Anne here. Last time I blogged about my fascination with the inscriptions found inside the covers of books, today I'm talking about bookplates, and by extension, personal libraries.
I've always loved the idea of bookplates. I have several small packets of bookplates that I've never used, probably because they're not enough to label even a shelf full of my books. For me the appeal is mainly the look of them, and to label the books as mine, but I do love the notion of a private library — traditionally bookplates bear these words "Ex Libris …" Latin for "from the library of…" In fact some people refer to bookplates as "ex-librises"
As a child I developed my notion of the ideal private library from novels by people like Georgette Heyer and Agatha Christie — private libraries in great houses, with hidden nooks and window seats in which you could curl up with a book, or great leather-covered wing armchairs and huge desks, and there was always a fireplace before which you and your dog could sprawl and read. And hundreds, thousands of books, all with an identical bookplate inside the front cover —with your name in it.
History of bookplates
The central purpose behind a bookplate is to clearly label ownership of the book. The idea has been around for centuries — archaeologists found small ceramic plates attached to papyrus scrolls, saying that they belonged to the library of Pharaoh Amenophis III. But most bookplates are printed.
The oldest known printed bookplate is German, made around 1450, when books were rare and very expensive. It's called "the hedgehog bookplate" because it had a features a hand- colored, woodcut illustration of a hedgehog and a banner in German that reads, "Hans Igler–that a hedgehog may kiss you." In other words steal Hans's book and you'll get prickled.
Bookplates are a reflection of their owner
Some bookplates are beautiful, elegant works of art commissioned from artists, some are simple and basic, even stern, but all reflect, in some way, the personality of the owner.
Jack London was most famous for his book, The Call of the Wild, about a dog who ends up leader of a wolf pack.
Willard S. Morse has much the same problem as I do, with overflowing piles of books.
Bookplates fell out of fashion as books became more common, less expensive and easier to replace. Artists still design bookplates today. Some are a kind of limited edition print rather than an actual bookplate, but real ex-libris for use in books are still commissioned, collected and studied widely.
I personally think there's still a place for bookplates. I don't know about you, but when I've read a book I love I have this dreadful habit of pressing it on someone and urging them to read it. I can't seem to help it — I want to share the joy. But so often I never see the book again. Books walk! (And sometimes they're kidnapped, she mutters darkly.) And somehow, people can easily overlook a mere written name inside. But a bookplate, now that's serious…
If a book is a keeper — and let's face it, I generally don't recommend books I haven't loved — I want it back. I reread favorite books. But dozens of my beloved books have "walked" and I really hate it. So now I stick small bookplates inside the covers of any books I lend and want returned . Nothing too fancy — it's just a clear label with a picture of my dog and "Anne's book, please return."
Making your own bookplates
It might not be as fancy as a specially printed design, but it's very easy to make your own bookplates on computer. I first made some in response to a request from a bookstore owner who wanted signed bookplates she could stick inside the covers of my books. I make a different design for each book using clear printable labels.
And here's another site for make your own bookplates
So what about you — do you like bookplates? Use them? What would your own personal bookplate look like?
And have you had a problem with books that walk? What did you do about it?