instruction in woodcarving. The collection includes scrapbooks of his work and exhibition notices, two framed coats of arms, and his reference collection.
Bookplates, also known as ex libris, are labels pasted to the inside front cover of a book indicating ownership. Although some bookplates are simply text, others, with their ornate images, ornamentation, and calligraphy, are valued examples of design. Artists often employed engraving techniques such as wood cuts and copper or steel plates to create their prints.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1880, Ainslie Hewett was the son of Edward Anderson Hewett, a banker with the Louisville Trust Co., and Ida Ainslie Hewett. He graduated from Yale University in 1902, studied briefly at the New York School of Art and Design, and lived in Los Angeles for a few years, but most of his time was spent in Louisville. Hewett maintained a studio in Louisville that he named the Heraldic Studio.
The bookplates, in addition to original drawings, poems, advertisements, and reference files, were donated to the University of Louisville in 1964 by his widow, Gladys Wilson Hewett.