Quote from the Roman philosopher Cicero letters to Atticus describes moving into a property: ‘I have put out my books & now my house has a soul’
Endlessly diverse and appealing, bookplates (also called ex libris bookplates, Latin for “from the books of”) are decorative labels to be stuck inside a book’s cover to display the book’s ownership. At its most basic, the ex libris bookplate is a small step up from scribbling your name on the inside cover, but at its most elaborate they are works of art in miniature. Is there anything more bookishly charming than a beautiful bookplate?
Engravers in Germany as early as the beginning of the 16th Century began to create decorative bookplates for wealthy individuals and institutions. Often featuring coats of arms or weaponry, the bookplate advertised the owner of the book in a time when to own a book was a sign of wealth and status. Nowadays the ex libris bookplate is a much loved tradition, and a wonderful gift.
Our children received them as a gift at a young age and I must say it saved a few squabbles in our household. They took great pride in neatly penning in their name (or at least as neatly as their handwriting allowed!) and their kind Godparents hand picked illustrations that perfectly reflected their individual personalities. Our children are older now and it’s lovely to come across a book on our shelves and remember them sticking in their ex libris bookplates with concentration.
Equally the ex-libris bookplate is still sought after by book lovers and organised types –or indeed anyone generous enough to lend their beloved books but would still like to receive them back! A trend we have noticed is several of our customers create a beautiful bookplate design with space to write in the date that the booked joined their collection, and where/ by whom it was purchased.
There’s really no limitation on the design and content of a bookplate. Some are printed with the individual’s name, others left blank for a name to be handwritten. Historically bookplates have been portrait (in line with most publications) but there’s no requirement to stick to this convention- the landscape bookplate looks lovely and the extra bit of space is ideal for learner writers. And there’s a whole world of illustrations and designs to reflect the unique personality of the book’s owner. Traditional, contemporary, typographic or colourful – ex libris bookplates bring even more joy to our much loved books.
To view our landscape and portrait versions of our book belongs to ex libris bookplates click here