bookplate or ex libris - A printed label identifying the owner of a book. It is usually adhered inside a book's front cover or to its front end paper. Many bookplates are decorative. They often bear a coat of arms (with or without a family motto) or some other design personal to the owner. Bookplates are sometimes called "ex libris," because this Latin phrase meaning, "From the books of . . ." traditionally appears on bookplates. Modern bookplates often carry images or text praising books or scholarly pursuits.
Bookplates have long been identified with bibliophiles (lovers of books, collectors of books). The earliest bookplates appeared in Germany a few years after the invention of movable type. Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471-1528) and Hans Holbein the Younger (German, 1497/8-1543) designed and engraved several bookplates. The earliest known American plate may be the one for Stephen Daye in 1642. Paul Revere (American, 1735-1818) was well known for his bookplate engravings, as was Nathaniel Hurd (American, 1730-1778). The practice of designing bookplates flourished throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.
The majority of bookplates found today are mass produced, most of them sold in bookstores. Highly personalized examples are still being produced for collectors by a number of graphic artists.
German, Bookplate for Hilpbrand of Biberach, 1470-80, hand-colored woodcut. Hilpbrand of Biberach was a Cistercian Monk whose very early bookplate presents an angel holding the coat of arms of the Brandenburg Family.
India, Mughal dynasty, Shamsa (Rosette) bearing the name and titles of the Emperor Shah Jahan (reigned 1628-58), illuminated page, 17th century, ink, colors, and gold on paper, 15 3/16 x 10 7/16 inches (38.6 x 26.5 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. A shamsa (literally, sun) is a form of illuminated bookplate, that traditionally opened imperial Mughal albums. Here, the center of the design is a calligraphic pattern intertwining the official imperial name and titles of Shah Jahan. See rosette.
English, Bookplate for the Earl of Guilford, Wroxton Abbey, 18th century, engraving on paper, 112 x 90 mm, U of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN. This heraldic design consists of a shield supported by two dragons rampant, wings elevated, ducally gorged and chained, with an earl's crown. The arms: azure a lion passant or between three fleurs-de-lis argent. The motto: "La vertu est la seule noblesse." This plate most likely belonged to Francis, 1st Earl of Guilford (1704-1790), Frederick, 2nd Earl (1732-1792), or George Augustus, 3rd Earl (1757-1802).
American, Boston, Bookplate of Oliver Wendell Holmes, "Per ampliora ad altiora", 1875, engraving on paper, c. 10.3 x 7.4 cm, National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD. This bookplate depicts a chambered nautilus — a seashell with a volute design.
Baron von Voelkersam (German) designer, Bookplate for Czar Nicholas II, 1907, Library of the Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia. The focal point of the arms of the czar is an ancipital eagle.
J. Winfred Spencely (American, 1865-1908), Bookplate for H. O. Havemeyer, Jr., 1905, 101 x 82 mm, U of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN. This design is comprised of a view of a house set within an elaborate frame, with a shield, motto and a crown above, and an open book below. The arms: quarterly, 1 - sable a lion rampant to the sinister argent, 2 and 3 - gules, 4 - sable a lion rampant argent. The motto is "Virtute et industriae."
Katharine Newbury (American, 1878-1973), Bookplate for a Woman, c. 1904, ink on paper, Michael Delahunt collection. Drawn in the style of Art Nouveau, the design bears this text: ". OLD WOOD TO BURN . OLD BOOKS TO READ . OLD FRIENDS TO TRUST ." A space has been left on the ribbon at the center of the design for the name of the owner of the book: " - Her Book." Having graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1902, Katharine Newbury pursued a career as a graphic designer. She produced many letterheads and monograms, and illustrated at least one book, a cookbook. She also designed household objects, including a pair of wrought iron firedogs; and she painted a number of pictures in watercolor. Newbury married George Manierre III in 1906. They had five children. Virtually all of her extant artworks predate that year. One of her children — Samuel Manierre (1908-1988) — became an art historian and teller of tales, and one of her grandchildren authors the Web site you are looking at. See feminism and feminist art.
Here is how you can print Katharine Newbury's bookplate on adhesive paper for your own use: Insert "full sheet labels" into your computer's printer. Avery brand labels, product #8165 for ink jet printers, can be purchased either from a local office supply store or online. On each 8 1/2 x 11 inch white sheet you will print eight 2 x 5 inch bookplates. Make your prints in one or both of these sets of colors: in reds, blues, and browns or in greens, pink, and violets. These are "PDF" files that you can open with the free Acrobat Reader (version 4 or later).
Eric Gill (English, 1882-1940), Bookplate for Ananda Coomaraswamy: Girl with Deer, 1920, relief print on paper, 60 x 60 mm, Tate Gallery, London.
Eric Gill, Bookplate for S. Anthony, 1926, intaglio print on paper, 121 x 86 mm, Tate Gallery, London.
Philip Hagreen (English, 1890-1988), Bookplate for Eric Gill [monogram], no date, relief print on paper, 37 x 45 mm. An open book with a monogram on each page. On the left page is a cross with CSP at its base. On the right page is an E above a G.
John Farleigh (English, 1900-1965), Bookplate for William Maxwell, 1933, wood engraving, 94 x 72 mm, U of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN. An owl sits on the handle of a printing press, an eagle is above, a well displays the text "Maccus Well" at its center, and a pile of books lie below, against a background of bookshelves and distant landscape.
Bookplate for Louis Berger, c. 1935-40, etching on paper, 105 x 145 mm, Phillipe Masson Ex Libris Collection, McGill U, Montreal, Canada.
Rockwell Kent (American, 1882-1971), Bookplate of John Whiting Friel and Helen Otillie Friel, 1953, photolithograph, 8 1/2 x 6 1/b inches. Kent produced this design in four sizes, and this is the largest. A cleric's eyes wander as he reads at the foot of a tree which is bearing trees among its leaves.
Orren Kickliter (American, 1964-), My Bookplate, c. 2000, wood engraving on paper, 3 x 2 inches, the artist. Mr. Kickliter has said that much of the content of his work comes from various ancient and modern philosophies, and that his style has been influenced by his enthusiasms for early European printing and German Expressionism.
See American Colonial art, ephemera, German art, and Northern Renaissance.