“Ex Libris: The Art of Bookplates”

Here’s a book for bibliophiles who love bookplates, those labels one pastes on the inside front cover claiming “ex libris,” Latin for from the books of, with one’s name beneath. It’s a book-art tradition receding into the nostalgic past behind the propelling forces of technology, but it’s an art form preserved by museums and collectors, and so not forgotten. 

Martin Hopkinson’s Ex Libris: The Art of Bookplates published by Yale University Press showcases examples from a collection in the British Museum. The description from Yale University Press says:

“Originating in their modern printed form in 16th-century Germany, where books were highly valuable and treasured, bookplates became an art form practiced by artists across Europe and beyond. This book traces the fascinating evolution of bookplate design over time and across national boundaries, showcasing 100 key examples of ex libris art.”

That’s 100 examples within 112 pages, a veritable picture book. 

The Guardian created a tantalizing slide show of Hopkinson’s new book, published in Britain by the British Museum Press, and the Wall Street Journal gives a peek in this article, The Fine Art of Saying ‘It’s My Book’.

Growing up, I used to receive bookplates as gifts, but those were store-bought, preprinted bookplates on the industrialized end of the bookplate evolution. A quick online search proves you can still purchase bookplates from retailers. Some, unfortunately, refer to them as “stickers.” Imagine having a “sticker” personalized for your library, an original designed by an artist who creates it with your life, work or personality as inspiration?  That’s much of what you’ll see in Hopkinson’s book, including the bookplate below, among those in The Guardian’s slide show, photograph provided to The Guardian by the Trustees of the British Museum.