A Maddening Stamp

[This stamp has been solved!  It is the stamp of 20th-century Paris bookseller Arthur Lauria. Many thanks to Jasmin and Mitch Fraas for solving the mystery!]

Stamps should be easy to identify. You don’t have to decipher bad handwriting. You are more likely to find information about people, libraries or businesses who stamp their books since, presumably, they have collections large enough to make designing and purchasing a stamp worthwhile. [I say “presumably” because, as far as I know, nobody has ever wanted to find out who owned all of the Dell Yearling paperbacks proudly stamped “From the library of R.R.K.”] Of course, you expect a hefty challenge when stamps have only an owner’s coat of arms or initials, but when there is both a name and a place on the stamp, the mystery should be solvable. Right?


This Red Circular Stamp first appeared in Rare Book Cataloging a little over a year ago. It was smudged and blurry so I took a picture and crossed my fingers that the stamp would show up elsewhere in the collection.

It did. Several times.

And we still can’t read it.

We can say with confidence that the word on the bottom is “Paris.” On shakier ground, we speculate that the initial is an “A” and that perhaps, just maybe, the last name begins “Lab…”

It’s frustrating, and a little surprising, that every instance of this stamp in our collection is unreadable. I’m starting to wonder if the owner specifically asked that the stamp be designed this way or if the stamp maker routinely sold his stock at significant discount.

If you recognize this stamp, please leave a comment here or on our Flickr provenance identification site.

6 thoughts on “A Maddening Stamp

  1. This is just a guess, and it doesn’t help you particularly, but the terrible impression, and the look of the border particularly, make me wonder if the owner didn’t carve it himself out of a wine cork. What’s the diameter of the stamp?

    • That’s a fantastic guess! I love the idea of using a wine cork. The stamp is just a little over 1 cm diameter–just about the right size for a wine cork stamp. Thanks!

  2. i don’t know, but to me it looks like the 3rd letter is a ‘u’, not a ‘b’; if i had to guess on the rest of the name i’d venture ‘lauria’.

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